Meet the queer disabled woman who has become a national hero in Iceland after exposing the prejudice of parliementarinas towards women and minority groups.

Bára Halldórsdóttir on the right and her friend Starina.

Bára Halldórsdóttir has become a national hero after she recorded six members of parliament making derogatory comments about women, queer people and people with disabilities in a bar in downtown Reykjavik at the end of November. Those comments made by parliamentarians from the Centre Party and the People’s Party, including former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, have spawned a major political scandal dubbed Klausturgate – after the Klaustur Bar where the conversations were recorded – including calls for the six MPs to resign.

Although at first Bára shared the recordings anonymously with the media, she decided to go public at the beginning of December, because she felt it was important for the public to know that, not only was she a woman, but she was also queer and disabled. “I thought that I needed to get at least that into the media,” she tells GayIceland. “That the person who recorded this fits the profile of the people who were mentioned and humiliated in these conversations.” Bára became a household name almost overnight and prompted the four Centre Party MPs in the recording to launch a court case against her.

GayIceland caught up with Bára after the Reykjavík District Court rejected the case against her and started by asking if she anticipated any of this when she first recorded that conversation.
“Not at the level that it’s become, but I did anticipate that I would not be very popular with the people I recorded. When I gave my recording away from me, I gave it to the journalists unedited, so I wasn’t really sure which issues would be broached or if any of them would be publishable.”

Have you always been an activist?
“This is my first taste of this kind of activism, but I have been active for quite a few years in poverty issues and disability issues and trans issues and more. I haven’t had as much energy as I would have wanted to in that department, but I have very strong views and very strong convictions in that area. My mother says that I was always up against everything and everyone when I was a kid. But this is quite a bit bigger than anything that I’ve done before.”

Asked what was it about that conversation she overheard at the Klaustur Bar that compelled her to take action, Bára replies that she thinks that moment actually came long after she did the recording. At first she recorded it out of a reaction. “I knew that I needed to have it on tape that this was happening, I knew that I had to discuss this with somebody. I wasn’t at first sure where the pathway for it was, and it just took me a few days to realize that I would never be able to go through the material myself and that I really wanted somebody to see if any of this was usable, and that’s when I decided to send it to the news media.”

“You get hurt, you get angry, you feel powerless. The hardest thing about this is how used you are to it.”

How did it feel for you as a queer woman with a disability to hear these politicians say these things?
“The same reaction as in the million times I’ve heard this before. You get hurt, you get angry, you feel powerless. The hardest thing about this is how used you are to it. At any other moment, if it was just somebody out for a night on the town, Jón Jónsson who isn’t a parliamentarian or anything, I would’ve just walked over and said, ‘I hope your mom’s not hearing what you’re saying right now and I’m very offended,’ and then I would leave. So it didn’t surprise me what they were saying, but it did surprise me that they were talking like that in close ranks to other people, very loudly, very boisterously, and not feeling that it was inappropriate at all.”

The challenges of being queer and disabled

Bára has a chronic illness called Behcets which is a chronic autoimmune and arthritis disease. She’s only been diagnosed for five or six year, but says when she looks back she probably first started experiencing symptoms of her disability around the end of her teenage years. She’s been quite sick for about 18 years, and she’s been very sick for about eight years. She explains that her disability is very much because of pain and restriction of movement and tiredness and stuff like that connected to Behcets. She also have very varying levels of disability depending on how much her disease is active. It mimics other diseases, so she’s had things like pseudo-meningitis, which means that she gets all the symptoms of a meningitis, but there’s no infection that started it. Her immune system just decided to react to something that wasn’t there. She says it’s very disruptive.

Bára and her wife Hrafnhildur.

Asked how well she thinks Iceland is when it comes accessibility for people with disabilities, she says it’s not doing quite well enough. “For example, our main shopping street, if you go down it, there are probably three stores that a person in a wheelchair could go into on the whole street,” she explains and adds that she thinks a lot of it is lack of knowledge. “Before I became disabled I thought it was much, much better than it is. And it’s kind of shocking when you realize how limited you become. I have a few friends who I might visit once a year and then I would have to take a day off afterwards just because they’re on the fifth floor of an elevator-less apartment. Two of my favourite nightclubs that I would go to have quite impressive stairs that I have to choose to go or not to go. There’s progress being made and so on and so forth, but there’s a lot of stalling in the system too.”

But what does her family make of everything that has happened since she recorded that conversation in Klaustur Bar?
“I have a wonderful family, everybody, my son and my wife are about the most supportive people I’ve ever known, and I have my extended friend family and my mother and father who have been very supportive too.”

Your wife and son are both trans. What kind of challenges does your family face living in Iceland?
“I don’t know if it’s lack of people or lack of urgency, but the health system is very slow when it comes to trans issues. It’s so much better than in many other countries, but it’s not as good as it could be. It’s still based on the fact that you need to be diagnosed with a mental disease, and there’s all sorts of things that I’d like to see done faster and more efficiently.”

What kind of connection do you see between the comments made by those politicians and the challenges that you and your family face?
“There are always connections. A few years ago, I attended a conference where there was a person who has darker skin, there was a person who is fatter, there was a person who is disabled, there was a trans person, and there were some other groups that I can’t remember at the moment. But I felt we were all talking about the same obstacles in a way, even though they were in different systems. We all have to deal with not fitting into the box. And if you walk into the room and you declare yourself to be not the norm, you always have to deal with something instead of it just being something that people accept. It depends on what kind of room you’re walking into, but there is always this feeling of otherness.”

Prejudice against people who are bisexual

What needs to change? “I hope visibility helps. I’ve always felt that the fastest way away from problems like this is ongoing discourse and actually getting to know people who are different, instead of just categorizing them. Take some of the older people I’ve known as an example, they might have had very strong opinions when I was younger about gays and lesbians, and then somebody in the family came out as gay or lesbian and then they suddenly started to understand it. I’ve always felt that if you see the love, if you see the humanity in people you could erase a lot of these problems. But the world’s never going to be perfect, that’s just what it is. I’ve always been on the edge of everything, I’m on the edge of the queer community. I’m bisexual, or pansexual probably, this new definition that seems to fit me. I remember not really fitting into the queer community either.”

“For a very long time, and to some point still, bisexual people have been seen as not really queer.”

What do you mean by feeling outside the queer community?
“For a very long time, and to some point still, bisexual people have been seen as not really queer or just on the way out or just on the way in. I remember when I was younger here, people thought no lesbian should date a bisexual woman, she would just leave her for a man. And then just half a year ago, a friend of mine who recently came out as a lesbian repeated this from somebody who said it to her, and we are 20 years apart in the gay community. So it’s obviously there still.”

Doesn’t feel like she deserves being Person of the Year

Bára has recently been voted for Person of the Year. How does that make her feel?
“It’s an honor but it also feels a bit silly to think of yourself in that situation. I know I had an impact and so on, but in a very weird way I feel I don’t deserve it. So I’m very grateful of course that people feel that I deserve it, but I feel very, very strange about it.”

What’s next for you and for this movement that you’ve started?
“Well, personally I’m just waiting for what will happen in the court case. We won the first stage and they have a right to appeal, which they have. So it’s in a bit of a limbo until we know what the next stage is. I’m very much hoping that the focus will be kept on the issues that arose from the conversations, that that doesn’t get lost. Hopefully the discussion and everything that comes from this will be a place to grow from.”

Main photo / Lovísa Sigurjónsdóttir

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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