How does it feel like to be queer and foreign in Iceland?

Members of the queer community share their stories.

Kaśka Paluch. Photo / Magdalena Łukasiak

From Fear to Freedom

Leaving Poland and embracing Iceland was a turning point in my life. The difference between these two countries was striking – from facing homophobia to finding openmindedness.

In Poland, being queer came with countless challenges. Same-sex marriage and partnerships are still illegal, inclusive schools face government scrutiny. The President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, called us “not people, just an ideology”, making hurtful remarks that perpetuated discrimination. The rising rate of queer teenage suicides highlights the hostile environment.

But everything changed in Iceland. Here, love knows no bounds, and my identity as a queer person was warmly accepted. Iceland’s progressive stance on LGBTQ+ rights created a supportive atmosphere.

Marrying my wife, also from Poland, was a joyous milestone that brought validation and security. Starting our family in Iceland provided the safety and acceptance we craved.
Gradually, Iceland’s open-mindedness helped me heal from past painful experiences.

While no society is perfect, Iceland’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights has allowed me to flourish as my authentic self.

In this welcoming country, I found my true self and became an advocate for equality and acceptance. Iceland is my cherished home, where I stand tall as a valued individual. While no society is perfect, Iceland’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights has allowed me to flourish as my authentic self.

I am forever grateful to Iceland for its love and support, turning my painful memories into stepping stones towards a brighter future. Today, I still get emotional, while walking with Pride or seeing rainbow flags outside institutions or even gas stations. Experiencing this
level of acceptance and celebration of love was unimaginable to me in Poland. These moments remind me of how far I’ve come and give hope to others still fighting for acceptance.

Kaśka Paluch-Łukasiak

Jacob Volsky (on the right) and his partner Magnús Hallur Jónsson. Photo / Ovors

Being Myself for the First Time

What surprised me the most was that nobody really cares if you’re queer or not. It’s not an issue. It’s not new or strange. Queer people are visible and it doesn’t cause a sensation or controversy. That was a big relief for me when I moved here in 2017. I will never forget the feeling when I was walking down Laugavegur holding hands with a guy I was dating that time. Even though I knew I’m safe here, my heart was beating fast. It was because of the recollection of my experiences in Poland when random people on the street were calling me names or poking me just because I was different than them. But here nobody even looked at us. Two people holding hands … not a big deal.

I moved to Iceland and I didn´t know a single person here. The natural way for me to meet new people was through Grindr of course. Friendships I made there continue to this day. Pixy was the first drag queen I met in my life. She invited me to the drag queen show that was held in Gaukurinn. That experience opened a whole new world to me. I met all kinds of queers and started to feel the part of community. Very soon I became a background dancer and performed with the Queens in various shows in Gaukurinn.

I remember walking to the event I saw a straight family with kids holding rainbow flags. Then I realized that pride parade is here for everybody. It’s straight friendly. It’s a family celebration. It’s absolutely inclusive!

Another positive shock I experienced during Hinsegin dagar in August 2017. Noteworthy, that was my first gay parade I ever attended. I remember walking to the event I saw a straight family with kids holding rainbow flags. Then I realized that pride parade is here for everybody. It’s straight friendly. It’s a family celebration. It’s absolutely inclusive!

The feeling of freedom and safety I experience here is priceless. I love it and ‘m grateful for it.

Jacob Volsky

Andie Sophia Fontaine.

Intersections and Solidarity

This is a weird subject for me to get into mostly because I come from one of the most privileged groups of immigrants you could belong to. I’m white, North American, a native English speaker and can speak Icelandic.

That said, I have for sure had my challenges and run-ins with bigotry as both a foreigner and a trans woman, but also a great deal of joy from both of these sometimes overlapping communities.

I had realised my gender and sexuality from a very young age, like probably still in the single digits, but kept both repressed for years. Coming out as bisexual when I was 19 was difficult, in no small part because the AIDS epidemic was raging in the US but there was an inverse proportion of information to bigotry. So much so that I stayed in firm denial of my gender identity; being openly bi was difficult enough.

Soon, the denial became automatic, and could run without my thinking about it. Being bisexual and foreign was an alienating experience, as–surprise!–even queer people can be xenophobic. I find myself feeling like I was on the outside looking in; grudgingly accepted as “part of the community” but not really embraced.

That changed in the 2000-teens, however, as more trans people began to step out publicly, and the walls of my denial began to falter. And then they fell apart altogether in 2018.

I don’t know if it’s because trans people also feel like outsiders in the greater queer community, but I have felt far more accepted by trans Icelanders than by other Icelanders in general. My foreignness has literally never been so much as a topic of conversation, never the subject of the many tedious questions folks love to ask foreigners (“where are you from? How long have you lived here? How did you learn Icelandic? Do you have an Icelandic partner?”).

I am often left wondering if my foreignness has encouraged an extra degree of viciousness in their transphobia, or if my transness encouraged greater xenophobia.

Which is interesting, as I think about it, considering how few other foreigners I meet within our trans community. Like I said, it could be due to trans people also feeling like strangers in their own towns.

When dealing with cis-het Icelanders, it’s a different story. Most of the time things go well. But when I encounter prejudice, I am often left wondering if my foreignness has encouraged an extra degree of viciousness in their transphobia, or if my transness encouraged greater xenophobia. It’s hard to gauge and doesn’t particularly matter; hate is hate regardless.

Most people know enough to conceal their bigotry with other rationalisations; to smile in your face as they stab you in the back. Fortunately, my trans siblings are always there for me.

