Why do we have to define ourselves all the time?

Ásthildur Gunnarsdóttir is the vice chair of the national queer organisation, Samtökin ’78. Her agenda is first and foremost to get rid of stereotypical outlook on queer people. She knows what she is talking about as she was in heterosexual relationships until she was 28 years old and after that in a same-sex relationship and since then many people got frustrated trying to pin down if she was a lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or straight.

Ásthildur says that June 19, Women’s Rights Day, has a special meaning for her and she would like to urge every woman to use that day to consider and remember what has been achieved in the fight for equality but also to take stock of what is still undone.

Among the things I wanted to accomplish when I decided to run for office was to create a stronger social environment for the older people in the organisation, examine the matters of asylum seekers, create a platform for people who come out in their thirties or later and work on the rights of queer athletes,
Ásthildur Gunnarsdóttir is the vice chair of Samtökin ’78. Among the things she wants to work on is to create a stronger social environment for the older people in the organisation, examine the matters of asylum seekers, create a platform for people who come out in their thirties or later and work on the rights of queer athletes.

To get to know her better I start by asking Ásthildur to tell me about herself? Who is she? “I‘m 31 years old with a BA in political science and I work for The Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, where I am in charge of public relations and publishing.  I play volley ball and I‘m on the national women’s team. When I‘m not working or playing volley ball I try to meet my family and friends, go swimming, hiking or cycling, eat well and in general enjoy my life. You could say I‘m in a self-made training camp to build me up physically and mentally these days.

I may not have been very visible in my work for Samtökin ’78 but I got to know their operation when my friend Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir was chairman and she recruited me to work with her and other people on a project to help queer people in Uganda. Through that project I got to know many good people in the queer organisation and you could say that there lies the reason for why I am in this position today.”

Why did you decide to run for vice chairman? “A good man I know, who has worked a lot for the organisation, asked me if I would consider running for office. I already knew a lot of people active in the organisation and I saw this as an opportunity to get better connected and accomplish important changes in the fight for human rights.

It is sometimes said that a job like this is altruistic and I can agree with that, for the most part. We, the people who work for organisations like Samtökin ’78 get a lot of feedback and it‘s very rewarding to sit on the board of organisations like that.

Besides looking at these matters from the outside I looked inside myself too. Until I was 28 years old I had always been in heterosexual relationships but after that I was in a relationship with a woman for three years. I have wondered a lot about what effect this has had on me and my life and, to give you the short version, I have to say that these matters are far from simple.

“Even though sitting on the board has been quite demanding and hard from time to time I am really grateful for being on the board with an exceptional group of people.”

Are you lesbian or gay if you enter a relationship with someone of the same-sex after being in heterosexual relationships for years? Or are you bisexual or pansexual? Can you be bisexual but still feel much more attraction to the opposite sex or your own sex? What happens if you go back to being in a heterosexual relationship? Is there a silencing of your story and how do people talk about you?

Therefore I‘m very interested in working with changing all those definitions and stereotypes. I myself have experienced frictions towards bisexual and pansexual people from the queer community and also from the heterosexual community, though as weird as it sounds heterosexual people tend to be more understanding in these matters. All these thoughts and experiences pushed me into working against all these stereotypes and definitions and trying to get rid of them. I hope that someday, in the not so distant future, we will all be allowed to be who we are without having to take sides and define ourselves all the time.”

The last few months have been a turbulent time in the history of Samtökin ’78 and Ásthildur says that she could not have imagined that when she decided to run for office. “I think it‘s safe to say that we on the board didn’t picture this. We started with diverse ideas and wanted to put into action all kinds of projects which we will hopefully be able to focus on in the future. Among the things I wanted to accomplish when I decided to run for office was to create a stronger social environment for the older people in the organisation, examine the matters of asylum seekers, create a platform for people who come out in their thirties or later and work on the rights of queer athletes, which the board has actually been able to do. Samtökin ’78 have participated in making new educational guidelines in the training of coaches ÍSÍ, the National Olympic and Sports Association and it‘s great to see the progress we are making in that field.

