The annual Reykjavík Gay Pride festivities start a week from now, and isn’t that exciting? Yes. Yes it is. It’s safe to say Gay Pride has planted itself firmly into Icelanders’ cultural identity, the main march event usually attracting up to 90 thousand people. It is the second largest outdoor event in Iceland, after Culture Night (which draws a crowd of 100,000).
The first Reykjavík Gay Pride was held on the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (in June of 1999), and it more resembled a traditional demonstration march than the parade it has evolved into. Thankfully, gay rights have come a long way since 1999, and the event has concurrently transformed into total celebration mode, with several events happening throughout the weekend, the main one—a lively parade going past the Reykjavík pond—taking place on Saturday.
Eva María Þórarinsdóttir Lange, chair of the Reykjavík Pride committee, says that one of the reasons why so many people have joined the cause is be-cause the fight for gay rights in Iceland has always been a peaceful one. At no point has the LGBTQI (“lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and intersex”) community been physical or engaged in violent discourse, it has simply been about spreading the message of love and equality.
“Even in a country like Iceland, where gay and lesbian rights are good,” Eva says, “there’s always a difference between the law and society.” This is perhaps highlighted in the case of gay adoption. While gay adoption has been legal for many years, it wasn’t until last year that two gay Icelandic men were able to adopt a child. Having said that, Eva proclaims that Iceland is one of the easiest countries to come out of the closet and be gay. That doesn’t mean gay activists should lower their guard, though, as the tide can turn quite rapidly.
Not all smiles and joy
Eva tells us the situation can change very rapidly. Indeed, the situation is bad in countries all over the world; there are places that have no protective laws or rights to speak of, and even places where legislation is aimed directly at oppressing LGBTQI persons.
Eva mentions an interview published in Gay Pride’s official brochure, where Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera from Uganda tells of her daily routine, which is dominated by her fear of being arrested for being lesbian. “In that country they talk about ‘corrective raping’ meant to ‘fix lesbians’ as if it were standard procedure,” Eva says.
“We have events that are focusing on the situation in other countries. It’s not just about solidarity with your immediate community, but international solidarity. This year the emphasis for Reykjavík Pride is on human rights, culture and diversity.”
Moscow and Manning
Asked about whether the paraders had planned any floats in support of Russian activists—or in support of gay whistle-blower Bradley Manning—Eva told us nobody had come forward with an idea to broach these subjects. Reykjavík Pride floats and events have often been highly political, with a notable entry last year by Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, who donned Pussy Riot garb in protest of the Russian punk band’s arrest.
“Jón Gnarr has been fantastic with LGBTQI issues, and has done things that no one else has done before,” she says. Recently he condemned the new Russian laws, and suggested severing Reykjavík’s partnership with Moscow.
Eva says if a good concept is registered early enough, the committee approves them, so long as they are done the right way. “That’s always the challenge for the parade committee—what can you say no to, and what can you say yes to? We don’t tell people what floats to make, but we are responsible for the message the parade gives out.”
One float that Eva says she is particularly proud of comes from the local trans community. A minority group within a minority group, she is proud and happy that the pride parade provides them a platform to be seen and heard.
SIDEBAR: Gay Scene In Reykjavík
Reykjavík is a city teeming with activities and, as Eva says, it’s one of the easiest places to come out and be all gay all over the place. Unfortunately, there are not many gay-specific venues or activities out there aside from what goes on at Reykjavík Pride. Several gay bars and clubs have come and gone through the years. Our queer informant called “deep throat” says: “You can go to Kíkí Gay Bar—or go to Öskjuhlíð with your date—but otherwise there’s not much gay-specific to do in Reykjavík. Just go to a normal mainstream bar and have fun. Thankfully, there is no need to be worried about showing personal displays of affection of any kind in Iceland. But the gay scene is quite small in Iceland so new—and single—faces are always more than welcome.”
And there you have it kids, you’ll just have to do the boring things the rest of us schmucks do.
Reykjavík Gay Pride is celebrated from August 6 to 11, with the parade happening on August 10. Check out their full schedule online.