The birth of the Icelandic lesbian

The event “The Birth of the Icelandic Lesbian” – a discussion about the first openly gay women in Iceland in the 1980s – is hosted by Samtökin ’78, the Icelandic National Queer Organisation, and will take place at Suðurgata 3, Reykjavík on 9 March at 8pm. Speakers will be Lana Kolbrún Eddudóttir, first female chair of Samtökin ’78, and Elísabet Þorgeirsdóttir, one of the founders of the “Iceland/Lesbian Society”.

“This is the first time we’re looking back at what we did and talking publicly about it,” says Elísabet Þorgeirsdóttir about the upcoming event. Elísabet not only became one of the first openly gay women in Iceland but also one of the founders of the “Iceland/Lesbian Society”. Photo/Guðmundur David Terrazas

Elísabet Þorgeirsdóttir, social worker, was a single mum in the mid-eighties, a published poet and journalist and by taking on the job of editor at the national fishermen’s journal was already challenging the traditional roles of the patriarchy. But she didn’t stop at that; she came out as lesbian and became one of the first openly gay women in Iceland and was a founding member of the Iceland/Lesbian society, story of which she’s going to tell on Thursday evening.

“The idea of this event came about because of a study by Íris Ellenberger, about the Iceland/Lesbian Society. She interviewed us about these times and that’s why we started reminiscing about them. The article was published in Saga, the History Society Journal, and was an interesting read, where Íris is looking at the Icelandic lesbian who basically came to light in the mid-eighties. That’s when we started referring to ourselves as lesbians and begun coming out.”

The Iceland/Lesbian Society was formed in 1985 and operated in the Women’s Centre in down town Reykjavík. “That was a radical move, to make us so visible there, where we could hold our events. We were hoping the Women’s Centre would become a vibrant place, pretty much like the one in Copenhagen and other metropolitan cities. There was so much energy in feminist activism in those years. The Women’s Alliance had just been formed with all-female candidacy and there were other feminist groups operating in the Women’s Centre too. It took a bit of gut to include us in the Centre but it was our way of making ourselves seen.”

“… we have never really talked about our history, this is the first time we’re looking back at what we did and talking publicly about it … perhaps it’s the beginning of something bigger.”

Elísabet says that the aim of the society was to bring homosexual women together so they could actively support each other and seek support and inspiration from elsewhere, through literature and art abroad and so on, and to empower them and strengthen their self-identity. For her, coming out at this time was an absolute liberation.

“I was 29 when I came out but I had known I was lesbian since I was 16. We were finally blossoming, coming out of our shells. There was a much publicised interview with two lesbians, Lára and Lilja, in an Icelandic newspaper in 1983 and for many of us, it just blew our minds. That was the first time that two women went public about the fact that they lived together and loved each other. I came out a few months later and a year after that we formed the Iceland/Lesbian Society.”

The cover of Icelandic newspaper Helgarpósturinn featuring an interview with two lesbians, Lára and Lilja, in 1983.

The society was active for 3-4 years and Elísabet remembers those years fondly. “I thought they were fun times; there was so much energy going on, we were breaking free and creating a community.

But they were difficult times too; around this time, AIDS was spreading and there were a lot of prejudice because of that.

There was also a lot of drinking and I think for some people those were painful times. But for me, personally, they were empowering because I finally got to be who I really am.”

She says that it might have been easier for lesbians to come out than gay men because they were branded as being sure victims of AIDS. “But we had different obstacles. My girlfriend at the time and I both had children when we came out, we were two single mothers who set up a home with our children. That was unheard of and a lot of prejudice regarding whether lesbians and gays

Lana Kolbrún Eddudóttir, the first female chair of Samtökin ’78, will be one of the speakers at the event. Photo/Dagur Gunnarsson

were capable of raising children so we put a lot of effort to showing that we could be just an ordinary family. There was a lot of energy that went into that, just living as an openly gay person and proving that we were ordinary people too.”

“… we felt that … we would be helping others by being so visible, to show people what our lifestyle was like and that we weren’t much different from them.”

Elísabet says that fortunately, she herself didn’t experience much prejudice, her family and her son’s father were understanding. “But we felt that as pioneers, we could contribute something by being open about our lives, that we would be helping others by being so visible, to show people what our lifestyle was like and that we weren’t much different from them.”

But even so, gay rights were almost non-existent back then and when asked what’s been the greatest achievement in the fight for LGBTI+ rights, Elísabet laughs. “They’re all great achievements, you can’t compare the two, now and then. The right to have a child by adopting or having an IVF, the right to get married, all the legal rights. No, I can’t name one thing, it’s everything!”

It’s been over 30 years since Icelandic lesbians came to light and claimed their space in Icelandic society. Does Elísabet feel that young lesbians of today understand what the older generations of lesbians did for them? “I honestly don’t know because we have never really talked about our history, this is the first time we’re looking back at what we did and talking publicly about it. It will be fun to see whether they have any interest at all; young people tend not to dwell on the past and perhaps they don’t see the point. We’ll just have to wait and see on Thursday, whether the young women will show up. We’re merely doing this for fun but perhaps it’s the beginning of something bigger.”

Elísabet, second from the left, radio host and disck jockey Andrea Jónsdóttir and Lára Martin, one of the women who appeared on the cover of Helgarpósturinn.

Main photo: Guðmundur David Terrazas

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.


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.

      - 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.

      - 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. “

      - 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.

        - 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).

        - 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.


        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.


        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
        -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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