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Things you should know for Reykjavík Pride 2016!

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It‘s that time of the year again and Reykjavík is gearing up for the gayest weekend of the year (and that‘s including the Eurovision Song Contest weekend), Reykjavík Pride! The first Pride parade in 1994 consisted of a handful of people but has grown into a week-long festival culminating in the Pride parade taking over the Reykjavík city centre. This year, the festival is dedicated to LGBT+ history, so in order to get ready for the festival celebrating everybody’s right to live and love, here’s a few things you should know:

It hasn’t been easy…

hordur_torfason_017In 1975, Hörður Torfason, an up-and-coming singer, scandalised the country when he admitted to being homosexual in an interview in Samúel magazine. His coming out was ground-breaking 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.

And every victory was hard-earned…

akMuch 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 finish the transition and came out as trans while she lived in Sweden in the 1990’s. 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 in Iceland. 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. Confirmed cohabitation, a substitute for marriage with some of the legal rights, came first, followed by the right to adopt, and finally, in 2010, individuals of the same sex could get married.

Pioneers…

myndJóhanna 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 private life private for decades.

And icons…

Páll Óskar is the ultimate gay icon in Iceland. He’s been in the spotlight since he was a teenager and garnered international attention when he performed the highly suggestive Minn hinsti dans in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997. Although his most lasting love is with disco and dance music, he’s showed an incredible range and tackled everything from traditional Icelandic songs and ballads to techno. His float in the Pride parade and subsequent show on Arnarhóll hill is usually the highlight of the day.

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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 LGBT+ rights association. Samtökin ’78 (simply translates to The ’78 Organisation) have spent decades educating the public in Iceland and fighting for the rights of their members. Unfortunately, there’s still a need for Samtökin; the fight for equality isn’t over yet.

…so head to Reykjavík Pride and sing along at the top of your lungs!

Ég er eins og ég er – There are plenty of Icelandic gay anthems (every other song by Páll Óskar, for example) but there’s one in particular that will climb through your ears the first time you hear it and take up permanent residence. Ég er eins og ég er (e. I am who I am) is just what it sounds like, a proud statement of identity, refusing to hide or to apologise. We recommend learning the lyrics by heart and singing along at the top of your lungs!

For more information, events and the festival programme, head to http://hinsegindagar.is/en/.

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