What is queer?

Queer is an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual and/or do not conform to gender norms. For example trans people, bisexual people and homosexual people.

Sexual orientation is about who you might have a crush on, fall in love with and be attracted to. Some people can be attracted to people of another gender or to people of the same gender, some people are attracted to men and women, some might not even think about the gender of the person they are attracted to. Some don’t feel attraction towards others at all. Sexual orientation is not necessarily set in stone, it can vary from person to person, and for some it can change over time.

Heterosexuality (straight) being attracted to people of a different gender

Homosexuality (lesbian, gay) being attracted to people of the same gender

Pansexuality being attracted to people regardless of their gender

Asexuality having little or no sexual attraction towards other people

Bisexuality being attracted to two genders

People who aren’t straight (e.g. homo-, bi- and pansexual people) face a lot of prejudice. It is important to think about the words you use and not to use sexual orientation to make fun of people or demean those who are different. We live in a very straight world where most people assume everyone is heterosexual, which means that queer people constantly have to come out of the closet. Be open to diversity, don’t assume that everyone is straight and remember that people come in all colours of the rainbow!

You never know if the persons you have sex with are HIV-positive. Your one protection is to practice responsible and safe sex and always use a condom. When it comes to sex, set yourself simple and safe rules that you never make exceptions to. Always have a condom at hand.

The emergency telephone number for police, ambulance and fire services is 112

Gender identity is about one’s own sense and feelings of gender. Gender identity is not about genitals, biology or appearance, but rather about how we experience our gender. Some people feel they are male, others female, some people feel they are a mix of both and others feel they are neither. Some people have operations or take hormones to change their bodies in line with their gender identity, whereas others don’t.

Cisgender a person whose gender identity and/or sex characteristics correlate to their assigned gende r(is neither trans nor intersex)

Trans woman (Male To Female/MTF) a woman who was assigned male at birth

Trans man (Female To Male/FTM) a man who was assigned female at birth

Gender reassignment a process some people go through to change their bodies in line with their gender identity

Transgender an umbrella term which includes all those that sit outside the realm of ‘traditional’ ideas of gender, which includes trans men, trans women, people who go through gender reassignment, people who choose not to, people who do not wish to identify as male or female and people who wish to identify as both.

Trans people experience a lot of prejudice. It is good to simply ask if you are unsure about names and pronouns. Trans people, however, get a lot of inappropriate questions, don’t assume that trans people will want to discuss their gender, bodies or gender past. Be open to the fact that gender isn’t just male or female, there is no single gender recipe and there is no right or wrong when it comes to gender!

When a child is born, usually the first question asked is “is it a boy or a girl?” When it comes to intersex individuals, the answer may not be obvious. Intersex is a term that is used for people whose biological sex cannot be clearly categorized as either male or female. Intersex individuals should have full control over any medical procedures they may wish to undergo and should not be subjected to medically unnecessary gender normalizing procedures. It is important that intersex individuals get to determine their own sex and gender, just like everyone else.

Some people prefer to be called he, others prefer she but there are also people who prefer neither female nor male pronouns. In that case the gender neutral pronoun they might come in handy, for e.g.: They laughed / I called them / Their bag is heavy.

However, there are many different gender neutral pronouns available so it is always best to respect people´s own preferences.


Health and wellbeing

To schedule a meeting, call 543-6050 Monday to Friday between 8 and 9 a.m.

The clinic for skin disease and sexually transmitted diseases (Húð- og kynsjúkdómadeild) is located at Landspítalinn Fossvogi in Reykjavík. Appointments can be made by calling 543-6050 (sexually transmitted disease) and 543-6350 (skin disease).

If you suspect that you may have an infection you can either visit the clinic without an appointment or make an appointment with a normal health clinic.


Address: Hverfisgata 69
Telephone: 552 8586
Website: http://hiv-island.is/
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

An emergency reception centre for people who have been sexually assaulted opperates out of the National Hospital’s emergency department in Fossvogur. The Rape Trauma Service Centre is a specialised reception centre providing services for victims of sexual violence, with a special team of nurses, psychologists, social workers, doctors and lawyers ready to receive victims of sexual violence and assist them as needed. Its services are for homosexual, bisexual, transsexual and heterosexual individuals alike. The Emergency Reception Unit is open 24 hours a day, and all persons going there have the right to an interpreter should they request one. The service is free of charge. 

Information line for emergency department reception: 543-2000 or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Direct line to Rape Trauma Service Centre available in during daytime hours: 543-2094.

Location: Emergency room at the National Hospital (Landspítali) in Fossvogur


Legal matters

Being open about your sexual orientation (in your school or workplace, for example) is not usually a problem for anyone in Iceland. If you run into difficulties or encounter hostility because of your sexual orientation, it’s important that you exercise your rights and seek assistance immediately. Discrimination, violence or bashing of any kind should never be tolerated or ignored. Contact Samtökin ‘78 (tel. 552-7878) if you need help or advice on where to go.

In Iceland, the rights of the individual are protected in the country’s constitution. Discrimination is prohibited by Article 65 of the Constitution, which stipulates clearly that everyone is to be equal before the law and enjoy their human rights regardless of “sex, religion, opinion, national origin, race, colour, property, birth or other status”. By Icelandic law, it is a punishable crime to deny people goods or services, as is attacking them publicly with ridicule, slander, insults, or threats because of their sexual orientation. Iceland is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and respects therewith the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The legal status of transgender people in Iceland is unclear as, there is no specific legislation on the issue. The status of persons wishing to change their sex is particularly unclear, and transsexuals cannot change their name unless they have undergone surgery to correct their sex.

The first milestone victory on the legal front came in 1996 with the passing of laws on confirmed cohabitation, but even so, gays and lesbians were still barred from adopting or seeking assisted pregnancies in Iceland's free public hospitals.  Another breakthrough was on Christopher Street Day, June 27 2006 when laws improving the legal status of gays and lesbians in Iceland took effect and in 2010 same-sex marriage was legalised in Iceland replacing the older legislation of confirmed cohabitation. This means the wording of marriage legislation includes matrimony between "man and man, woman and woman" and upgrades same sex marriege to be fully equal with marriage. 

Two individuals of the same sex can register their cohabitation with the National Register (Borgartún 24) and thereby receive the same social rights as heterosexuals with regards to social security, taxation, labour law and municipal social services. Icelandic citizens do not need to be residents of Iceland to register a partnership.

Lesbians in a confirmed or registered cohabitation have the same rights to assisted fertilisation as heterosexual women who are married or cohabiting.

Visit www.artmedica.is for more information.

The rights of same sex couples in a confirmed cohabitation to adopt children are in all respects the same as for heterosexual married couples, should they fulfil those conditions that apply for the adoption of children.