Queer youth center in Reykjavík: “A safe space for queer teenagers”

Recently a national conversation on bullying brought to light that homophobic bullying is sadly still a thing in Iceland and a recent survey shows that one-third of LGBT+ youth feel unsafe at school in the country.
Hrefna Þórarinsdóttir explains why safe spaces for queer youth are vital and tells the story, goals and challenges of Hinsegin fèlagsmiðstöð, the queer youth center she’s been running since 2016 in Reykjavík.

Hrefna Þórarinsdóttir.

What is Hinsegin félagsmiðstöð in a nutshell and how does it translate in English for the few of us who dare not to speak a word of Icelandic?
“It is a safe space for queer teenagers to develop and find their place under the queer umbrella, to give and get support.
We want to create that “home away from home” feeling in our center. We want it to be a place where queer teens can find others that share the same experiences and mindset. And most of all a place where they feel welcomed, can have fun and forget about all their worries and problems or, on the contrary, talk about them with people who are trained to tackle those issues.
We have currently one permanent staff member and I, plus two temporary staff members due to increased attendance. Otherwise, the program is mainly staffed with volunteers from The National Queer Organization, Samtökin 78.”

“I’ve been noticing increased interest from even younger kids (6-13) so it may be time to create a safe space for that age group as well.”

When did you create the center, and where can it be found?
“The center was greenlighted in 2016 and we opened in September that same year after a few months of brainstorming and planning in Spennistöðin youth center, Barónsstígur 32 A, Reykjavik 101.”

Didn’t Samtökin 78 have their own youth program at the time?
“Samtökin had indeed their own youth program called Ungliðahreyfing Samtakanna 78 for many years and it was very popular and successful. But in 2016 the age range was becoming too wide. And as we know, a 13-year-old can have a very different mindset from a 20/25 old or even an 18-year-old. So, Samtökin asked Reykjavík city to help them find ways to make the program take that more into account.

“A few times a year we invite queer people that the teenagers consider role models to visit us and talk about everything, from the color of their toothbrush to their experience of coming out.” Pictured: singer Páll Óskar.

That is where I came in the picture. I had worked in youth centers for many years and was at the time working for a leisure center in Reykjavik which is now known as Tjörnin. I’ve had good experience working with different groups of young people and was asked to join this project so I just jumped in! We decided then to create a youth center for 13 to 17-year-olds so we could give that age group the specific attention and support it needs.”

Is it the only center of this kind in Iceland?
“I think this is the only youth center that focuses on queer youth in Reykjavík but there are others in municipalities like Keflavik and Akureyri if I remember correctly.”

Let’s talk a bit more about the teenagers who come to the center. How many of them gather on a regular opening?
“Around 80-110 teens gather on a regular opening and the numbers are always growing! It is kind of crazy since we had around 20-25 when we first started in 2016! Try to remember 80-110 different names and pronouns – it’s hard but not impossible!”

Have you noticed trends or patterns amongst those who come: age, gender, sexual preference, social background?
“No, not exactly, but I’ve been noticing increased interest from even younger kids (6-13) so it may be time to create a safe space for that age group as well. We will be taking the first steps in that direction in the next weeks and hopefully we can offer some kind of opening for at least a part of that age group as soon as possible.”

Does the center host informal hangouts or do you schedule meetings, events, etc.? Both perhaps?
“We are able to open once a week and we always have something planned. We offer different kinds of activities: a TV room, a board game corner, a good recording studio – karaoke is a very popular activity, a cozy corner and so much more. It’s hard to list everything. Mostly the kids just come here to hang out with their friends and other kids who may going through the same experience. Some also look for guidance from our staff.”

María Rut and Ingileif, founders of Hinseginleikinn, have showed up.

What are the highlights of the year?
“We take part in Reykjavík Pride each year, that is a big deal for us. Last time we had around 70 super excited teens join in our Pride float. Queer Role models is definitely another one: a few times a year we invite queer people that the teenagers consider role models to visit us and talk about everything, from the color of their toothbrush to their experience of coming out. Last year we also had a super successful Queer Prom for the first time, and we are planning the next one already. So as you can see, we do all kinds of stuff!”

What do the parents think about it? Do they play some role in the center?
“There are some very supportive parents, and we are very grateful for them. They have helped with our participation in Pride for example. Some kids come without their parents knowing and we respect that, but we would rather be always in touch and of course in good terms with the parents.”

How did Covid impact the project?
“Covid hit us pretty hard. During the first wave we had to close down, just like the other youth centers in Iceland. The second wave took Pride away. And during the third wave we had to close from October to mid-January although we tried to hold some events online then. But the kids always prefer to meet in person and that is very understandable. In mid-January we opened again with limitations and are very excited to be able to reopen the center without any limitations as soon as possible.”

What’s the next big thing on Hinsegin félagsmiðstöð’s agenda? “We are starting to plan our second Queer Prom scheduled in April!”

Any other challenges you had to face?
“In youth work the most common issue is always funding and I think that is the main reason why projects like this one fail. It is sad but true. We are always in the endless journey of looking for funds and even had to close temporarily at one point because of funding problems. But I don’t give up easily.
I think visibility is also very important. The more people know about us, the more people are willing to fight with us to keep this youth center open and growing.”

“Imagine that you can only go once a week to the very place where you feel welcome and are able to meet your friends. That is not fair to these kids. ”

What would you dream Hinsegin félagsmiðstöð to be in, like, 5 years?
“Wow, I have so many dreams. First, my dream would be that we can open more often, like other youth centers in Iceland. As of now we are only able to open once a week and that’s not enough. Imagine that you can only go once a week to the very place where you feel welcome and are able to meet your friends. That is not fair to these kids. I also dream that we have enough funding to pay our very important volunteers. Another dream I have is that we can offer a program for younger kids as I mentioned earlier. The fourth and maybe the biggest one is to open similar youth centers in other municipalities in Iceland.”

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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          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.