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Ásthildur thinks that queer women and women in general could unite in the fight against sexual violence.

Even though sitting on the board has been quite demanding and hard from time to time I am really grateful for being on the board with an exceptional group of people. We have really experienced how much it matters to stand together and show each other support and love within a group like this.”

What is it like to try to fight for the rights of all these diverse groups under one umbrella? “It has been very enlightening to get to know more about these different groups of people who come together under the umbrella of Samtökin ’78. I still have a long way to go in those matters but hopefully I will be able to connect with more people when the fire that now is raging dies down. I think it is very important that within the queer organisation we fight for the right of different groups and when you get to know people from these diverse groups you quickly realise that they have more issues in common than you would think.”

The 19th of June is dedicated to the fight for equality for women, do queer women have any different issues than straight women that they have to fight for or is it the same fight? “Queer women and women in general could unite to fight against standardised stereotypes of women and to dissolve the gender dominated society. The freedom to be able to be who you choose to be is a big part of the queer fight for equality and a part of that is the freedom of not having to be a normative woman. The same goes for men, of course.

Another issue that unites queer women and feminists is the fight against sexual violence. Within the queer society we see this sexual violence manifest itself with high rates of violence against trans women. Also we have to fight against domestic violence in same-sex relationships, which is often hidden and we really have to draw attention to it.”

Does the 19th of June have a personal meaning for you? Do you usually celebrate it in some way? “The 19th of June is a special day because then we celebrate that women got the right to vote. Even though I don‘t usually do anything to celebrate it, apart from the 100th anniversary of the right to vote last year, I think it serves as a good reminder for us all and I think it is important to use this day to think back, take stock of what we have accomplished but also to examine where we stand today and what we have to do in the future. Even though we have seen huge progress in the rights of women there’ still a lot we haven’t fully accomplished.

“Queer women and women in general could unite to fight against standardised stereotypes of women … The freedom to be able to be who you choose to be is a big part of the queer fight for equality and a part of that is the freedom of not having to be a normative woman.”

The pay gap between the sexes is a big issue, how few women sit on the boards of corporations, the possibilities for women to rise in the work market etc. I think it‘s urgent to change the laws on parental leave and work on increasing the opportunities to get day care for your children after parental leave. As the system works today I feel it has a negative impact on women’s participation in the work field and in the last few years it has become more rare that both parents take parenting leave.

Here I am about to become far too political but I really think a lot of the women who have been in the forefront of the fight for equality for women and I am really grateful to them. I have looked up to women like Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and in my mind she has a close connection to the cause of women‘s equality. I also have a mother who has been very active in the work field and I have always been told that I could do and be anything I wanted to, which of course is mostly right. I have come across some old-fashioned attitudes, of course, they are really ingrown to us all. Regardless of that I do believe that we are headed in the right direction, but we have to be alert and that applies to all of us.”

How do you plan to spend the 19th of June this year? “This year I will be spending the 19th of June in a training camp with the Icelandic national team in volley ball at Flúðir with a great group of fellow players, coaches and a physical therapist. We are in the process of preparing for the tournament of qualifying for World Championship and the Small Country Division of the European Championships which will be held in Luxembourg from June the 24th to the 26th.”

The 19th of June is a special day because then we celebrate that women got the right to vote. Even though I don‘t usually do anything to celebrate it, apart from the 100th anniversary of the right to vote last year, I think it serves as a good reminder for us all and I think it is important to use this day to think back, take stock of what we have accomplished but also to examine where we stand today and what we have to do in the future.
“The 19th of June is a special day because then we celebrate that women got the right to vote…. I think it is important to use this day to think back, take stock of what we have accomplished but also to examine where we stand today and what we have to do in the future.”

The 19th of June marks the Women’s Rights day. In honor of that GayIceland will for the next days publish articles based on interviews with queer women.

Photos by: Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir.

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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