“Can I say this is who I am?”

Reykjavik City Councillor Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir on coming out, activism, and identity.

Many know Sanna Magdalena for her work in advocacy and politics. Although she’s a relatively young politician, she’s established herself as a leader in the campaigns against racism and poverty in Iceland. However, what most people don’t know much about is a part of her identity less publicized: pansexuality.

Around the most recent municipal elections in May, Sanna penned a comment on a post in Hinseginspjallið (The Queer Chat Group on Facebook) asking how many candidates for office were queer. In her first “public” statement about it beyond close friends and a family member, Sanna wrote “I am pan, in the Socialist Party. I told my mom a year ago May 17 and have told the closest around me : ) But yes, hi, I’m saying it here.”

The comment was a breakthrough moment for Sanna, though it came with some hesitation. “I really thought “should I comment?” I wasn’t sure,” she says. At that point, Sanna had told a few people privately. “I told my close friend. I told her before I told anyone else. I remember telling her like I told my mom and everything went well. It all went well. Then I told my friends and I kind of burst it out like “Hey, have I told you I’m pansexual?” and they were like “Oh, ok. What’s that? Ok, cool.”

Sanna’s mom took the news well too. “The city had a reception at Höfði house and there were these rainbow flags on the 17th of May, the International Day Against Homophobia. I remember thinking like “ok, the universe is telling me something. I got to tell my mom. This is gonna be the day, I’m going to call her today and she’s just going to have to deal with it.” So, I told her and the whole time I was thinking that if she can’t accept this it was going to kind of be her problem, but she took it so well! She said “oh wow, I love you so much, I want you to be able to tell me everything” and she’s been so supportive.”

She explains. “I mean there was a time where I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced, so that was maybe why I was scared telling her; that she’d say ‘no, no, no.’ But she’s just been so wonderful. She joked one day ‘isn’t someone waiting for you, a prince… or a princess?’ She’s realizing she should say something different, right? She said when I came out like ‘just be prepared Sanna you might get some nasty comments;’ that’s so sweet of her you know saying ‘I will be there for you, I’m going to be here for you’.”

Am I pansexual?

Coming to terms with her new identity wasn’t the most straightforward process for Sanna, who mentions how her background in anthropology helped her gain a better understanding of society’s “boxes”. “I didn’t really figure it out myself, I’m still figuring out a lot about myself, but this didn’t really happen until a couple of years ago. I don’t see this as something that I’ve always felt.”

Then I told my friends and I kind of burst it out like “Hey, have I told you I’m pansexual?”

“My journey started when I was studying anthropology because that’s when I started to put a critical lens on everything. I started to question a lot of things that had just been put forward as normal for me. I remember just thinking ‘why do we have the gender binary?’ It was just so eye-opening. This isn’t the truth even though society puts so many things forward as the truth, the way that it has to be or should be,” she says.

This critical lens really opened a pandora’s box of questions for Sanna when it came to the labels she’d been told. “It kind of built from there and I thought about how I wished I was a person who was not only attracted to men if that makes sense. I remember thinking on top of those thoughts I was having that it was so messed up that I’m already socially classified as a woman. I’m just supposed to be attracted to men and that’s just the way it is. It’s difficult to describe but hope I’m making sense,” she laughs.

Analyzing these rigid social norms added to the confusion. “At the same time I was also thinking that’s not me, I’m just attracted to men. It didn’t make sense, it didn’t add up, but I came to the conclusion that I was just attracted to men because I hadn’t really felt anything different before. Then over time, it kind of just happened. Maybe I was just opening up to the fact that this was me.”

Asked how she feels about the recent attack against the queer community in Oslo, Norway, Sanna says  the unity against hate is so important, standing together. “I saw a comment from a friend online that really got me thinking, it was about how the officials in Oslo were referring to what happened as a terrorist attack whereas it looked more like a hate crime. Tt got me thinking just on the importance of addressing things correctly and where we stand in that matter,” she says, adding that she’s glad that queer community in Iceland is standing together.

This is really me

A tipping point for Sanna came when a family member was discussing her orientation. “There was a family event I was at and I don’t remember exactly what was said but someone was talking and asked about my sexuality like ‘oh, is she gay?’ referring to me. And I remember standing there and my mom and uncles and grandmother were there and I remember shouting ‘no, no. I only like men.’ Just saying it out loud so they wouldn’t misunderstand something. But at that moment I thought to myself that’s a total lie, I just lied to myself. Like wow, why did I lie about this, this isn’t correct. That just made me realize like ok, something’s off here. Why did I react so harshly? You have to do something about this,” she says.

Sanna also didn’t want to lie and moreover didn’t want to lie to herself. She says “I’m not a person who doesn’t tell the truth. So when I realized I lied to myself and them I figured ‘ok this is really who you are’ because you realized you lied. Ok, this is really me.”

