Rainbow Reykjavík (KH)

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katharinahauptmann02_dlIceland is a small country, so naturally a gay scene as such mostly exists in the capital Reykjavík. I've heard the northern branch in Akureyri is getting stronger each year, though.

In consistency with Iceland's number of inhabitants (320,000), the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community is rather small but active and open.

Among homosexuals abroad Iceland is known to be a gay-friendly destination and has gotten great reviews as such; it has been included in various top-ten lists of the world's gay-friendliest holiday destinations.

Just for the record, I'm no expert on the gay and lesbian scene in Reykjavík, I'm merely describing what I've experienced myself, read about and been told by gay friends.

I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed how tolerant and gay-friendly Icelanders actually are. If you ask an Icelander if he or she has any gay or lesbian friends or family members, you almost always get a “Yes”.

It's wonderful to see how gay people are accepted and considered to be completely natural and normal.

For example, the fact that Iceland's Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is openly gay has never been an issue in Iceland.

And it shouldn't.

Since 1978, the National Queer Organization, called Samtökin ’78, has been fighting for the rights of gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Iceland.

I can imagine that the beginning of the gay rights movement in a small place like this must have been hard.

According to the website Gayiceland, it is thanks to Samtökin ’78 that in today’s Iceland homosexuals and heterosexuals are equal in the eyes of the law.

I'm proud to say that same-sex couples are allowed to get married here and adopt children. Anything else wouldn't make any sense!

Of course that doesn't mean that gay people don't face any discrimination here, for example when it comes to donating blood.

We're not quite there yet.

A great example of just how visible and accepted homosexuality is in Iceland is the festivities of Gay Pride.

Held for the first time in 1999, Reykjavík Gay Pride (Hinsegin Dagar í Reykjavík) has become a huge success and one of the biggest celebrations of the nation.

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Gay Pride in 2009. Photos by Candy Caldwell.

Last year's parade and festivities in central Reykjavík were attended by about 100,000 people—a record-breaking number for this country.

In fact, Reykjavík Gay Pride is currently one of the nation’s most popular family events.

It's so much fun: a huge, colorful and jolly parade, a massive crowd of frolicking and dancing LGBT people and their friends and relatives in fancy outfits, mixing with fellow citizens and foreign visitors to enjoy an exuberant street festival.

The photos on the parade's website speak for themselves.

In the past two years, Reykjavík's mayor, the famous comedian Jón Gnarr, has shown his solidarity with the LGBT community and showed up in drag at the festival’s opening ceremony.

This year's Gay Pride festival will be held August 9-12.

Another great event for the LGBT community will occur quite soon. From February 16-19, 2012, the Rainbow Reykjavik Festival will be held for the first time.

Also, BEARS ON ICE is an annual event for gays in Iceland that I had no idea about until now.

It's a social gathering for bears (LGBT slang for gay men with a bear-like body) from all over the world where you get to meet like-minded people and travel in Iceland.

This year's BEARS ON ICE event is going to take place September 6-9 in the capital.

Seriously, this sounds like a fantastic idea.

Be glitter and be gay.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.