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A Trip to Reykjavik

Speaking at NonFictionNow in Iceland

This summer, I got to visit Iceland for the first time, thanks to Cooper Bombardier’s submission of a panel to NonFictionNow. Our panel got picked, and after writing a bunch of words on why trans memoir is usually garbage, and being home for all of two days from a trip to Singapore, I headed back to the airport.

IcelandAir from Portland was pretty great, and the flight went by fast, especially compared to the two 15 hour monster flights to and from Singapore. Plus, they had a charcuterie plate. Cooper and I were on the same flight, so we quickly went through customs, I bought some house Aquavit for us, and we hopped on a bus to the city. It turns out bus station lox egg salad is legitimately good in Iceland. Go figure. Pretty much anywhere you can get food, it’s well-executed.

Seriously. It was great.

We wandered around the city and got breakfast at the Grey Cat, which our cab driver suggested. Later, I tried my hand at speaking shitty Icelandic on the phone with a cab service, and they picked us up again from near a stuffed polar bear. Our place for the week ended up being in Kríuholar, a suburb 15 minutes from the city. The view was incredible, and all the furniture was delightfully IKEA or comfy leather. Our co-panelists weren’t set to arrive until the next day, so we took a nap, then went back to the city for a very expensive dinner. Every meal, we would learn, is expensive in Iceland.

Cooper and Erik the Red (I think)
Midnight after we bought rotted shark for the apartment.

The next day, Colette arrived, and we wandered in the city a bit more for the launch of the conference. The whole town felt quaint, but alive, and I quickly felt at home with the pace, and the ways folks interacted on the street. The sort of feeling that happens and you say, “yep, I’d be lucky to live here.” It remains to be seen if the winter would feel this way.

The day of our panel, Ryka and Grace had joined us, and the panel itself was fantastic. I cried later, listening to all of us reading each other’s words about trans memoir, storytelling, and the cis publishing world. A few great questions were asked, including what we were reading, and it was fun to hear everyone’s answers — from Samuel Delaney to a strong recommendation from Ryka to watch a lesbian dragon anime.

We were all working and writing during the trip, so after our panel we mostly stayed closer to home, enjoying the company of other trans writers, and visiting the local pool. I also made Cooper and Colette take the COGIATI, and Ryka and I talked with them about weird trans lady 90s subculture. It was perfect.

The panel (minus Grace, who was also amazing)

On our last day, Cooper and I went to the Blue Lagoon, which despite being a tourist melting pot of every nationality visiting Iceland, was fun and relaxing. The sound of silica rubbing against itself in the water is indescribable. Also I learned a lot about older German women’s personal space attitudes in the locker room — it was close quarters.

Being trans didn’t really come up in Iceland for me, luckily, besides the panel I was literally there to do so during. It was a relief. I don’t usually run up against constant challenges of my gender, but even still, I had a worry that with pools, lagoons, and language-barriers, I’d be misgendered or treated badly. Instead, lots of folks seemed to think all 5’10 of me was an Icelandic cis lady. Go figure. I need to study up on Icelandic before I visit again though, because my Swedish didn’t go super far.

Oh, and the rotted fish was totally fine, but could’ve used more flavor. Ryka, and Colette agreed. Cooper thought it was the worst thing in the world. Maybe it’s a trans lady thing? It smelled like cat urine, but just tasted like shark, which isn’t a very interesting flavor in my opinion. Try it with aquavit if you get a chance.

We headed back to the airport together, and there were tearful goodbyes, but I’ll never forget the days I got to spend laughing, writing, and learning with 4 other brilliant trans authors. Miss you!

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