Gay Pride in Reykjavík
The gay rights campaign in Iceland has been running since 1978. From an invisible group and an oppressed minority to a strong organisation and community, the Lesbians and Gay men in Iceland have now gained social and legal rights, which is celebrated in their once-a-year Gay Pride Festival – a true celebration of the Gay community’s ambitions and achievements. Grapevine was invited along to review the highs and lows of the festivities in Reykjavík.
The true meaning of the festival was demonstrated at the Gay Pride Parade on the 9th, which headed down Laugavegur, and which had in almost every window some sort of support for the festival, be it rainbow-coloured furniture displays or rainbow tie-racks. Seeing this fearless celebration demonstrated by participants walking hand-in-hand with the people they love, supported by friends and family, was a truly emotional and unforgettable experience. The parade ended with a grand finale at an outdoor concert at Arnarholl featuring singer Haffi Haff and was attended by over 50,000 supporters.
Larus Ari Knutsson, Head of The National Queer Organisation, explained one of the reasons that this year’s festival had more resources and energy put into it;
“There are more acts and more participants in the parade; we like to believe there is more diversity and more to witness this week, more participants because it’s more inclusive and more family friendly. This wasn’t planned, but when we started to parade, these people were just there and cheering us on; it’s something we’re proud of. It’s about celebrating together, you can see little children and granddads and grandmas among the spectators. Iceland is a small country – you can probably argue in every family there may be someone who is gay or someone who knows someone, so it is easy to relate to it. People are there to support gay rights, but also there to support someone they know. To show that person that they are ok, but more importantly that everyone is okay with that.”
The one place not everyone was welcome were the men only/women only dances held at Organ and Tunglið, where unsuspecting people of the ‘wrong sex,’ who had already started celebrating the festival of sexual tolerance were asked, with no explanation by door staff, to put down their pints, leave their tables and go their separate ways. “It’s tough because organisations are trying to find ways to facilitate the Gay and Lesbian community. They are trying to find venues for gays to meet gays and lesbians to meet lesbians. I think it’s okay, but I can see the downside.” Oli Hjortur Olafsson, co owner of Q-bar commented.