Gay Pride in Iceland - Everything You Need to Know

Gay Pride in Iceland - Everything You Need to Know

Leah BIlquist Leah BIlquist
13. Jul 2022 (Updated: 5. Oct 2022) ∼ 11 min. read


Reykjavik Pride is a time to celebrate who you are while supporting the beautiful LGBTQ community around you. Every August the streets of Reykjavik are filled for six days straight. You will see tourists and locals decked out in rainbow attire, glitter, and vibrant outfits. Icelanders pride themselves on their open-mindedness and passion for equality. So, there is truly no better place to throw one of the best Gay pride parties in the world! Keep reading to learn about the history of gay pride in Iceland and how you can partake in this year's festivity. 

Gay Pride History

First, let’s discuss the history of the event. Gay marriage was illegal for a very long time, throughout the whole world. This caused many hidden ceremonies between gay couples that were not technically legal. This became an ongoing argument among different governments and leaders. Then in 2001 Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Causing a domino effect throughout the world. Belgium soon followed in 2003, then Canada and Spain in 2005. Most recently Chile legalized it in March of 2022 and Switzerland shortly after on July 1st, 2022. 

Gay history around the world

Iceland legalized same-sex marriage on June 27th in 2010. They passed a bill that provided a gender-neutral marriage definition. The law was passed by the government on June 11th, 2010. Then the parliament was set to vote. Not one person in the parliament voted against the bill. The public was generally for the bill and the Icelandic people were happy about the outcome. Iceland was among the first ten countries to legalize same-sex marriage too! Today there are thirty-one countries where same-sex marriage is legal nationwide. 

While many countries have passed the law to allow same-sex marriage, there is still a struggle with others. Unfortunately, it is still seen as controversial in a lot of places, causing an uproar during certain events. Luckily, Iceland’s pride festival is one of the only ones in the world that have yet to see a protest against the LGBTQ community. Which, let's face it, makes Iceland even better.

Samtökin ‘78

The first person to come out publicly in Iceland was Hörður Torfason in 1975. He is a well-known actor, singer, and songwriter. The response did not go over well during that time. He lost his job and his home when his very public interview was published. He was attacked and put down when walking down the street. It got so bad that he decided to leave Iceland for Denmark. But, he did not give up, even though it seemed the world was against him, just for being who he was. He later formed the organization of Samtökin ‘78. It is officially ”The National Queer Organisation” of Iceland. The NGO is dedicated to the rights of lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, transgender, and intersex people in Iceland.

The World’s First Pride Parade

Now it’s time to learn about the first pride parade ever. It took place on June 28th, 1970 in infamous New York City. The iconic John D’Emilio was an activist for LGBTQ and led the march throughout the big apple. Why? Well, a huge riot broke out in 1969 at a gay bar in New York City after a police raid took place at the Stonewall Inn. This caused an uproar across the country, pushing people who were normally quiet, to speak up for their rights. Marches broke out across the country too, even in big cities such as Chicago. It was the first time in history that mass people spoke about being gay in public. Back in those times, that would be a very rare occurrence. But thousands of people chose to gather and marched their way around Greenwich Village. This moment changed history, all for the better. Today, pride reflects this event and many events after. It is truly a time to celebrate freedom of choice and being proud of who you are. It is also about love, loving yourself and everyone around you. Regardless of their sexual orientation. That is why it is so special that Iceland is one of the countries that throws one of the best pride celebrations around the globe, and we are going to tell you all about it! 

The world first gay pride in New York USA

Reykjavik Pride

Why is Iceland home to one of the best pride festivals in the world? This is most likely due to its warm and welcoming locals and their morals on equality. Iceland even had the World’s first openly gay Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. The festival is open to everyone! Gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender. The whole purpose of it is to support each other and celebrate how far gay rights have come over the years. 

Reykjavik Gay Pride hit the streets back in 1999 before same-sex marriage was even legal. Over fifteen hundred people showed up in Ingólfstorg on Saturday, June 26th. Due to its popularity, another event was held a year after. That one attracted over twelve-thousand people! Then the event turned into a ten-day festival, which now attracts around one hundred thousand people every year. This year, the festival is six days long from August 2nd to August 7th. 

Every year there is a theme with Reykjavik Pride. This year is “Beauty of Freedom ''. The theme showcases the freedom we all have after being in isolation during Covid. In addition to that, it also highlights the freedom of LGBTQ people in Iceland. A celebration of how far pride has come over the past decade. The freedom to be who you are.

Gay pride in Reykjavik Iceland


Gay Pride Iceland - agenda 2022 

Tuesday, August 2nd

The opening ceremony kicks the festival off in Reykjavik on Tuesday, August 2nd. Which is when everyone gathers to paint the famous gay pride rainbow on the street. You are encouraged to bring your own paintbrush too,

There is also a Gay youth event at the Reykjavík Swimming Hall from 5:00  - 7:00 PM. Swimming, music, joy, and fun people will be provided!