Andie Sophia Fontaine

Photo / Unsplash

Through the Queer Lens

When I have access to my queer world view, I break down binaries. I recognise nuance. I invite openness rather than simplify into “this or that.” The world through my queer lens has a lot of “and.” When I look at the world through queer glasses, I am curious about identity, sex, gender, and even the word ‘queer.’ I question whether queerness exists in Iceland.

When I was asked to write this story, one of the conversations went like this: “So, it is open to however I want to talk about my experience of queerness in Iceland?” “Yes, basica ly.” “So, eroticas is fine. Lol.” “Heheheh. Eeeeh well maybe keep in mind that this will be hung up on a wall at the pride centre.” “Don’t tempt me. Lol. Okay, okay… I will keep it family friendly.” “Thank you.”

This was, of course, a lovely and witty conversation with two awesome humans. However, it illuminates one example of queerness in Iceland. Queerness needs to be family friendly. Queerness needs to be approved by the greater community. Queerness needs to be vanilla, monogmous, and married with two children.

Queerness, by the ever-evolving definition, means something like: different, strange, weird, new, never-been-done before, thinking outside the box. If we continue to look at our personal queerness through the lens of heteronormativity, then does queerness even exist in Iceland? I know, I know it is more complex than that. Nuance abounds.

I question whether queerness exists in Iceland.

Iceland is queerer than you think. The polyamorous community and swinging community and BDSM, darkroom dwellers, and the “fuck gender” pioneers are all here. It is my hope that they can live out loud and live their experience looking through their queer glasses… and that Pride becomes an intentional practice of being yourself, regardless of others’ opinion.

Do I feel safe in Iceland? Yes. Does queerness exist in Iceland? Sure. Is Iceland looking at queerness through the heterosexual cisgender lens? In my experience, yes.



Hvernig er að vera hinsegin manneskja af erlendum uppruna á Íslandi? Ég fæ alltaf þessa spurningu þegar Hinsegin Dagar eru að nálgast, en annars er hinsegin systkinum mínum skítsama um það. Ekki eins og ég þarf að ræða þetta dagsdaglega, en þessir pistlar og viðtöl gera lítið annað en að gera mig að tóken sem hinsegin samfélagið hér á landi tínir út úr sínum kista árlega einvörðungu í þeim tilgangi að geta sagt hvað það er ekki rasískt. Síðastliðin ár hef ég tekið þátt í greinarskrifum á vegum Hinsegin Daga til þess að ræða þetta mál og einungis þetta mál, eitt skipti að undanskildu. Þó að ég hafi verið duglegur að tjá mig um þetta málefni ásamt öðrum gerist ekki neitt í kjölfarið. Eitt sem ég hef oft nefnt í þessari umræðu er blætisgerving litaðra hinsegin fólks, einkum úr mínu sjónarhorni sem svartur karlmaður þar sem ég hef oft orðið fyrir áhrifum “BBC” (big black cock) staðalímynda, en þessi tókenismi og blætisgerving minnar reynslusögu er varla betur en þeir fáfróðu menn sem hafa sent mér skilaboð í leit að einhverjum þeldökkum gangsta sem getur ráðið yfir þá. Klárlega er þetta mér hjartans mál, annars hefði ég ekki tekið þátt í þessu nokkur ár í röð, en hvað er raunverulega verið að gera til þess að skapa opnara samfélag fyrir alla liti regnbogans?

Til að svara spurningunni tel ég að mín upplifun sem hinsegin manneskja af erlendum uppruna á þessu landi hafi verið einangrandi. Sumt fólk þykjast skipta sig um þetta bara til þess að geta montað sig um hvað er það framsækið, en reynist svo vera óeinlægt. Aftur á móti eru líka einstaklingar sem gæti ekki verið meira sama um þetta til að byrja með þar sem það er sátt um leið og það hefur fengið allt sem það vill á diskinn, óháð hversu mörg eru ennþá að bíða til þess að komast inn á veitingastaðinn yfir höfuð. Þetta gerir það að verkum að mér líður eins og ég sit á afskekktri eyju í miðju afskekktrar eyju.

Hvernig er að vera hinsegin manneskja af erlendum uppruna á Íslandi? Ég fæ alltaf þessa spurningu þegar Hinsegin Dagar eru að nálgast, en annars er hinsegin systkinum mínum skítsama um það.

Mörg sem tilheyra hinseginleikinn, hvort sem þau kalla sig “hinsegin”, “LGBTQ+”, “hommi”, “trans”, o.s.frv. hafa einmitt höfðað gagnrýni gegn fyrirtækjum og öðrum stofnunum vegna sýndarmennskunnar sinnar. Víðast hvar finnast jörm (e. memes) sem varpa ljósi á hvernig heimurinn hættir að skipta sig um mannréttindabaráttu hinsegin fólks strax og klukkan slær miðnætti á 1. júlí. Þó að samhengið sé öðruvísi á þetta líka við hér, enda er þessi umræða ósýnileg á öðrum tímum árs.

Ég tala nú ekki fyrir hönd annarra einstaklinga, en mælirinn minn hefur fyllst. Hvað er þetta nema dyggðarskreyting þegar ekki mætti benda til eins úrræðis sem stendur okkur til boða? Hvar og hvenær eru þessar umræður að eiga sér stað utan Hinsegin Daga?

Derek Terell Allen

GayIceland would like to thank the members of the queer community for sharing their stories with us, originally written for Reykjavik Pride, where they were on display at the Pride Center.

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

    Check out Blush’s website:

    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.




        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.

        - 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.

        - 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.

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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.

          Contact Us

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