Reykjavík Pride 2012 (a.k.a. Queer Days) was celebrated in a rather wet and windy Reykjavík on Saturday August 11. On the surface, everything seemed to be running by the book, but a closer look at the crowd and the day’s events reveal a few interesting connections. Some quite positive. Other, less so.
Moscow – Washington – Tórshavn
As usual the mayor of Reykjavík showed up, this time donning a dress and balaclava in support of the women of Pussy Riot, who now face two years behind bars for challenging Russia’s power elites—church and state. The mayor’s approach was very fitting. President Putin has repeatedly showed that he cares nothing for civil rights or freedom of expression, and authorities in St. Petersburg have just recently criminalised all talk about LGBT issues. And, oh yes, pride parades have been banned in Moscow for the next one hundred years.
Things have been developing in a rather different style in the US. President Obama and Hillary Clinton support LGBT rights and even show it globally by participating in pride events and donating money to LGBT causes. This could be seen at the Reykjavík parade where employees of the US Embassy proudly walked behind a banner that read ‘Gay Rights Are Human Rights’.
But Reykjavík Pride 2012 wasn’t just marked by the superpowers.
Sonja J. Jógvansdóttir, from LGBT Faroe Islands, gave the keynote speech on stage that day. She started out with addressing the poor status of LGBT people in the Faroes, who do not enjoy any of the rights their friends in Iceland now take for granted. There are no registered partnerships or same-sex marriages in the Faroe Islands. No adoptions rights for LGBT people. No artificial insemination. No law on the legal status of trans people.
Sonja referred to Icelanders as role models and called for a co-operation on LGBT issues. A call that should and must be heeded immediately. It is high time that Icelanders show real interest and support to their neighbours’ fight for cultural identity and human rights. This also applies to their friends in Greenland.
Icelanders have previously participated in small pride events in the Faroes and with the participation of The Reykjavík Queer Choir and the Mayor of Reykjavík at Faroe Pride 2012 you might say the tone has been set for future relations. A formal co-operation will undoubtedly improve and strengthen both communities. Their struggle is our struggle.
The pink elephants in my parade
Various things cast a shadow on Reykjavík Pride this year. Newspaper Fréttablaðið published an anonymous ad quoting the Bible on Pride morning, stating that “homosexual offenders” and other criminals will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” Although this Biblical hatespeech is nothing of a surprise, it was sad to see Fréttablaðið lend their pages to such cowardly attacks. However, the advertiser didn’t stay anonymous for long. Another newspaper, DV, revealed their true identity later that same day: The Russian Orthodox Church. Putin’s Church. Quelle surprise!
Christian bigotry also thrives in other places, like in the Faroe Islands, where LGBT people are still haunted by Christian fundamentalists. And although the Icelandic state church has gone softer on LGBT issues in recent years it is still a bit of a dinosaur. The newly elected bishop, for example, recently said that she doesn’t see any problem with priests refusing to marry same-sex couples if they feel it contradicts their religious beliefs. This leaves us wondering when it became OK for civil servants to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, and whether she would send this message to other minorities.
Things could also get worse in the US. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney bases his opposition to LGBT rights on Christian values. He recently chose a running mate—a man who is known as one of the biggest homophobes on Capitol Hill. A congressman who believes that people’s rights come from nature and God—not through legislation. I dare not imagine what consequences it could have for LGBT rights in the USA should Romney win come November.
Yes, there were a few pink and bigoted Christian elephants present at Reykjavík Pride 2012, although many people chose not to see them. But this is, after all, the thing with pink elephants. Their presence practically screams at you, but somehow most people manage to ignore them. With this I am of course not implying that bigotry and hatred are somehow exclusive to Christians. And of course I am not saying that all Christian people are hateful bigots. I’m only saying that we really do need to talk about the elephants that were hiding in the crowds of Reykjavík Pride 2012. And hope there will be fewer of them next year.