For one couple it’s a celebration of support and love, despite any haters online
At the end of August social media changed for Pálína Axelsdóttir Njarðvík. Without much explanation, she lost a few hundred followers at once. Her page, @FarmLifeIceland on Instagram, had over 40.000 followers until she posted an anniversary photo with her girlfriend María (shown above). The photo, which features the two girls in a beautiful countryside bedroom, had the caption “Today is our two year anniversary. So glad we realized we had a crush on each other because María is the best.” The lost followers led to the news being picked up by Visir and Reykjavík Grapevine.
Sitting in a cafe downtown while rain poured outside, GayIceland caught up with Pálína to get to know her better, find out more about life in the countryside, and investigate which hole under a rock these internet trolls crawled out of.
Did your following grow along with the increase in tourism to Iceland, with many influencers and photographers capturing the Icelandic countryside?
“I started the @FarmLifeIceland page on Instagram in 2015 just because I had so many photos of sheep that I didn’t want my personal page to become just about sheep. I thought my friends wouldn’t want to see that. So I thought I’ll just make a separate one. It sort of grew from there. I didn’t think anyone would actually follow but many people were interested in Icelandic sheep and life on the farm.”
Did you change anything about your profile after this loss in followers? Did you post more about María publicly?
“Well I had already had photos of María on my profile and mentioned she was my girlfriend in like Q&A stories, but I guess people didn’t really notice. I was asked once in a story Q&A if I had a boyfriend and I simply said I have a girlfriend. I did actually add a little rainbow flag to my bio on my profile since all this, just to make it obvious so that if anyone looking at it is also gay they can see it and identify with it.”
The only negative comment Pálína got from posting about her anniversary with her girlfriend was one profile who commented with a green puking face emoji, which she deleted. Otherwise, she actually saw an outpouring of supportive comments from Icelanders and other LGBT+ supporters following her page. Even in Skeiða og Gnúpverjahreppur, where the farm is east of the golden circle area, the residents and neighbors are supportive.
On the Visir article, comments are all encouraging with one person comparing the loss of her followers to Icelandi footballplayer Rúrik Gíslason’s loss of followers after posting a photo with his girlfriend. Pálína says that it may be a bit like that. She doesn’t want to generalize about who was following her and why they unfollowed, but it may be because they were dreaming of a “wild love in the Icelandic countryside” and thought Maria was maybe just her sister.
How did you and María meet and what was your journey coming out like?
“I didn’t really realize I had feelings for women until a few years ago. I knew it in the back of my mind but I didn’t really think of it much. I was like yeah if I find a girl I fall in love with I’ll just do that. It wasn’t really a big deal to me and I was never really in a closet. I just had this idea that I would just find a man eventually. I barely hit any walls coming out and I haven’t had to fight for anything. But I’m aware of the fight that other people had to fight so I could live like this, and I’m so grateful for that. And of course, there will be more fights, we’re always just pushing the issues forward.”
“I didn’t really realize I had feelings for women until a few years ago.”
Did you face any prejudice coming out in the countryside?
“It was never really a struggle for me to come out, which I am fortunate for. I was just very open to the idea and eventually, I knew I wouldn’t find a man, I’d find a girlfriend. It just made sense when María and I realized we both had a crush on each other. When I first introduced my girlfriend to people it made no difference, everyone was just like ok. Very accepting, no big deal.
I only had internal stigma about my own feelings. I was always thinking that I would never tell anyone I had these feelings, but that was just my own prejudice. Not that I had a prejudice against anyone who was LGBT+, but I just thought I wouldn’t fit in. I didn’t think I would be one of them.”
What can we do to help LGBT+ kids growing up in the Icelandic countryside away from a lot of LGBT+ culture?
“Pride has to be like in your face. It really helps. Kids need role models and need to see people like them. I can relate to that in a way. I think the best role models I see in the community right now are María Rut and Ingileif with @hinseginleikinn. I really like what they’re doing.”
Did you hear much about LGBT+ culture growing up in such a rural area?
“There was no education in school about queer culture, no programming on TV to see myself represented. There were just so few women out and public that we could have as role models. One of the only Icelandic women I knew of at the time was maybe Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (former Prime Minister of Iceland).”
You first attended Reykjavik Pride as a child? With your father who’s a pastor?
“So before 2019 I had only been to one pride parade in my life, when I was 14 actually. I was in one short clip in Svona Folk (gay film series “Those People” or “People Like That”) going to pride. My father is a pastor in the Church of Iceland and was going to Hinsegin Dagar (Reykjavík Pride) and just took me along with him. So, I was never nervous to tell my dad I was seeing María because he’s a priest or anything like that. It’s good to know that I didn’t change his opinion on LGBT issues, he was already an ally.”
“When I first introduced my girlfriend to people it made no difference, everyone was just like ok. Very accepting, no big deal.”
After the Visir article was published Pálína actually saw a big bump in followers, about 3.000 new accounts began following her, most of which were Icelandic. So in a way, the loss of followers who didn’t want to see anything about her girlfriend was made up by local allies. “It’s not like I lose sleep over who is following me and if I have 2.000 followers or 40.000 followers. I have no problem with people who don’t want to support María and I unfollowing. They can go.”