Published August 26, 2016
I have cried more tears into my keyboard over the past few months than I care to count. My recent trip to the US was a tragedy sandwich, with mass shootings in Orlando and Dallas as the bread and a succession of police killing unarmed black men as the meat. I am the kind of person who loves to over-analyse problems and fix things. Usually, this is an excellent coping mechanism for life’s stresses, but the recent deluge of hate, fear, and violence is too much for even me to process. So, I just ugly-sob occasionally to ward off the feelings of generalized anxiety and sense that humanity is fucked. We aren’t fucked, actually. How do I know that humanity is going be okay? Because of Reykjavík Pride. That’s how.
People from other countries might be surprised to learn that Pride in Iceland is a family affair. The streets downtown are packed with people of all ages, from all walks of life. There is a lot of smiling and waving and hugging. Pride is a big party, and everyone is invited to join the fun. We paint rainbows on our faces and bust out the big colourful feather boas and move along to the loud thumping dance music. My kids dance in the glitter from the cannon on Páll Óskar’s float. They asked last year why we were celebrating. I explained that in the olden days, people were bullied for loving folks of the same gender. They agree that was dumb, and my daughter says she might want to marry her best friend when they are bigger and they can be wives to each other, because it is fine for women to marry women or for men to marry men. She’s six. She gets it.
I reflect on the rhetoric I heard about homosexuality growing up in the United States. There was so much vitriolic anger, so much blind animosity and abuse. Growing up in Iceland, my kids won’t be boiled in a stew pot of hateful homophobia. They were both born in a country led by a lesbian prime minister. They will watch and wave this weekend when their new president walks alongside many of our friends in the Gay
The long road to social change
A generation ago, a few courageous souls stood up against monstrous hate and demanded equality. Progress takes time. It takes determination and bravery. I watched that change take place, and it is still ongoing in most of the world. The fight is far from over. In this case, as in many others, Iceland is a beacon of hope. We are getting this right, and I hope the world is watching.
Those heroic people who sacrificed their dignity—and in some cases their lives—to change a society they knew was wrong should be an inspiration to all of us who are fed up with the normalization of hatred. Hating the “other” doesn’t lead anywhere happy. Empathy, curiosity, and love do. Reykjavík Pride is a testament to the triumph of our whole society. We celebrate this weekend because Iceland, as a society and a nation, changed its mind. One mind at a time, person by person, Icelanders did the calculation in their brains and hearts and arrived at the right conclusions. We decided that our differences are for embracing, that people should be free to live their lives as fully as possible, and all of us are better when we can be our true selves.
I go to Reykjavík Pride every year because I am proud of us. For me, Pride is a celebration of humanity’s ability to evolve. Pride reminds me that change is possible, though it takes monumental courage and much more patience than I usually have. Love will always win!