It’s that time again and Reykjavík is gearing up for the gayest weekend of the year (and that’s including the Eurovision Song Contest weekend). Iceland’s first Pride Parade in 1994 consisted of a handful of people, but the event has since grown into a week-long festival culminating in a procession that takes over Reykjavík’s city centre. This year, the festival is dedicated to baráttugleði, which means joy of fighting. The term refers to the struggle that queer people in Iceland have gone through in recent years and decades.
A little bit of history
In 1975, Hörður Torfason, an up-and-coming singer, scandalised the country when he admitted to being homosexual in an interview in magazine Samúel. His coming out was groundbreaking for the gay community, but society’s reaction was less than stellar. Faced with hostile reactions and threats, Hörður eventually left the country for a few years while the commotion died down.
Every victory was hard-earned…
Much like Hörður Torfa was the “first (openly) gay man” in Iceland, Anna Kristjánsdóttir was the “first (openly) trans person” in Iceland. Anna didn’t get the support she needed from the Icelandic medical system, so she went abroad to Sweden, where she came out as trans in the 90s. For a long time, Anna was the only out trans person in Iceland and had her work cut out for her to gain acceptance.
But it’s getting better
Ever since 1940, the year gay sex stopped being a punishable offence in Iceland, there has been excruciatingly slow but steady progress towards acceptance. Rigid gender roles and strict heteronormativity have slowly made way for a more liberal attitude towards sex, love and life from the general population.
There have been milestones…
Gay people in Iceland have today been granted many legal rights that seemed unthinkable just a few decades ago. Same-sex common-law partnership came first, followed by adoption rights, and finally, in 2010, same-sex marriage.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir has been a prominent politician in Iceland for decades. In 2009, she made international news when she not only became the first female prime minister of Iceland, but also the first openly lesbian prime minister in the world. Her wife, Jónína, is a writer and in 2013, she published their love story after having to keep their life private for decades.
But things aren’t perfect yet
When Hörður Torfa returned to Iceland after his informal exile, he and some other enterprising people founded Samtökin ’78, Iceland’s most prominent LGBTQIA rights association. Samtökin ‘78 have spent decades educating the Icelandic public and fighting for the rights of their members. Unfortunately, there’s still a need for Samtökin – the fight for equality isn’t over yet.