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.

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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