End your day at Odd Karaoke. Which starts at 8:00 PM at Gaukurinn. Dress in your rainbow best, since this event features all of the colors. Sing your heart out with some happy and prideful songs.

 

Wednesday, August 3rd

Wednesday offers a bunch of events! Here are just a few you can attend.

This is the first year that the Pride Center is hosting the Rainbow Conference of Gay Days. Starting at noon. You can listen in on some amazing speakers who will provide lectures and presentations. An educational opportunity during pride. You can view the lecture schedule on hinsegindagar.is.

The family's rainbow festival is held at 4:30 PM in Kaffi Dal, located at Sundlaugavegur 34 in Reykjavík. There will be tons of family fun, including face painting and outdoor games. A beautiful event to bring rainbow families together.

At 8:00 PM, you can end your day by enjoying Ukulellur. Which is a group of gay ladies who rock out on the ukulele. Jam out with this lively and talented group!

 

Thursday, August 4th

Then on Thursday, August 4th, you can take part in the evening walk that will teach you about the “History of queer literature”. Literary critic, Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir will guides you through the city center and teach out all about the history of queer literature from various periods.

If you want to attend an English Speaking tour then take part in Djammsöguganga. The walk around the city center starts at 4:00 PM. Learn how Icelandic gays flirted with soldiers in the City in the 1950s. Later the lesbians sought refuge in the Student Cellar before the drag flourished on the Red Mill. The tour will take a deep dive into the history of these different times. Oh and did we mention, there are drinks too! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.

End your Thursday at Loki, a pride party. The event starts at 8:00 PM at Pride Center. Loki is a bonfire party in collaboration with Gay Days. So get ready to hang out by the fire, in addition to taking advantage of the bar. 

 

Friday, August 5th

Are you a poet? Or maybe you just have a lot of emotional writings hidden in the notes section of your cell phone. Either way, let your creativity shine at the Poetry competition at Hýrar húslestrum on Hinsegin dögur. Winners will be announced on Friday, August 5th. You can read the rules and submit your submission on the website hinsegindagar.is. Poetry is a beautiful way to voice your struggles and thoughts, consider it a cheap version of therapy. 

Spend your evening enjoying the entertainment of the Drag Joke Meet & Greet. The All-Stars silicone queen Trinity the Tuck takes the stage. Experience the amazing Reykjavík's drag scene. This special VIP ticket allows you to have a meet and greet with the stars of the show.

 

Saturday, August 6th

Then the famous parade will take place on Saturday, August 6th.  The parade starts it’s march down Skólavörðustígur, Lækjargata, Fríkirkjuvegur and Sóleyjargata until it reaches Hljómskálagarður. Where Reykjavik Pride invites everyone to join the outdoor concert. You even get to walk on the rainbow, since part of the street Skólavörðustígur, which leads from Hallgrímskirkja to Laugavegur. Be sure to take advantage of the outdoor festival in Hljómskálagarður. There will be entertaining, gorgeous, and colorful bands playing to celebrate diversity and gay pride. Everyone is encouraged to partake in singing and dancing.

Before attending the parade you can fuel up at the Drag Brunch. Kiki Queer Bar & Sólon Íslandus presents a lively and fun show for you. Get ready to be amazed all while enjoying a one-of-a-kind meal.

On the final night of Pride, dress up and attend the Final Ball of Queer Days. The ball starts at 8:00 PM and takes place at Bryggjan. Dance the night away while the band Stjórnin - led by the legendary Siggur Beintein - plays for you. In addition to DJ Margrét Maack and other special guests.

These are just some events offered during Pride. The full program list can be found on hinsegindagar.is. Most events need to be RSVPed to, so be sure to read the schedule in detail. Some events are paid for in advance as well. 


What To Wear for Gay Pride

Pride is time to dress your best! This includes bright and vibrant clothing, fun costumes, and endless amounts of party accessories. Don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry! The famous gay pride store of Kaupfélag Hinsegin dagar will be re-opening in August. The store includes rainbow flags, decorations, clothing, and more. All proceeds go directly to Gay Days to the human rights struggle and the visibility of gay people. You can also shop pride outfits on Amazon. Bright t-shirts, comfortable walking shoes, and lots of glitters are recommended for pride! 

Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone with your outfits. This is the perfect place to dress up in a crazy outfit if you want to. Get as weird as you want at Reykjavik Pride, I am sure the crowd will love it.

Mayor of Reykjavik in gay pride iceland
The Former Mayor of Reykjavik Celebrating Gay Pride in Iceland.

Pride is more than just a six-day festival. It is a proud moment for many. There are people in this world who had to hide who they were for a very long time. At times people would have to stay quiet in order to stay safe. The LGBTQ community has been through so much over the past decades. It is a beautiful thing to see how far the world has come. Reykjavik Pride is a special occasion in Iceland. The people of the country are very accepting and supportive. So grab your extravagant costumes and glitter bombs, Iceland is waiting for you to show off your best colors!