We have to expand the concept of equality

Þorsteinn Víglundsson is the Minister of Social Affairs and Equality in Iceland‘s new government. He means to keep up the work of his predecessor, Eygló Harðardóttir, and improve the situation of queer people in Iceland. GayIceland paid him a visit and grilled him about his intentions and his knowledge of queer issues in Iceland.

It’s clear that Iceland has fallen behind when it comes to queer rights and in his speech at the national assembly of the queer community Þorsteinn said that it has become necessary to expand the equality laws. What exactly does he mean by that?

“Everyone should have equal rights, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. That’s the bottom line. Otherwise there is no equality,” says Þorsteinn Víglundsson, Minister of Social Affairs and Equality.

“What I mean is that when we talk about equality we have to talk about equality in the broadest sense; we have to take it beyond gender equality, in the traditional meaning of that definition, and make sure that equal rights apply to everyone, regardless of original nationality, religion, sexual orientation, sexual definitions etc. I think that is one of the first things we can and have to change when it comes to equality.

It is worrying that despite all the important milestones in the fight for rights in Iceland, it seems that after the law on marriage equality was passed nothing much has happened. It‘s like we have lost a bit of our awareness in these matters and it’s time to sit down and find out where we have fallen behind our neighbours, when it comes to laws regarding queer rights. It’s odd that at the same time that we top all international lists in terms of gender equality we are falling behind on queer rights. We have to have the same ambitions there.”

Existing laws do not forbid discrimination against minority groups, including queer people, in the workplace. Are you aiming at having the laws changed?

“Yes, draft for a new bill that deals with discrimination in the workplace will be presented to parliament this spring. If the bill gets passed in parliament we‘ll have a framework for these matters in future.”

Will you personally make an effort to have this bill passed?

“Yes, I will do that. Definitely.”

In your aforementioned speech you said that there was a lot of work to be done in the fight for equality. And you specifically mentioned queer health. What were you referring to?

“It has been proved that young queer people suffer worse mental health than their straight peers,  especially in schools. They suffer more anxiety and depression. And that‘s just not acceptable. We have to try to find out what‘s causing it and how we can respond to it. It has been pointed out that despite the fact that “tolerance“ towards queer people has grown tremendously they still don‘t have an equal status to non-queer people, and that could be one of the reason for these health issues.”

“To me it’s obvious that we have to look at the equality legislation first. We not only have to expand the laws but the concept of equality itself.”

Talking about health, the law in Iceland still demands that trans people get a certificate from psychiatrists saying that they are mentally ill in order to be defined as trans. Do you mean to change that law?

“Yes, that is one of the things we have to look at. It should be the right of every individual to define themselves, the state should not be a part of that decision. And I agree that laws about trans rights are very old-fashioned and need to be worked on thoroughly.”

The chairman of your party (The Reform Party, Viðreisn), Minister of Finance and Economics Benedikt Jóhannsson, said in his election campaign that it has become urgent to modernise the laws. For example he said that the party wants to make genital surgeries on intersex children illegal until they can decide for themselves what they want to do. Do you agree with his views and do you mean to have the laws changed?

“Obviously we need to enforce the rights of queer people to make their own decisions, as I said before. Sometimes it is necessary to operate because of health complications and I’m told that nowadays those are the only operations done on intersex children. I hope that’s true.

Women‘s March in Washington, DC In some places the rights that women, queer people and immigrant have gained now are being taken away again.

A child‘s gender should not be a decision of its parents or doctors. We have to make that absolutely clear in the law that each individual has the unconditional right to make decisions over their own bodies. It’s a basic human right.”

Your predecessor appointed a committee that was given the task to draft a comprehensive action plan to improve the situation of queer people in Iceland. When can we expect to see some results from the committee?

“The group is working on the last chapters of their report, where they define the most pressing issues and what needs to be done first. We will use that report to draw up a bill that will be put before the parliament. All the work has been done in cooperation with people from the National Queer Organisation, Samtökin ´78, and they will also have a say on the final bill. I hope there are only a few weeks till we get the drafts from the committee and can start working on a bill. I do realize that the queer community is getting a bit impatient to see the action plan, but I really think we‘re almost there.”

Being new to this job have you decided what your first actions will be regarding queer rights?

“To me it’s obvious that we have to look at the equality legislation first. We not only have to expand the laws but the concept of equality itself. This ministry will make equality issues a priority on a broad spectrum. Most people associate the concept equality mainly with equal rights of the two traditional genders, but I want to look at these matters from a much wider viewpoint. Everyone should have equal rights, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. That’s the bottom line. Otherwise there is no equality.

“… drafts for a new bill that handles discrimination in the workplace will be presented to parliament this Spring.”

We live in a very different society from a decade ago and many things have evolved for the better, but in these matters the work is never done. We can never sit down, pat ourselves on the back and say: “See now everyone is equal”. It’s a constant battle and we have to be very aware of that.”

Looking at the international scene it seems there is a backlash in these matters, that the rights that women, queer people and immigrant had gained are being taken away again. Are you afraid that could happen here?”

“Yes, there is a big backlash in some countries, especially regarding the rights of immigrants and queer people. That is very worrying and I have said that we have to answer this by expressing our viewpoints even firmer and do everything we can to expand equality and rights for all. We have a history of leading other countries in the battle for gender equality and my dream is that we can do the same in matters regarding queer people and immigrants. I think we are on the right track and it makes me very happy when my children don’t see it as an issue at all whether someone is queer or not. That’s what we have to strive for and I’m really looking forward to working with the queer community on making this an equal society for us all.”

Quick fire quiz 

Before we let Þorsteinn off the hook we have prepared a quick fire quiz to see what he knows about the queer society in Iceland. He calls us “mean”, as he is new to the job and still learning, but all the same he is ready to play the game and the quizzing begins.

A) Whats the address of Samtökin ´78?
“Sorry, I don’t know. I’ve not been there yet. But I’ve got an invitation so I’ll find out soon.”

B) In which month is the Reykjavík Pride held?
“Eeehhh, it´s always on a lovely summers day. It´s in August, no?”

C) Who is the president of Trans Iceland?
“No idea.”

D) What does “bear” mean in the gay society?
“Absolutely no idea!”

E) What is Pink Iceland?
“It’s the queer travel agency. They are doing a splendid job.”

TF-GAY belongs to the Icelandic Airline, Wow air.

F) What Icelandic airline owns a plane that’s registered TF-GAY?
“WOW air.”

G) Which Icelandic athlete played in rainbow shoes to support queer rights?
“That was Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson.”

H) Are gay men allowed to donate blood in Iceland?

I) What year did the law granting same-sex couples the right to marry pass through parliament?
“Ooops! I don’t remember. I only know that it was far too short a time ago!”

Right answers for: a) Suðurgata 3, Reykjavík c) Alda Villiljós d) Bear is a gay slang term. It describes a hairy, heavy-set/muscular) gay or bisexual man. i) In 2010.

Main photo: HAG

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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