First trans woman to be elected council speaker in Iceland: “I am very proud”

Recently elected to the key position of Reykjavik City Council speaker, Alexandra Briem, member of the Pirate Party, became de facto the first trans woman to ever hold that position in Iceland. In an interview with GayIceland Alexandra shares in a very intimate way her inspiring political journey as a trans woman, what drove her into politics and kept her going forward, as well as her ultimate goals, hopefully sending a positive message to every trans person in Iceland who ever doubted they could find a place and thrive on the political scene despite ongoing prejudice.

You have recently been elected to the position of Reykjavik City Council speaker, effectively making you the first trans woman to hold that position in Iceland. How does that makes you feel? Did you expect it?
“I am very proud to be the first trans woman to take this position, but I am even more proud to be living in a country where trans and genderqueer people can fully take part in public life and can know that prejudice will not stand in their way. That we can expect to take part fully and can realistically expect any position that a cisgender person might, assuming we are qualified. We still have some way to go, but I feel we are a step closer today than we were a week ago. Knowing you lived in a country where this could happen is different from seeing it actually happen.

“I am very proud to be the first trans woman to take this position, but I am even more proud to be living in a country where trans and genderqueer people can fully take part in public life and can know that prejudice will not stand in their way.”

As to whether I expected it, honestly: no, but mostly because I was not expecting to become a full city councilor during this term, or that circumstances would require us to consider shuffling roles around. But I know that both the Pirate party, and the majority coalition, and indeed the entire city council are very progressive when it comes to LGBT+ acceptance, so I would not have expected any such concerns to hold me back, if the possibility were to present itself.”

What does that position entail precisely for those of us who are not well versed in politics?
“The position of president of the city council, or speaker of the council, depending on who you ask, is primarily about the actual running of city council meetings. Deciding the agenda, the order of the topics to be discussed, in cooperation with representatives of every party of course. It is a position that requires a great deal of diplomacy and compromise. But it is also outwardly a position of leadership, someone who can speak for the whole city council when the situation warrants, such as in ceremonies or events, and the president will often step in for the mayor in his absence, when it would be appropriate for a representative of the city government to say a few words or greet a distinguished guest. At its core though, the president of the council is in charge of the council meetings themselves. Can decide that a discussion has been going to long and can be abbreviated, will judge on disputes about how to interpret the rules or order and will decide if a councilor needs to be reminded of the rules, or even admonished.”

Aside from increasing trans visibility in politics, do you think that position will allow you to weigh in even more on the future of trans rights in the City of Reykjavik first of all but also ultimately, perhaps, in Iceland as a whole?
“I absolutely do, but I would also stress that Reykjavík city has been emphasizing trans rights in the last few years, particularly through our council of human rights, innovation and democracy. I will be sure to build on that, and use the platform both to speak on those issues, but also to simply be an example. To show people that a transgendered person in politics isn’t “just” a transgendered person in politics, and to show sceptics that nothing awful happens when we treat each other with basic dignity, when we let trans and genderqueer people take full part.”

Alexandra Briem, member of the Pirate Party, has become the first trans woman to ever hold the position of Reykjavik City Council speaker in Iceland.

Taking a step back, can you tell us what drove into politics in the first place?
“I had thought for a long time that I might at some point go into politics, but it was always a vague “sometime later”. I had this feeling that you needed some sort of permission or special quality to go into politics. But for me, it was the economic collapse of 2008 that pushed me from thinking about doing it “sometime maybe”, to actually doing it. I might have not thought I’d seek office myself at first, but I got very active in grassroots politics. My faith in the political leaders and parties at the time was badly shaken, and I felt that politics needed new blood and a new vision. The main things that drive me in politics are the fight against corruption and entrenched special interests. I’m a big proponent of the new constitution, fisheries reform with an eye to getting a fair price for access to the fisheries and using that to fund services. But that fight takes many forms. One of them is improving democracy, making it more direct, making sure people have the information to make informed choices, and fighting corruption.”

Had you already come out as a trans woman back then?
“I had not at that point, but I was out relatively early in my work with the Pirate Party. I believe I came out publicly in 2016, when I was running to be on the board of the Reykjavík Pirate Party. But I might be misremembering and actually come out as early as in 2015.”

How did it go when you took the plunge, with the public, your party, other political parties? Did you expect those reactions – or lack thereof?
“When I did come out publicly, I decided to make a long Facebook status explaining my situation. It was early, not long after I came out to my party, long before I actually ran for public office. It went extremely well and I got a lot of support and acceptance, both from my party and the public at large. I won’t say I haven’t gotten any negative reactions, but those have luckily been few and far between. Mostly online, but an occasional one at bars or such.”

Did you have any role model to speak of to look up to and inspire you as a trans woman in politics, whether Icelandic or otherwise?
“I wouldn’t say that no, at least not any single individual. Though there have of course been role models that I have looked up to, both trans, gay and queer. I could name Anna Kristjáns, Ugla Stefanía and even Hörður Torfa and Páll Óskar, for being pioneers for gay rights. There have been other examples that have inspired me as well, from TV shows like Star Trek that show us a better future, to my family that always supported me and my cousins, Kári and Ægir, who came out as gay a few years before I was ready and set an example, and also showed me that our family was open and welcoming.”

“I do notice a slightly higher tendency for a certain type of person to dismiss my views out of hand, but this has not been a huge issue for me.”

How about your political career per se as a trans woman? Would you say your gender identity made it harder in some ways? If so, can you give us a few examples of challenges you had to overcome because of it specifically?
“I would not say it has been harder specifically. Different certainly. And having to be away from the job for a few weeks to recover from surgery was difficult. But by and large both the politicians, and the public, have been very accepting. I do notice a slightly higher tendency for a certain type of person to dismiss my views out of hand, but this has not been a huge issue for me. If anything, I would even say that as I was raised as a boy, at least as far as anyone else knew, I did not get some of those pressures that are often put on girls to be demure, to not take up too much space… Things we as a society are still working on stopping. But I did not get those influences, and although obviously, a fair number of cis-women have not experienced them either, or have simply overcome them, I would still say that this is a rare example of an advantage when you are trans. That is of course, discounting that there are a lot of things that I would have learned had I been raised as a girl, that would have been useful to know, and I am now trying to catch up. But I do think it’s important to keep an eye out for positives.”

What is your biggest political achievement so far, the one that makes you the proudest?
“Well, that’s a big question. I would say that would be my part in helping my party get the election result that it did, that we were able to form a majority coalition that would focus on important matters like fighting climate change and making big changes to city planning to make for a greener city. A city that is denser to make better use of infrastructures and utilities, to shorten walking and cycling distance. A city that turns away from a decade-long focus on cars as the only viable mode of transport and that made historic agreements to improve public transportation and find a new site for the airport. And a city that will continue to embrace more direct democracy and focus on harm prevention in social services.”

“Reykjavík city has been emphasizing trans rights in the last few years, particularly through our council of human rights, innovation and democracy. I will be sure to build on that, and use the platform both to speak on those issues, but also to simply be an example,” says Alexandra.

At the end of the day, what would make you look back at your career and confidently say that it was all worth it?
“Ok, that depends on the level of politics, but I would say if Reykjavík City Council gets the city line up-and-running and turns away from being car-centric, my involvement in Reykjavík city politics will have been worth it. If Iceland ratifies the new constitution and reforms the fisheries, my involvement in politics in Iceland will have been worth it. Finally, and if the world manages to avoid catastrophic climate change, then I will feel like I have had a hand in making sure we did our part in doing something truly important.”

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.



        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        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 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm 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 two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The 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.

        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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            - 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. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf


              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              - 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.

              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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