Gay Pride in Iceland - Everything You Need to Know
As Iceland is known for its progressive attitude towards LGBTQ+ rights, the country's Gay Pride celebration is nothing short of spectacular. Each year, a vibrant, week-long festival floods the streets of Reykjavík, the capital city, embodying the spirit of love, acceptance, and freedom.
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.
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.
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!
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 Iceland 2023 Agenda
Tuesday, August 8th
Are you ready for the first day of the festival? Cause we are. Here are some events you can attend to kick off the festivities around Reykjavik.
Festival bell on Skólavörðustíg
The festival starts at the rainbow on Skólavörðustíg on Tuesday, August 8, at 9:30 am. Join everyone in ringing the bell in the name of diversity.
The guests this year will be Ragnhildur Sverrisdóttir, Landsvirkjun's information representative, and Andri Þór Guðmundsson, CEO of Ölgerðinn. It is an amazing way to begin the festival.
Reykjavik Pride Opening Act
Then head over to Miðborg Reykjavíkur for the Reykjavik Pride Opening Act. This popular event is a lunch that takes place at noon. The location for the lunch is not released yet, but stay tuned for that.
The energy of the room and tasty food will get you ready for the week of pride festivities ahead!
Then later, attend the opening ceremony at Gamla bíó. This annual queer family reunion starts at 7:00 PM! Enjoy happy hour specials until 8:00 PM, local entertainers, special guests and so much more!
Tickets are required to attend the opening ceremony and can be purchased on the website. The cost is 1.900 ISK for standing and 3.300 ISK for seated. This beautiful evening ceremony is worth the small cost to attend!
Wednesday, August 9th
Wednesday has so many events that you can enjoy, and most are family-friendly. Here are some you can choose from.
From 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM the DragHúsið, which is a drag show for all ages, takes place at the Pride Centre. This show is family-friendly so everyone can join.
Take advantage of their glitter booth, drag queen storytime, face painting, and even a meet and greet with the drag artists.
Family Rainbow Festival
The family's rainbow festival is held from 4:30 to 6:30 PM. There will be tons of family fun, including face painting and outdoor games. A beautiful event to bring rainbow families together.
The location will be announced for this event soon.
DragHúsið: The Late Show and Community Choice Awards
Then at 8:00 PM, you can attend the DragHúsið, which is a show that will make you laugh. Enjoy the entertaining performances that are put on by local drag artists.
After, awards will be given as the artists are celebrated for their work in the drag community.
Tickets to DragHúsið are recommended to be purchased in advance for 2,000 ISK.
Thursday, August 10th
Keep the party going on Thursday, with these fun events.
Get educated on Thursday by attending the Reykjavik Pride’s Rainbow Conference. This is a great opportunity to listen to speakers in the LGBTQ community.
Some topics include Queer in All Shapes and Sizes, Pleasure in Diverse Bodies, and more. Check out the full conference program here.
GRÍMUR/MASKS Exhibition Opening
Two Norwegian artists Göran Ohldieck and Kjetil Berge came to Iceland in 1983. They wanted to set up an exhibition named MASKS in Reykjavik. It was said to include over 200 photographs that centered around queer aesthetics.
But the exhibition only lasted a few days and they then packed up and left Iceland. This year the exhibition is coming back to Reykjavik, about 40 years later! And, you will be able to see it for yourself.
This event is once in a lifetime and free. So get ready to marvel at the exhibit at 5:00 PM when the doors open at the Nordic House in Reykjavik.
Loki & Vera - Pride Party
End your Thursday at the Loki & Vera Pride Party. The event starts at 8:00 PM at Pride Centre.
This year Loki is teaming up with Vera, a community for queer women and non-binary people. It is a great way to celebrate the Pride Festival in Reykjavik.
Friday, August 11th
Choose from one of Reykjavik Pride's fun Friday evening events. An immaculate way to start the weekend.
To The Moon - Queer Jazz
At 7:00 PM music will fill the air at the Pride Centre! Singers Helga Margrét, Vigdís Þóra, and Villi Ósk will be getting the party started with their jazz band.
