“Beauty of Freedom:” Reykjavík Pride Festival Begins

Reykjavík’s annual Pride Festival officially kicks off today with a rainbow-painting event on Bankastræti in the city centre. The festival lasts until Sunday, August 7 and its events include karaoke nights, lectures, drag storytime, and of course the traditional Pride Parade on Saturday, August 6. According to the Director of the National Queer Association of Iceland (Samtökin ’78), educating the public is a crucial step in tackling the backlash that has occurred in the fight for equal rights.

Freedom to celebrate

The theme of this year’s festival is “Beauty of Freedom,” a phrase borrowed from Iceland’s 2022 Eurovision entry Með hækkandi sól. “After the long isolation of the last years, we now have the freedom to gather together and unite once more in solidarity. Finally we have the freedom to celebrate our victories and stand together in the fight for human rights, awareness and equality,” a post on the Reykjavík Pride website states.

While the freedom of LGBTQI+ people has “expanded over the course of the last years and decades,” the post states, “we still haven’t reached the highest degree of true freedom. Some groups within the queer community are still struggling and every day, their freedom and beauty is questioned, both in Iceland and abroad.”

Backlash in LGBTQIA+ rights movement

Repeated acts of vandalism to a rainbow painted outside a Reykjavík church, hateful anonymous letters, and even comments from authorities about LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are just a few examples of prejudice towards the queer community that have appeared in Icelandic media in recent weeks. Daníel Arnarsson, director of the National Queer Association of Iceland says prejudice against the LGBTQIA+ community has increased and become more commonplace.

“When we allow prejudice to fester, we are also opening the door for that prejudice to spread to other minority groups,” Daníel told RÚV, emphasising that educating the public about the reality faced by queer people is key in fighting what he called a backlash in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement.

All are welcome to take part in the rainbow painting at noon today at the corner of Bankastræti and Ingólfssstræti. The full festival programme is available on the Reykjavík Pride website.

Hateful Graffiti on Church’s Pride Flag Now Matter for the Police

Hateful, anti-LGBTQIA+ messages have twice been spray-painted on the Pride flag adorning the steps leading up to Grafarvogskirkja, a Lutheran church in the district of Grafarvogur on the eastern outskirts of Reykjavík. There have been two separate incidents of anti-LGBTQIA+ messages being sprayed on the flag. RÚV reports that the incidents have now been referred to the police.

The first message, reading “ANTICHRIST,” was sprayed on the church’s stairway last Saturday. “This was the path up to the church this morning,” wrote Pastor Guðrún Karls Helgudóttir in a Facebook post that day. “It shows how important the rainbow’s message is. This rainbow clearly needs to stand in front of the church and remind us of fellowship, that all people are equally precious, and that love is love.” Pastor Guðrún ended her post with a rainbow of emoji hearts, as well as the Pride and Trans flags.

A photo uploaded in the comments of the original post showed people painting over the hateful graffiti later that morning. Per the caption: “A Swedish family who came to see the church offered to paint over [the message] immediately.”

Family volunteers to paint over hateful graffiti. Image via Grafarvogskirkja Grafarvogi, Facebook

Only days later, on Monday, a different message was tagged on Grafarvogskirkja’s rainbow flag. This time, it read “LEVITICUS 20:13,” referencing a verse from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible which says that men who have sexual relations with other men should be put to death.

Grafarvogskirkja Grafarvogi, FB

“Our beautiful flag has been scribbled on again,” Pastor Guðrún wrote on Facebook. She added that the same chapter in Leviticus also lists off other people who should be put to death, including (but certainly not limited to): anyone who curses their mother and/or father, people who commit adultery, and men who have sex with women who are on their periods.

“We at Grafarvogskirkja choose rather to follow the message of Jesus Christ, who told us to love one another. We believe that each and every person is one of God’s beloved creations and is allowed to live the life that has been predestined for her/them/him.”

The post continued: “The message of Jesus Christ is in full accordance with human rights declarations, and we at Grafarvogskirkja stand for human rights and fight against hatred and prejudice.”

