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Spreading the Joy

Magazine

Spreading the Joy

Chair of Samtökin 78 – The National Queer Association Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir discusses Reykjavík Pride, whether Iceland is an LGBT paradise and what the association is fighting for.

Published in the 2013 October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 05.13. By Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos by Páll Stefánsson.

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I participated in the Reykjavík Pride parade for the first time this year—until now I’ve always worked behind the scenes—and was deeply touched by all the people lining the street and cheering us on. In all the photos I’m smiling from ear to ear,” says chair of Samtökin 78 – The National Queer Association Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir, a lawyer by profession. “It’s such a privilege. I tried to imagine how I would feel being a lesbian in Uganda—where we have a sister association—or in Russia. It’s sad to think that in Moscow the parade ended with police violence but at home the police raised rainbow flags and participated in the parade.”

LGBT Utopia?To outsiders, Iceland may seem like an LGBT paradise, especially with former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir—in office from 2009 to 2013—being the world’s first openly gay head of state. “We should be proud but also conscious that it’s not a utopia. When Samtökin 78 was founded in 1978—we celebrate our 35th anniversary this year—the situation was far from good. People were fleeing to Copenhagen. Progress has been faster here than in many other places. We have achieved some great victories, like one marital law for all, improving rights for transgender people and legalizing adoption for samesex couples.” However, Anna Pála stresses that the legislation isn’t perfect and that there’s still room for improvement.

“Visibility is vital. Currently, there aren’t any openly gay members of parliament. It’s important to have role models. LGBT teenagers don’t feel as happy as their peers. Education is key and information on LGBT is now part of the main curriculum on paper but great improvements will have to be made. We have to make sure to have LGBT employees in every profession, tend to older LGBT people and fight prejudice in nursing homes. We fight with love and joy.” She also highlights the importance of supporting sister associations in other countries. “We have an obligation to support LGBT people all around the world. Martin Luther King said: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ That should be our guiding light.”

You can read the remainder of this article in the October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 05.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson’s latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe.