A book about the first publicly trans woman in Iceland

Anna Kristjánsdóttir is a legend in Iceland. She was the first trans woman to talk about her gender correction in the local media and was for decades very visual in the fight for equal rights for trans people. Anna has blogged about her experience as a trans woman for years but now – finally – her story has been made into a book ,’Anna – as I am’ (Anna – eins og ég er) which has just been released.

Anna Kristjánsdóttir was the first trans woman come out with her story in the local media in Iceland and was for decades very visual in the fight for equal rights for trans people. A book detailing her story is now out. Photo/Sigurður Kaiser.

GayIceland contacted Anna to ask about the book and the first question was what she meant by the statement that in the book she was coming to terms with the past – not the present.
“I’m dealing with a difficult childhood and youth as well as the first years after I moved back to Iceland after the gender correction process in Sweden. Apart from that it’s just like any other biography. It’s not a detailed description of every ship I’ve worked on or every day I’ve gone through, it’s more an index of my life. There are a lot of things unsaid in this book, which some people might think should be there, but lot’s of talk about other issues that others might find unnecessary to talk about.”

Do you think there is something in the book that will surprise people, especially the people who know a bit of your story?
“I really can’t imagine anyone will be surprised. I’ve always been a fairly open person and never been afraid of speaking out about both people and subjects. Here on the other hand my life is gathered in one book instead of appearing in my blog or on Facebook.”

“There was no support. Rather the opposite if anything, since trans people were perceived as some kind of freaks. Most people had no idea what being trans meant and were afraid of ‘the unknown’.”

It’s been 23 years since you first appeared to the nation, as the first trans woman to go public, in an interview published in the magazine New Life (Nýtt líf) in 1994 and caused quite a stir. Since then you have in interviews described the prejudice that you experienced in Iceland as a result of that interview. Why did you decide to deal with the past now?
“I was actually not the first Icelandic trans woman. I was, on the other hand, the first trans woman in Iceland to go public and talk about my experience. Now I’m old enough so it’s less likely that my experience, my story, will hinder me from getting a job, for example.”

But talking about the past, what was it like to be a trans woman in Iceland in 1994? For example, did the public know anything about trans issues? What was the health system like when it came to them? What was the general attitude towards trans people like?
“In 1994 I actually lived in Sweden and had been living there since 1989. At that time I did not have another choice than to move abroad if I wanted to undergo the gender correction process. Both Norway and Denmark declined my application to start with, partly because of very strict limitations for going through the process.

The public in Iceland did neither know nor understand trans issues at that time and the same goes for the health system, with the exception of a few individuals within it.”

Anna back in the nineties.

Was there any trans community in Iceland at that time?
“No, there was no trans community in Iceland before I moved abroad in 1989. Our best ally, if you can call it that, was The National Queer Organisation, Samtökin ’78, that had been founded a few years before. But gay people had enough to deal with fighting for their own rights at the same time. Many gay people within Samtökin ’78 were very supportive of me personally and it was there that I first peeped out of the closet in 1984, but it was only a little peep as the prejudice against gay people was fierce and I did not have the guts to see how prejudiced people would be against trans people. So I didn’t dare to come out in Iceland at that time.”

When you moved back home to Iceland from Sweden in 1996 after the gender correction was there a huge difference in the attitude and understanding of Icelanders?
“There was huge difference between those two countries. Within the health system in Iceland there was hardly any understanding of trans issues and some of the psychiatrists wanted to lock me up when I asked them for help. It was not until the psychologist Sölvína Konráðs contacted more open-minded psychiatrists that things started moving in Iceland, but never enough to affect the health system.

In Sweden on the other hand there were several teams to help trans people within the health system but the system moved very slowly and there were really few people who were allowed undergo the gender correction process.”

Anna is a member of the ICE-SAR, Icelandic Association For Search and Rescue. Here she is with the President of Iceland, mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, on the annual 112 day.

For many years, you were the front-person in the fight for equal rights for trans people. What were the biggest issues you had to fight for?
“To say that I was a front-person for equal rights for trans people in Iceland is hardly right. It was more like I was ‘the only trans in the village’ after I moved back home in 1996. There were very few of us and most of the people were in hiding or at least not willing to be in the spotlight.

What were the biggest issues trans people had face? Well, almost everything. No one had gone through the gender correction process. There was no support. Rather the opposite if anything, since trans people were perceived as some kind of freaks. Most people had no idea what being trans meant and were afraid of ‘the unknown’.”

It must have been difficult, did you ever consider moving back to Sweden?
“Yes, I almost moved back there a few weeks after I moved home in the summer of 1996, as I did not seem to be able to get a break anywhere, no work and no unemployment benefits, even though I had paid to their fund for many years before I moved to Sweden.
Finally I was offered a temporary position on a trawler in the Eastfjords and after that I was accepted again in the Icelandic job market.”

Anna and her son and grand child.

“Within the health system in Iceland there was hardly any understanding of trans issues and some of the psychiatrists wanted to lock me up when I asked them for help.”

When did things start to move in the right direction here in Iceland? Was there any specific turning point?
“It’s not possible to be the only person fighting for a cause. One person fighting injustice is like being the voice of one calling in the desert and the results mirror that. It was not until Anna Jonna came to Iceland in 2005 and started going public that things started moving. Then other people followed and that made the fight easier.”

You were one of the people who founded Trans-Iceland in 2007. Are you still active in the fight for equal rights?
“With the founding of the association and new people on the board there was less need for me to be active. I was though on the board of Transgender Europe until 2008 and reviewed their accounts til 2012 when I formally stopped taking part in the fight for trans rights. I have been a part of some of their activities since then but never as a member of the board.”

The cover of the book about Anna.

What would you say are the most urgent trans issues to fight for in Iceland today?
“It’s not my place to decide what it’s necessary to do next. Let the young people decide that. I have no intention to run the campaign from behind the curtains. I decided not to be on the board of Trans Iceland when it was founded, so it would not be possible to put an equal sign between the campaign of trans people and my person.”

You said in an interview a few years back that you had written a book about your experience as a trans person but nobody wanted to publish it, what changed?
“I had written a few points down a long time ago, but soon realised that I was not critical enough of myself to be able to write an autobiography. Sometimes I was contacted by someone who wanted to write my story, but two things prevented that from happening. I am a very stubborn person and difficult to be around and besides that nobody was interested in publishing such a book, so my story was hidden in a drawer for several years. It was not until late last winter that the publishing company Hólar contacted the well-known journalist Guðríður Haraldsdóttir and asked her to write my story that it finally happened, and now the book has been released.”

Photos: Courtesy of Anna Kristjánsdóttir.

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.



        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        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 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm 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 two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

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

        The 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.

        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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            - 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. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf


              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              - 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.

              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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