From Iceland — A Queer Utopia? Examining The Gap Between The Law And The People

A Queer Utopia? Examining The Gap Between The Law And The People

A Queer Utopia? Examining The Gap Between The Law And The People

Published October 9, 2020

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Iceland has a reputation, in many ways well-deserved, as a good place for queer people to live. While the country has definitely made great strides—especially when it comes to gay people—to ensure equal rights and fair treatment for queer Icelanders, thereis still much to be done. In many ways, Icelandic people show more acceptance and greater progressive attitudes about queer people than the law might reflect.

For this reason, the National Queer Organisation of Iceland and the Nordic House are hosting an eventcalled, “A Queer Utopia? The Dissonance Between Legal Rights and Societal Acceptance in Iceland,” an online discussion to be held on October 13th, to discuss what our country can be doing better for its queer population.

The turn-of-the-century shift

“There’s been such a shift in attitude over the last 20 years or so,” says Felix Bergsson, an actor and broadcaster who came out as gay in 1992, and who will be moderating the event. “This means that the possibility to live your queer life in Iceland is there. Before the 90s, people moved away, they had to leave the country. It was a very homophobic place. But I think the biggest change was in 1996 when we got the registered partnershiplaws [a precursor to same-sex marriage]. Things started really changing after that. With the broadening of the fight, taking in trans rights and queer issues in general, new things have been put on the map that need to be fought for and need to be discussed.”

Things have definitely been good for many queer people in Iceland, for the most part, and it’s something Felix underlines.

“In my experience, Iceland is pretty open and friendly to queer people,” he says. “I think it’s a pretty safe place for queer people to live. It’s pretty boring at times, but that’s what comes with living in a small society. In a European perspective, I think Iceland is a good place to live for queer people.”

There’s more to queer than just being gay

That said, there is much more to the queer community than its gay citizens. The discussion will also examine trans rights, nonbinary issues and the status of queer asylum seekers. Felix readily admits that he’s not an expert on this topic, but is very eager to learn.

“We’ll be going over what’s wrong with the law and what needs to be improved,” he says. “That’s something that will certainly be a learning process for me, and hopefully also for those who want to take part in the seminar. I really want to know where we are still lacking.”

All are welcome

Felix has nothing but praise for the Nordic Council, who have for years now been detailing where countries are doing well and where they can improve in queer rights.

“The Nordic Council is really putting so many things on the map through these meetings, in each and every country, with so many countries looking at where they’re doing well and where they should be doing better,” he says.

It bears mentioning that even those who are cis and straights are not only welcome, but encouraged to listen in.

“I think it’s going to be fun, I think it’s going to be a very interesting afternoon, and I think that anyone who’s interested in queer rights, and human rights in general and a better society should definitely tune in,” Felix says.

A Queer Utopia? The Dissonance Between Legal Rights and Societal Acceptance in Iceland will be held at 17:00 on October 13th, and the stream can be watched here.

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