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One-third of LGBT+ youth feel unsafe at school in Iceland

Survey results show progress still needs to be made in schools for the next generation of LGBT+ Icelanders.

Although Iceland appears to be a progressive country that’s safe for the LGBT+ community to live in, it still has a lot of work to do before it can call itself a utopia of equality. A study recently conducted in collaboration between the national queer organisation Samtökin ‘78, Menntavísindasviði HÍ, and GLSEN revealed that the current generation of LGBT+ youth in Icelandic schools are still facing discrimination.

Tótla Sæmundsdóttir, Director of Education for Samtökin ‘78.

Founded by a group of teachers in 1990, GLSEN plays a key role in creating safe and affirming learning environments for LGBT+ youth in the U.S. They’ve started projects like Day of Silence and Ally Week which are aimed to work with educators and advise, advocate for, and research comprehensive policies that will protect at risk youth. They’re also doing noble work in fighting against discriminatory legislation in 15 different US states. Collaborating with Samtökin ‘78 and Icelandic schools, GLSEN conducted their study covering 181 students.

Tótla Sæmundsdóttir, Director of Education for Samtökin ‘78, works to go into these schools and improve awareness about Samtökin ‘78 as a resource for these students. “A lot of my job is speaking with kids and young adults about their experiences in the school system. Part of my work is also going to companies, into the health care system, and even the police department to consult and educate staff about LGBT+ issues,” says Tótla. Although she just started working for Samtökin ‘78 officially in January, she’s been a volunteer for years.

Conducted in 2017 and recently published, the in-depth study covers a host of red flags that Icelandic schools should be working to improve. Surveyed in mostly urban and suburban areas of Iceland, the results are a true insight into what life is like for LGBT+ youth. So, what were the main takeaways?

  • One-third (⅓) of LGBT+ youth reported feeling unsafe at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation
  • One-fifth (⅕) of LGBT+ youth reported feeling unsafe at school in the past year because of how they expressed their gender.
LGBT youth – GLSEN.

The majority of LGBT+ students report rampant use of homophobic remarks being used in their schools, which according to GLSEN “contributes to a hostile learning environment.” Half of students reported frequently hearing homophobic remarks from classmates. These include “hommi,” “faggi,” “hommalegur,” “lessa,” and “lessulegur,” but also simpler phrases like “that’s so gay.” The good news is among everyone surveyed, 93% said they never or very rarely heard staff and faculty use this language.

  • One-third (⅓) of LGBT+ youth reported having faced verbal discrimination at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation
  • One-fourth (¼) of LGBT+ youth reported having faced verbal discrimination at school in the past year because of how they expressed their gender

However, staff aren’t free and clear from being complicit. Nearly half (47%) of students reported that teachers did not intervene when they heard these remarks being made.

Tótla Sæmundsdóttir, Director of Education for Samtökin ‘78, says teachers can best help LGBT+ students by being educated themselves. “Educate them and educate their fellow students. Make being queer a normal part of life and show queer people and queer culture in a positive light. I also wish the staff would always interfere when they see bullying and witness homophobic slurs.”

The study also found that beyond verbal abuse or discrimination, some Icelandic students are still facing physical abuse and harassment. Similar to verbal, these actions were based on their sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression.

  • 1 in 20 of the students surveyed reported having been pushed, shoved, punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon.

Even worse, a handful of students reported being physically abused for having a disability. Here we can see there’s great room for improvement, which can be difficult to achieve in part because this behavoir isn’t always happening in front of staff. For modern Icelandic teenagers harassment and abuse can come from within friend circles or online.

  • 21% of students surveyed said they faced some type of cyber-bullying.

For a lot of the current generation, even going to school can be a challenge itself.

  • 40% of students surveyed avoided spaces like locker rooms and P.E. class because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

Naturally it’s tougher for LGBT+ kids to feel safe and secure in their own bodies and around other children in the changing rooms. This fear also expands to other spaces in the school from avoiding lunch time to opting to skip school completely. Harassment and descrimination left unchecked like this can actually hinder the student’s ability to learn and decrease the time they spend in the classroom learning.

  • Other shocking statistics from the study show that over one-third (⅓) of students experienced some form of sexual harasment, such as unwanted touching or sexual remarks, in school and about 6% experienced this often.

More so than cyber-bullying, rumor spreading, and property damage, the most common form of attack against LGBT+ students was simply exclusion. For the perpetrators, the easiest way is to isolate a student and make them feel alone. From extensive research we know that this factor can contribute the most to the mental wellbeing of queer youth.

Furthermore, families of these children aren’t doing their best to intervene. Although only about half of students surveyed said they told their parents or guardians about trouble at school, one in six students said their parents never addressed the issue with school staff. From this data we can tell that it takes action on all parties to improve the lives of these at-risk students. Often it takes courage and conviction to intervene but we can see the difference it would make.

The survey’s results also showed areas where Icelandic schools are excelling. Most students reported knowing of more than 10 faculty and staff members that were supportive of LGBT+ students and that resources for them were available and provided to them. The majority of exposure to positive examples of LGBT+ people, issues, history, and culture came through History class, Foriegn Language class, and Life Skills courses. Students that were taught about positive examples reported feeling more generally accepted by the student body, missing less classes, and a greater sense of belonging to their school community.

“I also wish the staff would always interfere when they see bullying and witness homophobic slurs.”

At the end of the day most Icelandic students are doing considerably better in Icelandic schools than generations past. Increased national acceptance of LGBT+ equality has improved wellbeing across the board. None the less, this study shows the fight for an equal, safe learning environment is not over. Parents, teachers, administrators can still influence the conversation in a positive way and improve the student experience. Reports like this and the work done by individuals like Tótla at Samtökin ‘78 are great steps forward. After all, it’s harder to diagnose and treat the problems without knowing what they are.

One way to get involved in helping initiatives like this is become a member or volunteer of Samtökin ‘78. In addition, parents of all students can be better allies by being more active in their children’s school life regardless of their sexuality or gender. Conversations during parent-teacher conferences and in Facebook groups for parents about the study and its findings can change perception. Although many parents might see issues of sex and sexuality as adult topics, the earlier youth are exposed to these problems and educated about how to solve them, the better.

For more information about Samtökin ‘78 and their work, click here.
For the summary of the report in Icelandic, click here.
For the full report in English, click here.

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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