We can’t leave anybody behind

With the upcoming Women’s Rights day on June the 19th GayIceland is bringing light to the issues of queer women. Reporter Lilja Katrín Gunnarsdóttir spoke to three very different women who shared their thoughts on feminism and queer rights.


No one is free while some of us are oppressed

Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir has been extremely zealous the last few years in fighting for basic human rights for trans people in Iceland. She is also a feminist and believes that these two fights go hand in hand. She thinks that we all have to take part in the fight for rights of those who find themselves in minority groups.

Activist Ugla ...
Activist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir. Photos of Ugla taken by Móa Hjartardóttir.

Can you describe how it is to be a trans woman in Iceland today? “To be a trans woman in Iceland for me personally is much better than in many parts of the world. But there are however some shortcomings, obstacles and prejudice that people meet every day because they’re trans. On the whole we have taken decisive steps for trans people. But we have a long way ahead of us when it comes to ensuring that they have the same rights as others. Trans people still have to live with outdated codes of practice and trans children still live in a legal vacuum when it comes to health care. Opinions of doctors and specialists are still needed when names are changed and gender is registered. Trans people are still faced with a lot of prejudice in school, in the work place, when they look for housing, and within their family and personal relationships.”

Ugla has not only been outspoken on the issues of trans people in Iceland but has also traveled abroad to educate through lectures. How is the situation in Iceland for trans people compared to other countries? “Iceland has straggled a lot the past few years. In 2012 a law on health care was passed in Iceland which was nearly obsolete the day it was passed. We are way behind if we compare ourselves to our neighboring countries or countries that are well ahead legally speaking. Our laws are outdated, based on stereotypes and completely exclude non confirmative trans people.”

You’re not only a fighter for trans rights. You are also a feminist. How is it to combine the two? “Personally, I’m doing great in combining the two because the fight for equality is inwrought in many ways. I feel that we can’t take a close look at equality or work by feminist values without fully realizing the diversity of gender and gender identity. The battle for trans rights and queer rights is pretty much similar and interwoven with the feminist battle and I couldn’t separate the two. I’m doing great in combining the two battles but unfortunately not all feminists are at a place where they realize that it’s possible. I try to base my work from a intersectionality stand point which focuses on looking at the status of people and equality from a much broader perspective.

 “The battle for trans rights and queer rights is pretty much similar to and interwoven with the feminist battle… I’m doing great in combining the two… unfortunately not all feminists realize that it’s possible.”

In many places around the world, especially in the US, there are feminists that have gone against the battle for trans rights. They exclude trans people and marginalize the group with their discourse. I can mention women like Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, Germaine Greer and Judie Bindel that have done just that. This doesn’t fit because they are provoking the trans people and their battle and don’t realize that they are taking part in marginalization and the discrimination of a group that is being taunted, violated and oppressed every day in various parts of the world.”

How can we make sure that doesn’t happen in Iceland? How can we combine the issues these two groups, trans people and feminists, are fighting for? “Trans Ísland has collaborated with both the Icelandic feminist society and the Icelandic society for women rights. That collaboration started last year on November 20, the Memorial day for trans people. These three organizations put together a symposium about the connection between trans issues and feminism. The symposium was a success and is probably the beginning of dialogue between these movements which I believe will be a fruitful one.

It’s important that we look at all our infrastructure and that we look at things from a critical point of view. It’s important that we depart from dualism and put an active question mark on the gender system and realize how harmful it is. That means the fight of trans people, of disabled people, of queer people, of different classes, the fight against prejudice and marginalization is our fight, every ones’s fight. No one is free while some of us are oppressed and marginalized. We can’t leave anyone behind.”


Empowering to be a woman in Iceland

Angel Buns P’ojara hails from Uganda, a country where homosexuality is punishable by law and where the LGBTI community has no legal protection. Since Angel is a lesbian, she left the country a few years ago and moved to Iceland. She says she feels a lot safer here and doesn’t fear for her life on a daily basis any more. She celebrates the fight for women’s rights in Iceland which has in a way made it easier for her to mix with Icelandic society.

angel
Angel Buns P’ojara celebrates the fight for women’s rights in Iceland.

How is it different to be queer in Uganda and Iceland? “Well for one, being queer in Iceland means peace of mind, no worries about persecution for being who you are. You mention that you are gay and nobody thinks twice about it. It’s as normal as eating, drinking or breathing (for most). I did note that last year there was an outpouring of a few homophobes but it’s still not to the point that my life could potentially be at risk like in Uganda.”

Angel is not only a lesbian. She is also a black lesbian which makes her a woman who’s split between two minority groups in Iceland. How does that work out for her in? “Being a part of two minorities, while it could be difficult in many countries, it hasn’t been so for me here. In Iceland there is such a progressive fight for women’s rights and it is so empowering to be a part of such a society. That’s not to say it’s all roses but at least it’s recognizable that the fight for equal rights in Iceland is ongoing and there is hope.

