The association Trans Iceland was founded ten years ago and has since fought for the rights of Icelandic trans people and been a platform for many of the reforms of trans rights in Iceland. We asked the chair of Trans Iceland, Alda Villiljós, a few questions about the anniversary and the association. Our first question was, obviously, how it felt to be celebrating ten years of going strong.

Alda Villiljós is the current chair of Trans Iceland, an association that is celebrating its  10 year anniversary. Photo/Villiljós Visual Art

“We are of course very excited!” Alda exclaims. “Ten years is a huge milestone for an association like ours and I feel like we’ve come so far in a fairly short amount of time.”

Not everyone knows what Trans Iceland is and how it works, can you tell us a little about your association and what it has accomplished in those ten years?

“Trans Iceland is an organisation run by trans people for trans people – including non-binary people – and our loved ones. We have two main goals: to be a social hub for trans people and to provide a safe space where we can come together, talk, get and give advice and support each other; and on the other hand, to fight for legal and social rights for trans people in Iceland as well as support other organisations fighting for rights of trans people abroad.
A large part of our work is answering messages and requests both from trans people as well as family and friends of trans people seeking advice. To be fair, I didn’t even realise how huge a part that is when I first came on to the board last year! Even though we live in a pretty progressive society and many, even most people, wouldn’t react badly to someone coming out to them as trans, trans people are still scared of coming out and contact us for social support, as well as medical and legal advice.

“… a team of people has been working on an amendment for the past two years … if it gets passed as is, it will be the most progressive law regarding the rights of trans and intersex people in the world.”

It’s all about the norms – from birth, we are fed stories that largely feature heroes and protagonists who fit a certain norm: they’re cis (ie. not trans), heterosexual, predominantly white, able-bodied and monogamous. Girls fall in love with boys, boys are strong and love sports, girls play with dolls and want to have children, etc. Anything that deviates from this norm becomes abnormal in our heads and so, when we realise that we ourselves don’t fall into this normal box, we get scared of being treated as outcasts, as abnormal or even outright dangerous by others. A lot of media for children only features queer characteristics as part of the villains, it’s a phenomenon called “queer coding” and it’s something that’s still being done. I think that when we have a majority in media of positive representation of trans and queer characters – as well as other minority groups – then we can finally start seeing a society where coming out isn’t a big deal for us.”

Trans Iceland has also fought for basic human rights for trans people, can you tell us what has been accomplished in that regard?

In the last years Trans Iceland has released a calendar and two highly successful videos.

“Throughout the years, Trans Iceland has had very different emphasis depending on what the community needs most. For the first few years, the emphasis was mainly on the social factor and there would be regular meet-ups where people would simply come to hang out and get advice from others. In the last few years, we’ve started seeing less and less people coming to the social events, even though more people than ever are coming out. Partly I think this is because more and more trans people are realising who they are and coming out when they are very young, and I know Samtökin ’78’s youth group is an excellent place to come out in, so younger people are using that venue more. I hope that part of the reason is also that young people are less prejudiced in general, so that young trans kids coming out are able to simply stay with their class and their usual friends group without being ostracised and thereby not feeling the need for a trans exclusive environment.”

Does the law protect the rights of trans and non-binary people now?

“There is some legal protection for trans people, but we still have a long way to go. In 2012, a law regarding the rights of people with gender identity disorder was added and in 2014, the penal code was changed and “gender identity” was added to the list of reasons for discrimination. The 2012 law has been outdated pretty much since it was added. For example, it explicitly says that in order to have access to medical transition, you have to have known that you were in the wrong body since you were a child and have a desire to be the “opposite sex”. Just this definition at the start of the law is hugely problematic, immediately erasing non-binary people as well as binary trans people who may not feel like they are in the wrong body, or have only recently started to feel like something was wrong. Although many trans people do know from a young age that something didn’t quite fit within them, many trans people do not. But because we generally don’t get medical help unless we tell that story, many of us lie and say that we’ve always felt this way, simply to get through the system quicker, and thereby further sustaining that story.

Another problem with the legal system here in Iceland is the naming committee. In order to change your name legally, your chosen name must be one that has been accepted by the naming committee. Furthermore, in order to change your name from a “male” name to a “female” name and vice versa, you must first have gone through at least 18 months of transition with the medical team. Then you can apply to have your gender legally changed in the national registry, and only when that has been accepted, you must (yes, must) change your name to an accepted “female” name. This means that if you don’t want to medically transition, you won’t be able to change your name legally, not to mention the long wait after you’ve started transitioning to, for example, get ID that matches the way you express yourself.”

What about the health system’s treatment of trans people? Has that changed significantly in those ten years?

“As it is now, the law prevents non-binary people from medically transitioning.

Of course, it’s great to have some legal recognition and I know it’s better than what many other countries have. The 2014 change to the penal code was a great addition – although I’m personally hoping for a change that adds gender expression to the list!

“The internet has been a great boom for the trans community, and I think in the last couple of years, we’ve really just exploded with all of the thoughts, viewpoints and arguments that we’ve been repressing for so many years.”

We can always do better though, and that is shown best by how far we’ve dropped in the last year on the ILGA Rainbow Europe map. Thankfully, a team of people including trans and intersex individuals has been working on an amendment for the past two years or so which is in large part based on the law that was passed in Malta in 2015 – a law that shot Malta right to the top of the ILGA Rainbow Europe map. We’re hoping it will be presented to the parliament in the next year and if it gets passed as is, it will be the most progressive law regarding the rights of trans and intersex people in the world – and will secure us a certain spot on the top of the ILGA Rainbow Europe map!”

What are the biggest achievments of your association in those ten years, and what will be your main focus in the next few years?

“Many things have changed for trans people in the last ten years. In fact, one of the more difficult things in creating a truly equal law amendment has been the fact that the discourse and language around us, our preferences and our rights, has changed so fast in the last couple of years that even I am not always a hundred percent sure I’m not being offensive by using a certain word or spelling! The internet has been a great boom for the trans community, and I think in the last couple of years, we’ve really just exploded with all of the thoughts, viewpoints and arguments that we’ve been repressing for so many years and that’s partly why things change so fast within the community. It’s also just very hard trying to talk about something as massive and complex as gender without getting a few things wrong!

We live and learn though, and since the discourse around non-binary genders started properly in Iceland a couple of years ago, Trans Iceland has been inclusive and supportive of all gender identities and expression. Our focus now is mostly on making trans people, our issues and our various ways of expressing gender, more visible and I think that has been very successful. In the last two years we’ve published two hugely successful videos for Youtube and this year we published a calendar with photographs of trans people. We’re also working closely with the swimming pools in Reykjavík to make them accessible for trans people and we regularly get asked to give talks to schools or workplaces about what it means to be trans and how to react to family members, friends or co-workers coming out.”

One last question: what are your plans for celebrating this milestone?

“We’re going to celebrate our 10th anniversary by first having our annual barbecue at Hljómskálagarðurinn on Saturday July 8th and then we’ll invite everybody over to Samtökin ’78 where we’ll have introductions by current and former board members, reminisce on our history and celebrate how far we’ve come together. Everybody is welcome – as long as they respect people’s pronouns and gender expression of course!”
Main photo: Villiljós Visual Art

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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