Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir gave a moving speech at Toronto's WorldPride 2014
Iceland’s former Prime Minister-slash-the world’s first openly gay head of state Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir gave her first address on LGBT rights in Toronto at the WorldPride Human Rights Conference yesterday.
In her speech Jóhanna expressed gratitude for LGBT activists who fought with such tenacity that by the time she came out, Icelandic society was accepting of her and wife and partner of 30 years, Jónína Leósdóttir.
“I freely confess, here at my first World Pride Conference that when I look into life’s rear view mirror I see we did not have to wait for so long to be open about our feelings,” Jóhanna said. “The attitude in Iceland had become much more accepting long before the year 2000 when we finally started living together. Thanks to the efforts of a group of brave people, heterosexual as well as homosexual, things had gradually begun to move in the right direction in the ’90s. My heart is full of gratitude to that group of people, which was very small at the beginning, and I am grateful to all of you who are gathered here today. I am sure that many of you have had a long and difficult fight for gay rights.”
Samtökin 78′ (The National Queer Organisation of Iceland) have called the speech powerful and have thanked Jóhanna on their Facebook page.
“[Jóhanna] condemned the world’s orthodox tyrants that relentlessly use their money and power to oppress and murder LGBT people in so many countries,” wrote the president of Samtökin 78′ Hilmar Magnússon. “She called for the making of a new institution, similar to UN Women. An UN institution that would fight for the rights of LGBT people. She called for the leaders of the world to unite in the fight for the rights of LGBT people. In the fight for happiness. Dignity. And love.”
In an column on HuffPo, Jóhanna recently wrote that her relationship with her wife was extremely difficult for the first 15 years, that their story was one of struggle, shame, inner conflict and great emotion.
“But our story is also a tale of triumph,” Jóhanna said in her speech. “Because in the end love conquered all… But our joy is mixed with sadness. It is difficult to enjoy a life of freedom, tolerance and full human rights while hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of our brothers and sisters in other countries have to fear for their lives every single day.
“It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world. Freedom and human rights — that is what the world needs most, that is what everyone longs for, and should be entitled to, in order to be able to live with dignity.”
Watch the full speech below.