Reykjavík Pride Festival Begins Today

Reykjavík pride

Reykjavík Pride will hold an opening ceremony at noon today on Ingólfsstræti. The city’s pride parade has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID restrictions. Nevertheless, festival board member Ragnar Veigar Guðmundsson says there will be a variety of pride events this year that will offer a little something for everyone.

“The week will be full of queerness wherever there’s room for it,” Ragnar Veigar stated in a radio interview this morning. “Of course the festival has a slightly different format compared to a normal year but we know how it has to be done in order to fall within the pandemic restrictions.”

The festival programme features everything from educational events that will be streamed online to drag performances and a drag brunch held in Gamla Bíó theatre. “For example, there’s a very interesting educational event this afternoon, a conversation between generations, in Mál og menning bookstore. Three individuals of different ages will be there talking about their queer experience around the age of 20. It’s just going to be a relaxed event with a good discussion,” Ragnar Veigar says.

Preparation for this year’s pride parade was in full swing when COVID restrictions were reimposed on July 24. Ragnar Veigar says that there are plans in the works for some form of pride celebrations in the city centre on Saturday. He stresses that all are welcome, whether they belong to the LGBT+ community or not.

Reykjavík Pride Events May Be Cancelled, ‘But Pride Never Will Be!’

Saturday would have marked the twentieth anniversary of Iceland’s Gleðigangur, or Pride Parade, Fréttablaðið reports, but although the parade had to be cancelled this year for obvious reasons, organizers, activists, and LGBTQIA+ people in Iceland are finding other ways to mark the occasion.

Parade organizers made the decision to cancel the event right after social distancing regulations and gathering ban limits were set in place, knowing that it was simply too large an event to scale down in any practical way. The Pride Parade draws up to 80,000 attendees annually.

Although August’s regular schedule of pride events can’t go on as planned this year, organizers have encouraged people to observe the occasion in their own ways. “We’ve kind of put it in people’s hands,” remarked Reykjavík Pride president Vilhjálmur Ingi Vilhjálmsson. “To be active on social media and to try to be as visible as they can. We also plan to hold onto the educational and cultural events that can be postponed and put them on in the winter when hopefully, the situation has improved.” Pride organizers are encouraging people to use the hashtag #hinseginheima, or #Reykjavikpride in English, to tag their posts this month.

“Although planned events will be cancelled,” reads the Reykjavík Pride website, “Pride will never be!”

Making the LGBTQIA+ experience visible

“The parade has been so important for LGBTQIA+ people who aren’t in it themselves, people who maybe haven’t come out of the closet, or haven’t found themselves yet,” continued Vilhjálmur. “These people don’t necessarily have many opportunities to see themselves reflected in the media, nor in the streets. Our reality isn’t all that visible.”

Vilhjálmur says that people have been creative in how they are celebrating Pride Month this year. “I know one family that plans to bake rainbow cakes with their kids and read LGBTQIA+ kids’ books. A lot of people plan to go on their own pride walks with family and friends and be visible with their flags—I expect there will be a number of micro pride parades around the city.”

Strætó, Facebook

‘Plenty of Room for All Genders’

Strætó, the company that operates city bus service, is marking Pride month by dedicating a city bus in honour of trans people in Iceland. Transvagninn (‘the trans bus’) is adorned with the trans flag and the inscription “Plenty of room for all genders.”

“Trans people’s struggle for their rights has been quite evident in recent years and the latest breakthrough in Iceland was the law on gender autonomy,” remarked Guðmundur Heiðar Helgason, the PR representative for Strætó. “It only made sense to us that the Reykjavík Pride bus would be dedicated to trans people in Iceland.”

See Also: Iceland’s Gender Autonomy Act is a Step Forward for Trans and Intersex Rights

“The visibility of trans and LGBTQIA+ people is more important now than ever before,” said Trans Ísland chair Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir. “Even though Iceland has made it to the relative forefront of the struggle for [LGBTQIA+] rights compared to some other countries, there’s still prejudice and discrimination in most parts of Icelandic society. The struggle is nowhere near over. So it’s great to see a clear message from Strætó about trans people and our struggle for our rights and we welcome this excellent and prominent initiative.”