The same can be said of sexuality. However race is still a sensitive subject that needs to be continually addressed. There is still a huge percentage of people who are closed-minded but I appreciate that a lot of Icelandic people also believe in “no racism”, like we saw with this years Eurovision and the case with Unnsteinn from Retro Stefson.”

“I would like to see a more bonded queer community. More social settings where queer women gather and share ideas.”

You talk about racism still being an issue in the Icelandic society but how has the Icelandic queer society welcomed you? “When I look back on how the Icelandic community welcomed me, I always refer to the fundraiser concert we had for Uganda at Harpa music hall, where hundreds of people showed up and donated money to Uganda to help with the LGBTI struggle. I am forever grateful to everyone that helped organize the event, all the artists and musicians that took the time to perform and all the people who showed up for such a good cause.”

The situation in Uganda for LGBTI is dire but are there any values or views from Uganda that queer women, feminists and the Icelandic society could learn from and master? “I suppose for values or views, I would like to see a more bonded queer community. More social settings where queer women gather and share ideas. This is happening at Samtökin ‘78 now on a small-scale but maybe more people could get involved. It’s very important for the community to be united and also be more aware of what is going on in the queer community around the world. Tragedies like the one that recently occurred in Orlando happen too often in too many countries and a lot of the time there is no media to cover them. Awareness and unity is key and that is what I would like the Icelandic community to know and act on.”


Let’s make girls stronger and boys more gentle

Sigríður Eir Zophaníasardóttir is a member of the two woman band Eva. Sigríður and her band mate, Vala Höskuldsdóttir, have described their music as feminist punk rock folk and don’t shy away from having political undertones in their tunes. Sigríður indeed believes that one of the secrets to world peace is feminism. She brands herself a feminist with pride and says that she will continue to do so until men and women are equal.

Vala Höskuldsdóttir and
Vala Höskuldsdóttir and Sigríður Eir Zophaníasardóttir (on the right), known together as the band Eva.

You and Vala have described your music as “a country based, melodic feminist pop-punk with a witty, folkie undertone”. To almost quote another strong woman, Tina Turner, what’s feminism got to do with it?
“Me and Vala have joked around with the fact that Eva isn’t only a band but also a performance group, a political movement and a self-help group because we just write music by accident. The root of our composing is always an issue or a matter, more often political, that we feel should have it’s own song. For example the song Who’s the man? which is about the obsessive need that people have to categorize lesbian couples and give them either the role of the female or the male. Most of our songs deal with an issue that we feel needs more attention or change. In that way we are a political movement as well as a band and I believe feminism is one of the big keys to world peace. Plenty of other intelligent individuals believe it too.”

With that said, why isn’t it enough for Sigríður to be an egalitarian. Why does she feel the need to brand herself a feminist? “These words are from a good book: “To be a woman is to walk around in too little shoes. To be a feminist is to understand why that happens and to educate others that it’s not the feet that are too big but the shoes that are too small.” (Píkutorfan, page 90). That’s the reason why I’m a feminist. I understand and know that women are viewed as lesser people and until women are equal to men we need to keep feminism alive. I hope and I pray that we can stop fighting in the name of feminism in the near future. Then we can all be egalitarians. We will sit down with our children and grandchildren and tell them about this ridiculous time when women weren’t equal to men.”

“I understand and know that women are viewed as lesser people and until women are equal to men we need to keep feminism alive.”

You and Vala  speak very freely about being lesbians. Do you feel that’s important, for lesbians to be visible in society? “Yes, I think that’s very important. What the tragic event in Orlando has recently shown us is that we have a long way ahead of us and being seen is one of the tools we have at our disposal in the fight for queer rights. We’re just ordinary people. We are not more innocent than others, not more dangerous than others, not better nor worse. And we certainly should not be killed with impunity and neither should anyone else.”

Talking about the battle for equality, when it comes to women’s rights, what issue is closest to your heart? “What comes first to mind right now is sex-related violence. I hate it. We have to raise our children to respect and understand all human beings. We need to make our girls stronger but most of all we need to make our boys more gentle, allow them to feel emotions and teach them to know themselves. I think sex-related violence and the fight against that is the twin sister of the fight against manhood or the outdated ideas of macho men. Or, then again I don’t know. I don’t have the answer or the solution. I just want people to stop raping. I want lovers to stop systematically breaking down their spouse in the name of love in the privacy of their home. And I want people to be generally kind to one another.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Núðluskálin
          - noodle bar

          Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

          All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
          We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
          Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

          Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

          Seatours
          - adventure cruise

          Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
          and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

          The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

          600x400-seatours-tasting

          This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

          600x400-seatours

          The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

          Birds, possible to spot:
          -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
          -eider ducks
          -shags
          -kittiwakes
          -fulmars
          -white-tailed eagle

          The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
          Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

          Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

          Contact Us


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