Trans people in Iceland could soon see improvements to their legal rights, thanks to a government bill that will be tabled in the coming months.

The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Photo / Screenshot from RÚV 

Despite some gains made in recent years, the status of trans people in Iceland is still criticized by many in the country, especially when it comes to their treatment in the health care system. Critics have said the system is “outdated” for subscribing to a binary way of thinking about gender, while others have even called it “inhumane,” singling out the requirement that trans people be diagnosed with a mental illness to access care.
“The aim is to ensure people’s rights to self-determination and to bodily and mental integrity,” says Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir about the new bill. GayIceland spoke with Katrín to learn more about the bill, which she says could be brought to parliament as early as the end of February.

“It’s a bill that has been in the pipeline for some time, and actually came about because of the initiative and encouragement of both Intersex Ísland and Trans Ísland,” Katrín says. She adds that her party, the Left-Green Movement, began working on the bill while they were in opposition.

“I think what we can do in Iceland is that we can and we should be in the forefront when it comes to LGBT rights.”

Although she isn’t able to provide many specifics about the bill, she does confirm that it would confront criticisms about how trans people are treated in the health care system. “It comes down to looking at it differently, not as a health issue but as a rights issue,” she says. “I think it’s really about changing the way we approach this group.”

In addition to this bill, Katrín says her government will also be tabling a parliamentary resolution for an action plan on LGBTQI people, which will address issues beyond just the rights of trans people.

“One of the issues that has been mentioned to me is when it comes to education,” Katrín says. “For example, how is the education system dealing with LGBT+ people. I think we have seen a lot of progress, but can we do more.”

 Trans, intersex and non-binary people in Iceland have raised concerns about being harassed in public swimming pool changing rooms.

To further commit to improving the rights of LGBTQI people and other minorities in Iceland, Katrín says the government’s Office of Equality was transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office in January. “It’s an important goal to make all the ministries work the best together when it comes to gender equality and LGBT rights,” she says about the decision.

Since then, she says she’s been regularly meeting with LGBTQI organizations to give them the opportunity to voice different concerns. Another issue that has been raised in these meetings is the safety of elderly trans people in retirement homes. “I think this is something that we need to look into in relation to the action plan I mentioned,” Katrín says. “We will need to ensure that they will of course be accepted in retirement homes.”

Trans, intersex and non-binary people in Iceland have also raised concerns about being harassed in public swimming pool changing rooms. Katrín says she’s open to looking into that issue as well, although she acknowledges that pools are run by the individual communities, so any changes would have to be done in cooperation with local communities throughout the country.

“I live in Reykjavík and I think that most of the Reykjavík pools have actually set up specific changing rooms to accommodate trans, intersex and non-binary peoples. Now of course that’s not in smaller communities, probably that has not been done,” Katrín says. “But it’s a very important topic and maybe we can do something in cooperation with local communities. Swimming pools are a really important part of the Icelandic culture, I think they’re the reason we all live here in this cold, so it’s essential that everybody should feel welcome there.”

 “ … when you sit there for two hours and take questions and realize that a lot of things that people take for granted are definitely not for granted for everybody.”

Although Katrín says LGBTQI issues have always been “close to her heart,” she says she was spurred to action on the issue in 2013, when she was asked about why Iceland was dropping in the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe Rankings. Between 2010 and 2018, Iceland has fallen from the sixth to the eighteenth spot in the annual ranking of European countries based on the legal rights afforded to LGBTQI people.

“I remember thinking, ‘I will do something about this,’ ” Katrín says. “I think what we can do in Iceland is that we can and we should be in the forefront when it comes to LGBT rights. We want to be credible advocates for human rights internationally, and now we have a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council, so we need to be very sure that we are ensuring human rights at home.”

Katrín says she doesn’t think Iceland has fallen down the rankings because of resistance to greater legal rights for LGBTQI peoples, but because people have become complacent.

“Sometimes when you accomplish something, you tend to say, ‘Okay, this is a good job, let’s move onto something else.’ But the fact is that the human rights debate is always evolving,” she says. “So I think it’s important that you always have to be really on your toes, as we say in Icelandic, when we are looking at rights because things can change pretty fast and we need to be always on the lookout to defend people’s human rights and really making sure that no one gets left behind.”

Trans people in Iceland could soon see improvements to their legal rights, thanks to a government bill.

Katrín also readily admits that she is still learning about the issues affecting LGBTQI communities in Iceland. Since she entered politics, she says it’s been important for her to consult with grassroots organizations to learn more about the issues affecting their communities.

“A moment that stands out was when I first entered parliament and I took my first meeting that was actually with Samtökin 78,” she says. “Even though you read about these things, these hindrances that people are fighting in their daily lives, when you sit there for two hours and take questions and realize that a lot of things that people take for granted are definitely not for granted for everybody.

That was really an eye-opener, that must have been 10 years or so ago. But I really can still recall that meeting because it’s my personal opinion that you need the people in the grassroots movements to drive the pragmatic politicians. They are a very important driving force when it comes to progress in society.”

Katrín says she is “optimistic” that the bill will be well-received by parliamentarians from other parties. If the bill passes through parliament, she says trans people could start seeing improvements by next year.

Main photo / Aldís Pálsdóttir

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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