Six City Festivals to Receive Grants

LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Flag

The Reykjavík Counsel for Culture, Sports, and Recreation has submitted a proposal to City Council advising that Myrkir músíkdagar (Dark Music Days) and the Reykjavík Dance Festival be added to the list of so-called City Festivals in 2020-2022, Vísir reports. The proposal is predicated on a recommendation by a special team of experts.

For the past three years, four festivals have been designated as City Festivals: Hinsegin dagar (Reykjavík Pride), Hönnunarmars (Design March), Iceland Airwaves, and Riff (The Reykjavík International Film Festival). The proposal recommends that Reykjavík City continue this collaboration under the same heading.

The festivals are expected to receive grants amounting to a total of ISK 50 million a year. The four festivals that have previously been held under Reykjavík City’s banner will receive ISK 10 million each, while the two new inductees will receive ISK 5 million each. A total of 10 festivals applied to collaborate with Reykjavík City. The four festivals that were not chosen were Jazzhátíð Reykjavíkur (Reykjavík Jazz Festival), List án landamæra (Art Without Borders), Lókal Leiklistarhátíð (Lókal Theatre Festival), and the Stockfish Film Festival.

Pride Parade Takes Place Today!

Reykjavík Pride will reach its apex today with the annual Pride parade, RÚV reports. Several downtown streets will be closed for festivities from 10 am to 6 pm.

The parade route will be different than previous years. This year, it will begin at Hallgrímskirkja at 2 pm. It will then proceed down Skólavörðustígur to Bankastræti, turn left onto Lækjargata, proceed to Fríkirkjuvegur, and end then on Sóleyjargata, right by Hljómskálagarður park and Tjörnin pond. Concerts will be held in the park right after the parade ends.

If you want to start celebrating early, head over to Klapparstígur at noon for the Parade Warm Up and dance on the street’s painted rainbow “while music plays from Iceland’s biggest ghetto blaster!”
Happy Pride!

Impending Mike Pence Visit Criticized by LGBTQ Organization

The impending visit of USA Vice President Mike Pence has been criticized by the director of LGBTQ organization Samtökin 78. Samtökin 78 president Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir penned an op-ed in online news outlet Vísir.is titled “Not a chance, Mike Pence”, in which she criticized Mike Pence’s history of hate speech and actions against LGBTQ people. Þorbjörg called for Icelandic authorities to reconsider their stance on Pence’s visit, as it is disrespectful towards LGBTQ people in Iceland.

USA-Iceland relationship strengthens
The White House has confirmed that Mike Pence will arrive in Iceland on September 3 for an official visit, before heading to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Pence’s visit will focus on the geographical importance of Iceland in regards to the Arctic. Pence will also place emphasis on NATO operations to quell Russian activity in the area, as well as fostering and strengthening the business and investment relationship between Iceland and the USA.

It was revealed recently that the United States Air Force will increase their activities significantly in Iceland, investing in facilities at Keflavík airport for around ISK 7 billion (€50m, $56m). The construction means that the US Air Force has facilities to operate two fighter squadrons at all times, ensuring that there are 18 to 24 fighter jets ready for operation. It is believed that this is to increase submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. Along with this, Icelandic authorities will invest ISK 300 million (€2.1m, $2.4m) for maintenance of NATO facilities at Keflavík airport. Iceland was a founding member of NATO in 1949.

A VP against queers?
Samtökin 78 have taken a clear stance against the official visit. According to Þorbjörg, Pence has more or less spent his whole political career working against queer rights. “Mike Pence is against our marriages. He was so wholeheartedly against them that in 2013, he signed laws as the governor of Indiana which made it a criminal offence to apply for a marriage certificate.” Þorbjörg also mentions actions such as Pence having signed a law in 2015 which allowed for discrimination of LGBTQ people based on religious opinions, criticizing laws intended to protect LGBTQ people from hate-crimes, as well publishing articles as editor of Indiana Policy Review encouraging businesses to not hire LGBTQ people. Furthermore, Mike Pence sat on the board of the Indiana Family Institute which recommends de-gaying. “Now the government of Iceland intends to receive Mike Pence, and talk courteously with him about business alliances and in doing so strengthening the alliance with USA. All such plans are disrespectful to the LBTQ people in Iceland. We will not sit quietly over the fact that he is invited to the country. Not a chance,” the article ended. The whole of Þorbjörg’s op-ed can be found here: https://www.visir.is/g/2019190819906

Previously, queer figure skater Adam Rippon criticized the fact that Mike Pence was to represent American authorities in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeochang. Currently, the 20th anniversary of Reykjavík Pride festival is taking place, ending on August 17.

