Swimming in Iceland: From an agender person’s perspective

What does it feel like to go swimming in Iceland from the perspective of an agender person? Viima Lampinen reports.

Moving to Iceland has changed my life in a way I didn’t think was possible: I’ve started swimming. After not swimming for decades and having anxiety over going to the swimming pools because of the other people and their reactions to me: I’ve started to like swimming. All I needed to do was search for a swimsuit that would make me feel less uncomfortable having just one layer of fabric covering a part of my body and fall in love with an Icelandic person who would be the reason to move to Iceland.

The day when I got my swimsuit in the mail was groundbreaking. I tried it on and it fit me perfectly, applied pressure in just the right spots, was just long enough to not look like a women’s swimsuit. It gave me a superhero feeling inside. My posture straightened. I was no longer hunching over because of the gendered tissue formation that appeared years ago on my chest, causing some people around me to assume my gender completely wrong.

“As an agender person, I have felt the full impact of the gender norms in society, which make it clear that being agender is unwanted.”

The thing is, I am not a woman. Nor do I want to remove the tissue formed, because it is a part of my body and there isn’t really anything wrong with my body. There is no infection to cut out, there is just skin and some tissue underneath. What I wish to change are other people’s assumptions that I must be a woman, because they directly affect how I am spoken to, how I am seen. It is as if my name was Rowan, but everyone kept acting like my name was Chris or Dana because “Chris” or “Dana” was tattooed on my forehead. The way I’m labeled by people and legally categorized by society is not only wrong. It not only refuses to recognize my existence, but forces me to make a choice between staying in the false gender category I was guessed and given at birth (F) or changing it to the other wrong option (M).

As an agender person, I have felt the full impact of the gender norms in society, which make it clear that being agender is unwanted. Ultimately, I’ve learned to live with the constant microaggressions and verbal abuse, shouting on the street, mocking in a bathroom queue, threats on my life the police never investigated fully because the volume of hate speech towards gender minorities is so massive that they do not have the resources to investigate every case. Sometimes I’ve even had to save myself from the immediate threat of violence on a city street. I’ve also made the personal choice of somewhat accepting my body, and I’ve declared to myself and to my body and people asking inappropriate questions, that no, I do not want to alter my body surgically. Sure, in a way life was a lot easier when my appearance was more androgynous – when I was slimmer and was mistaken for as an M as well as an F (or sometimes just stared at). It was easier for me because as an agender person I do not have a gender. All genders are equally wrong.

“When I got out of the pool, I had swum a total of 250 meters for the first time in my life.”

At the moment I get most often mistaken for a woman. That bothers me a lot, because the assumption makes me feel like I am in disguise to the world. Every time I do not help the person assuming my gender, I feel like I am responsible for their mistake, I feel like my body is lying to the world. But it’s a lie I am not responsible for. I am not lying. My body has just become more gendered, it’s become more stereotypical, so based on their assumptions, people lie my gender to themselves to adjust their attitudes and ways of addressing me. And these wrong assumptions hurt me, because it means that I am not really seen as myself in the eyes of the people I meet. This all comes to a boiling point at the public swimming pools. Gendering starts when the cashier starts speaking. Then it would be the gendered changing rooms. The people and their eyes staring or accepting me as belonging to some gender I do not belong to. The people in the pools possibly talking to me using gendered language.

Add to this the fear of water originating in childhood and you’ve got an agender person who never goes swimming. Until they came to Iceland.

My partner is very familiar with the facilities, so going to the pool with her was easy. I just needed to cope with my anxiety and follow after her. We entered the building and she asked for a key to the multi-purpose changing room. Then we went there. There weren’t any instructions in the changing room, but she acted as the perfect pool etiquette guide and told me in advance what we would do and where so in no time I was marching towards a warm shallow pool in my brand new swimsuit and not feeling sad, scared or overly conscious of my own body. After a while she decided to go swim laps and asked me to join. At first I said no, but after being told my feet would reach the bottom I decided to go keep her company by the side of the pool. But then after a minute I wanted to try swimming a few meters. And it felt wonderful. The warm water enclosed me into a gentle hug. Knowing I could stand up at any given time, I wasn’t petrified of the element I was immersed in. My body didn’t tense up so much my neck hurt, and I was able to somewhat relax in the water. So I kept going. I was finally swimming in the sense that you could call it swimming. I swam all the way to the other end, and then back again, and again, and again. When I got out of the pool, I had swum a total of 250 meters for the first time in my life.

The only thing shadowing my experience was being wary of kissing my partner. Just a few days earlier I had heard of a discrimination case of two women being asked to leave a swimming pool somewhere in Iceland, because it had “bothered the other swimmers”. That is homophobia. And if I was seen as a woman by the other swimmers and we were seen as a same-sex couple, I would not want this wonderful, sunny and joyous day at the pool to be stained with a possible fight over our rights to stay at the pool.

“Making pools accessible to people of all abilities and providing changing rooms for trans and non-binary bodies if the owners of the bodies wish to use on is providing people with not only nondiscrimination in services but also giving marginalized people support.”

Afterwards my body felt a little heavy all over and some unfamiliar muscles ached a little from the exercise. I felt great. And a few days after that we went to the pool again, this time with our friends, who happen to be trans. It was once again wonderful to just enjoy the water and have fun while exercising. As we were leaving my partner and I had a short conversation.

She said: “One of the things I love about the swimming pools is seeing so many old people, with old bodies that have been lived in for seventy, eighty, ninety years, exercising and taking care of themselves. Can that be us when we grow old?”
– Yeah, that can be us now.

Water as an element is very special, and exercising in water has benefits that cannot be denied. Making pools accessible to people of all abilities and providing changing rooms for trans and non-binary bodies if the owners of the bodies wish to use on is providing people with not only nondiscrimination in services but also giving marginalized people support. It is not just recognizing that non-binary people exist, but also giving us tools to take good care of our bodies and minds, our wellbeing. My deepest, warmest thanks to the pools in Reykjavík and Seltjarnarnes for making swimming possible even for an agender person who is still terrified of water. Fighting a battle with oneself is tough enough. Discrimination not only harms people as individuals but ultimately creates more expenses for the society. I urge every municipality to put people’s wellbeing and health first, no matter what their body or gender are. Ensure everyone is welcome and safe from discrimination in your sports facilities, especially your swimming pools.

I can’t wait to go swimming again.

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

    Check out Blush’s website: https://blush.is/

    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.




        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.

        - 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. “

        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.

          Contact Us

          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.