The band is full of queer composers and performers who will be performing popular queer songs for you! We couldn't think of a better way to start your weekend.
Tickets for this event are 2.900 ISK and can be purchased on the website.
Another option you have is to partake in the Queer Cruise, which also takes place at 7:00 PM on Friday! The cruise leaves from the Old Harbour in Reykjavik and costs 3,900 ISK to attend.
Spend your evening enjoying music and special bar pricing as you sail around the harbor. Take in the city's views of Reykjavik in the distance while chatting with all of your new Queer Cruise friends!
Shore Leave Dance
After you enjoy music or a cruise, get ready to dance the night away at the Shore Leave Dance. This is a pride fundraiser that takes place at the iconic Kiki Queer Bar from 10:00 PM - 3:00 AM.
Tickets are sold at the door for this event, so just show up and get ready to dance for a great cause.
Saturday, August 12th
Keep the party going all day and night on Saturday with these enjoyable events!
Drag Brunch at Edition
Every pride festival needs a drag brunch and fortunately, Reykjavik Pride -has one of the best! Head over to The Reykjavik EDITION, which is a 5-star modern luxury hotel.
Enjoy the fabulous Drag Queens Gogo Starr and Lola Von Heart, who will host the Proudest Brunch in Reykjavik at TIDES.
The event starts at 11:30 am and the ticket price per person is 8.900 ISK. If you want to add bottomless mimosas the price is 11.900 per person. There is no better way to celebrate a Saturday morning at pride.
Reykjavik Pride Parade
After brunch head over to the famous pride parade. The parade starts its march from Hallgrímskirkja church down Skólavörðustígur, Bankastræti, Lækjargata, and Fríkirkjuvegur.
The parade ends at Skothúsvegur, near Hljómskálagarður, where an outdoor concert takes place.
Listen to the local Icelandic musicians and international singers. Dancers will be filling the area and everyone will be celebrating.
The Former Mayor of Reykjavik Celebrating Gay Pride in Iceland.
The Official Reykjavík Pride Closing Party
Your final night celebrating Reykjavik Pride should take place at the Pride Centre. This is where the official Reykjavik Pride closing party is taking place.
The event goes from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM and you can purchase tickets in advance for 2.000 ISK. You can also buy a ticket at the door for 3.000 ISK.
Hit the dance floor all night long! Local queer DJs and live performers will fill the room with beautiful energy. The events ring everyone together to celebrate culture, diversity and so much more.
Sunday, August 13th
The Reykjavik Pride Festival will come to a close on Sunday, August 13th. But don’t worry, there is one more event for you to take part in!
Lazy Sunday at PRIDE CENTRE
Meet everyone at the Pride Centre from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM to close out the Pride festival. This event is called Lazy Sunday and allows everyone to meet and mingle.
Take this time to reflect on the week while saying goodbyes to all of your new friends. Before taking the rest of the day to relax
Gay Pride in Iceland is more than just a celebration; it's a bold statement of acceptance, inclusivity, and equality. From its humble beginnings to its current nationwide celebration, it signifies the country's unyielding commitment to LGBTQ+ rights. If you get a chance, be a part of this vibrant event and experience firsthand the warmth and inclusivity of Icelandic culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the significance of Gay Pride in Iceland?
The significance of Gay Pride in Iceland goes beyond a mere celebration. It serves as a powerful platform to advance LGBTQ+ rights, raise awareness, influence legislation, and inspire other nations.
Is Iceland LGBTQ+ friendly?
Absolutely. Iceland is renowned for its progressive stance on LGBTQ+ rights. It's considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world, and the annual Gay Pride event is a testament to this.
Can anyone attend Gay Pride in Iceland?
Yes, Gay Pride in Iceland is open to everyone. It's a celebration of diversity and inclusivity, and people of all sexual orientations are welcome to participate.
What are some of the highlights of Gay Pride in Iceland?
Some of the highlights include the vibrant Pride Parade, concerts, parties, workshops, and exhibitions. It's a week of fun, celebration, and solidarity.
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