Reykjavík Pride and NASDAQ Address “Gay Glass Ceiling” in Iceland

Gunnlaugur Bragi Björnsson, the President of Reykjavík Pride, rang the Icelandic Stock Exchange bell at 9.00am on Thursday morning to celebrate a new collaboration between the two organisations, Vísir reports. The aim of the partnership is to get a conversation going around the status of LGBTQIA people in the business world, as recent studies published in the US have shown, for instance, that gay men are less likely than straight men to become senior executives.

“The goal is to start a conversation, to start an informed conversation that will then lead to increased awareness about the status and rights of LGBTQIA people, [as well as] ways to improve the circumstances of LGBTQIA people and in so doing, improve the business world overall,” remarked Páll Harðarson, president of NASDAQ Iceland.

Although the issue has not really been taken up in Iceland thus far, but the so-called “gay glass ceiling” has already become a topic of discussion in places like the US and UK. “…[T]he situation is not what it should be,” said Páll.

“Studies in the US show that gay men are more likely to become middle managers than straight men, but they are, on the other hand, much less likely to become high-level executives,” said Gunnlaugur Bragi.

Reykjavík Pride Kicks Off Today

Reykjavík Pride Rainbow

Reykjavík’s annual Pride Festival kicked off today with the painting of a rainbow on Klapparstígur street in the city centre. The festival, which takes place from August 8-17, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

This year’s festival program features a wide variety of events. On the educational end, a series of lectures at the National Museum will cover topics such as the Stonewall riots, queerness in the workplace, and queer art in Iceland. For those who can’t sit still, there are a fair share of active events such as a Queer Literature Walk, a Queer Hike, and a Queer Walking Tour.

Reykjavík Pride is known for being family-friendly, and this year is no exception. Family-focused events include a Drag Queen Story Hour held at the Kópavógur Public Library and a Family Rainbow Festival at Klambratún park. Of course, there will be plenty of chances to party, including a cruise and a gala, as well as the Icelandic Royal Drag Competition.

The annual Pride Parade is not to be missed: it will be held on Saturday, August 17, at 2.00pm, concluding at Sóleyjargata near Hljómskálagarður park, where the annual Pride concert will follow. The full festival program can be found on Reykjavík Pride’s website.

Permanent Rainbow Coming to Central Reykjavík

Pride Rainbow Reykjavík

Reykjavík residents will soon be able to enjoy a permanent rainbow, regardless of the weather. RÚV reports that Reykjavík City Council approved a motion yesterday to paint a permanent rainbow at a yet-undetermined location in the city centre. A temporary rainbow has been painted – and removed – for several years as part of the annual Reykjavík Pride celebrations in August.

Gunnlaugur Bragi Björnsson, a substitute city councillor for the Reform Party and director of Reykjavík Pride, put forth the proposal, which was approved unanimously by the council. The Environment and Planning Committee of the City of Reykjavík will be responsible for proposing the location of the rainbow and its design.

In recent years, temporary rainbows have been painted on Skólavörðustígur street, in front of the City Hall, and on the steps of junior college Mentaskólinn í Reykjavík (pictured above). Those rainbows were all painted in August and removed at the close of the Pride festival. “This is really a similar implementation,” says Gunnlaugur, “except that it’s permanent and won’t be washed off unless it finds a home somewhere else at some point.”

Gunnlaugur says the inspiration to paint a permanent rainbow comes from abroad. “This has been done around the world. In the US and Canada and Australia. In Paris it was done in response to when a temporary rainbow for their Pride celebrations was destroyed in some act of homophobia. The city authorities’ answer to that was to make it permanent.”