Photo / Móa Hjartardóttir

Making life better for trans people and intersex people in Iceland

OPINION Amongst the horror that was 2020, many people probably think there is little to celebrate. It was a pretty shit year, right?

But even amongst all that, within Netflix binges, baking experiments, half-dressed-for-zoom-calls and an obscene amount of houseplant purchases, there were definitely some positive things that happened.

One of the biggest achievements, in my opinion, had to do with the legal rights of trans people and intersex people.

In July 2019 a law was passed called The Gender Autonomy Act (Kynrænt sjálfræði), which in short solidified the rights of trans people and intersex people. The law sought to give trans people more autonomy over legal gender recognition (changing names and gender legally) as well as more autonomous access to health care and also sought to ban unecessary and irreversible surgical interventions on intersex infants.

Well, or at least it was supposed to.

Through the process in the parliament, the law saw certain changes. While trans people made significant progress, the rights of intersex people were effectively put on hold. Unlike the law originally proposed, the parliament decided not to place a ban against the aforementioned interventions.

A significant change was the fact that non-binary people were finally being recognised legally, with their gender being marked as “kynsegin/annað” (non-binary/other) instead of “man” or “woman” and “x” instead of “m” or “f” on ID such as passports. This change will come into force, today, on the 6th of January 2021.

Trans people also had more informed based consent access to health care, that allows trans people to access care without the humiliating and invasive diagnostic process — instead, it will be based on the most modern and up to date guidelines on how to give health care to trans people.

The rights of trans children and teenagers were also solidified in law, allowing them legally to access health care and change their name and gender with parental consent.

But last December, we thankfully saw some much needed changes to the law being adopted.

The changes were threefold: The age limit to change your name and gender was moved from 18 years old to 15 years old, several changes were made to phrasing within various laws to reflect non-binary people and gender diversity, and almost all interventions on intersex infants were banned.

Small, but important steps
The age limit being changed from 18 to 15 is significant in so many ways. It allows trans teenagers to take control of their legal name and gender at a crucial time in their life.

In Iceland kids go to primary school from the age of 6-16 and then from he age of 16-20 they go to what is called framhaldsskóli (mix between high school and college). It’s an important time and allows them a chance to start life as themselves in a new environment and without being outed to their fellow pupils by their teachers during name-calls, for example.

The changes made to phrasing in various laws are pretty straight-forward, and mostly have to do with taking out unnecessary gendering or gendered terms that don’t apply anymore.

Despite these changes being quite insignificant, it didn’t stop a member of one of the political parties in Iceland — who have now effectively become a populist propaganda party of misinformation and conspiracies — from writing an article about how this was erasing words like “mother”, it was replaced with “parent” or “person”.

Anyone of a sound mind can quickly gather that this a ridiculous and exaggerated claim. The reason this phrasing is being adopted is because not everyone that give birth are mums — some trans men and non-binary people do not connect with that term at all, and take on a different parental role to their child.

That doesn’t mean that mums can’t call themselves mums. On the contrary, it’s about allowing people to decide what terms fit best for their family structure without laws contradicting that. It’s therefore creating freedom for everyone, and making sure that laws reflect that diversity.

But of course the parliamentarian in question does not recognise this and likely does not recognise that trans men and non-binary people are who they say they are. So the result is an inaccurate, uninformed and unhinged ‘article’ that has no basis in modern society.

Laws do not govern what words we can or cannot use. Mothers don’t stop being mothers because some insignificant phrasing in a law was changed.

When marriage laws were changed in Iceland in 2010, they replaced the phrasing “marrige is between a man and a woman” to “between two people” — as we all know, the words “man” and “woman” have not since been erased.

So don’t worry, I think we’re good — mums will continue to be mums.

The biggest step
The most significant change — the ban on unnecessary and irreversible surgical inventions on intersex infants, save for those that are life-threatening — was finally passed. The reason this was so important is that intersex people have been subjected to these surgical interventions for decades, often without horrible consequences and deep secrecy. Now that will no longer be allowed without the informed consent of the person involved, granting them autonomy over their own bodies.

Intersex people are people who are born with atypical sex characteristics. This means that physical factors such as genitals, gonads, reproductive organs or chromosomes don’t fit the typical classification of “male” and “female”. There are over 40 different variations, and according to research intersex people are about as common as people with red hair.

But for intersex people that are seen to be intersex at birth, doctors have often performed surgical interventions in order to ‘normalise’ their bodies to fit typical standards of ‘male’ and ‘female. This is often presented as a medical necessity that will improve the quality of life for them growing up.

But the fact is that the vast majority of these interventions are unnecessary and irreversible. Doctors therefore remove or operate on perfectly healthy organs, that leave people dependent on medical care such as hormone therapy or continued surgeries as they grow up. Many suffer life-long complications that can cause serious health issues and loss of sensitivity.

It’s therefore a huge step in ensuring equality for intersex people in Iceland, although the law has a few exceptions. The law is set to be reviewed, and hopefully future reviews will make sure that all intersex people and infants are protected against such surgical interventions until they can give their informed consent on whether or not they want any surgeries.

The ban was celebrated and welcomed across the parliament as an important step in ensuring equality for intersex people in Iceland.

But that wasn’t acceptable to a few random men in suits from the aforementioned party, who made it their mission to try and derail, mislead and misrepresent these changes as best they could. They tried to claim that kids were being denied necessary health care, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The way they tried to twist this significant change was met with heavy opposition from their fellow parliamentarians, which felt surprisingly moving.

To see parliamentarians defending the rights of intersex people with such conviction showed me that they truly cared deeply about this issue, and about making Iceland a better place for intersex people.

The fight continues
I’m hoping that we will continue to see more legal changes and improvements for the wider LGBTQIA community in Iceland, too. Even though we’ve come a long way, there are still many issues we need to address.

Iceland still doesn’t have a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that addresses all queer people, we don’t have a proper anti-hate speech legislation, certain queer people are not allowed to donate blood, queer refugees and asylum seekers are still not acknowledged in law and some queer people still face unequal treatment when registering as parents of their children.

Beyond direct legal issues, there are also social issues that need to be addressed. This has to do with general awareness raising and the inclusion of queer people at work, at school, in sport, and in most avenues of society. Queer people still face signficant barriers in many places, and issues such as queer people in care homes, comprehensive sexual education and bullying in schools are but a few of the many challenges we still face as a society.

So while we can certainly celebrate the steps we’ve taken, it’s important that we remember that there is still a lot to be done. We cannot, and we will not stop until every queer person in this country can be who they are just as freely as anyone else, without fear and persecution.

Only that way will we create a free and just society.

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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