Opening up to the identity

As it is for many people coming out has been a journey for Sanna. “I’m still trying to figure it out,” she jests. Part of her questions the validity of her new identity since she wasn’t connected to it in her youth: “even saying this out loud I’m thinking how can I be this person like wasn’t I this person all these years before? Or did I just finally open up towards it?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘am I sure this is who I am?’ and ‘how could I have just become this?’ ya know. When you hear many others talking about their coming out process so many have been so sure for such a long time. So I kind of felt like a fraud, like can I say say ‘this is me’ if I’m coming out at 29?” she asks.

When you hear many others talking about their coming out process so many have been so sure for such a long time. So I kind of felt like a fraud, like can I say say ‘this is me’ if I’m coming out at 29?

This hesitation and questioning eventually gave way to acceptance. Someone she crossed paths with helped her realize that pansexuality was really what she was drawn to. “My eyes really opened up when I was speaking to a person and got to thinking ‘wow this person is really interesting,’ having a conversation and ‘I’d really like to get to know this person better.’ After we chatted I thought ‘I have no idea how this person identifies gender-wise but that doesn’t matter.’ I don’t need to try and figure it out, I don’t need to try and understand. This person is really interesting in that kind of way and if I had the chance I’d like to get to know this person better.”

Can I say I’m pansexual?

Sanna says she also feels conflicted about her pansexuality since she hasn’t dated anyone beyond men. “It’s also just new to me,” she says, “because I’ve only been with men it’s like ‘can I say I’m pansexual?’” While assuring her that no one has to prove their orientation for it to be valid, Sanna elaborates “but I feel this need to like ‘prove it’ so no one can say ‘are you sureeeee?’ It’s just in my head.”

Although she’s not dating anyone at the moment, Sanna isn’t in a rush. “When I first meet someone I’m thinking ‘do I like this person?’ ‘do we have good conversation?’ ‘do I feel attracted to this person?’ ‘Can we get to know each other better?’ Like what are we talking about when I’m talking to you not thinking ‘I wonder what this person looks like without pants on,’” she laughs.

Beyond attraction, a person’s outlook on the world matters a great deal to her. “It goes in the other direction as well like maybe I see someone that’s super attractive and see this person seems to be like working on something cool, and I’m attracted to this person. Then I hear that person talk about their political beliefs and what they stand for and the person just starts looking like worse and worse and worse,” she says.

Sanna’s coming out process has not only helped her come to terms with her identities but has made her realize she can be a role model for others. Photo / Sandra Dögg

A conflict of identities

Part of Sanna’s timid approach to coming out comes from the established work of activists that fought for LGBTQIA+ rights in the past. “People have been fighting a lot of battles and struggles for their rights and been through a lot of ugliness and then I’m like ‘oh yeah, this is me. I haven’t faced any discrimination, I’m out. Hi, this is me’.” This viewpoint may come from her background fighting for many other marginalized groups where she knows the communities well.

A daughter of a single mom growing up, Sanna experienced poverty in Iceland at a time when the island was full of prosperity. “I grew up with a single mom who was working in a kindergarten, a low wage job. It was really difficult to try and make ends meet. We were in the rental market and it was really difficult to try and find something affordable, so we were really struggling. At the time she also had a part-time cleaning job on top of her job at the kindergarten. She was really just using all the money she got from both of these jobs just to get what we needed and still didn’t have enough to last until the end of the month. It was just really difficult, we weren’t even buying all the basics. We experienced poverty in just not affording food to eat. I’m so proud to be the daughter of my mother though. This myth of Iceland being a feminist paradise doesn’t trickle down to the poor women who are doing this kind of work in the care sector and the schooling system.”

“It’s always important to share your experience and now that’s what I’m doing.”

Eventually, all of her identities will gel together nicely, but it hasn’t been without a bit of confusion first. “My identity has been for a long time has been ‘Sanna who is fighting poverty and talking about racism’ because in my master’s thesis I was researching how mixed-race individuals face belonging to a community. It’s something that I worked on in activism before politics. Now I have this identity. How does it like fit? Ok, you have this identity as Sanna anti-poverty and Sanna anti-racism and now you’re going to be talking about this? How does it go together?”

Things are looking up

Although she’s been recently reelected to the Reykjavík City Council and there’s much work to be done, things are bright for Sanna. Her coming out process has not only helped her come to terms with her identities but has made her realize she can be a role model for others. “It’s always important to share your experience and now that’s what I’m doing is talking about it so that always helps instead of making this worse,” she says.

Plus another socialist party member was elected to the council too, so she’s finally got someone to share the workload with. “I think it’s going to be easier now that I have someone else with me in the city council. So I need to focus on saying to myself ‘ok, you’re going to stop working at 6 or 7 pm and just stop and have a life.’ I think I need to open up more and say to myself it’s ok to have a bit of a life outside of the office and open up towards that.”

Main photo: Sandra Dögg

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.

      Nasdaq

         

        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 www.nasdaq.com.

        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.

        Landsbankinn
        - leading financial institution
        Landsbankinn

        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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            Dohop
            - get inspired
            Dohop

            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.

              Macland
              - for all your Apple needs
              Macland

              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.

              Núðluskálin
              - noodle bar
              Núðluskálin

              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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