Pop singer Páll Óskar will be “sailing” a twelve meter long pink Viking ship at this year’s Pride parade. The idea he says is to bring attention and pay respect to all the queens who have been silenced throughout the centuries in Iceland, ever since settlement.
“We are building a real size pink Viking ship destined to sail the crowd of people at the Pride parade,” Páll Óskar says with excitement about his act. Something he has thoroughly researched. “Yes, we’ve been googling Viking ships,” he says laughing. “Most Viking ships were in the shape of a dragon, with a dragon’s head in the front, at the stem and it’s tail in the stern. Coincidentally the sails on the Viking ships were six stripes fastened together and so is the gay-pride flag. So the ship’s sail will be our flag. But otherwise you’ll have to wait until Saturday August 8th to see the final outcome,” he says with a grin and adds that builders are working shifts to finish the ship on time.
The idea behind the viking theme came to Páll Óskar about a year ago when he attended a lecture by ethnologist and historian Særún Lísa Birgisdóttir. “She spent five or six years reading old manuscripts, starting with the settlement of Iceland, looking for any mention of or anything relating to gay people. The few things she found were nicknames, terms of abuse and strange descriptions of beardless men and manly women,” he explains and says he was also fascinated by the notion that today some scholars see witches, wizards or elves in these texts as manifestations of gay people. “Gay people were thought to be strange or even super-natural because they were different.”
“…there will be the most queen-like Vikings you will ever see. Those queens are all mad about being silenced for all these years.”
Last but not least Páll Óskar found all the silencing interesting. “What struck me in Særún’s research was the almost total silence surrounding the history of gay people in Iceland, their lives and feelings. She could barely find anything on the matter until around the second world war. It is as Icelandic gay men suddenly woke up in WWII and realized they had these emotions, these feelings, that they could have sex, fall in love with other men and be loved back.”
So that’s why you opted for a viking theme? “Well, the queens have been here the whole time and I want to build this ship for them, for those who were silenced to death. And that’s why I’m calling the act: The Settlement-Queens,” he answers and adds that the crew will consist of eight crazy Settlement-Queens. “There is a Queen of the mountains who is a symbol for Iceland, a Queen of the flag, a Brunhilde, an Irish slave queen and then there will be the most queen-like Vikings you will ever see. Those queens are all mad about being silenced for all these years.”
No tits and asses
Páll Óskar has participated in the Pride parade from the beginning, not missing it once. He was part of the Pride parade committee from 1999 until 2006. “The Pride parade and the whole festival is very important to me on so many levels. The Pride parade is a reality check for those of us participating, for those who come to watch the parade and even for those who don’t show up but decide to comment about it later on the internet,” he says.
“In the beginning we were determined that the parade should first and foremost be a carnival. We wanted to look back and be grateful for what we had achieved. Of course there are those who argue that we shouldn’t be grateful for something as basic as human rights and they have a point,” he says, “but on this occasion, I choose to be happy.”
“…twenty years from now I want to be able to ask a five-year old, who sees this year’s parade if she or he really thinks that being queer is an issue.”
He says that what helped him as an organizer was already having experienced various pride parades.
“After competing in the Eurovision song contest in 1997 I got the chance to travel all of Europe and perform, at Pride festivals amongst others, and besides that I attended Pride parades in America. So I got to see what was working and what wasn’t and that helped a lot when we were setting up the first Pride parade in Reykjavik.”
From experience Páll Óskar wanted to avoid two things: “Firstly sponsorship. When you allow sponsorship you weaken the political sting of the parade. And secondly: No bare tits and asses. Respect the Pride parade enough not to show your bare ass. I know I have a great ass and I look fabulous in leather but that is something I am not displaying to five-year olds who come to see the Pride parade with their grandmothers. Additionally I have to admit I find it a bit odd to pull your pants down and at the same time demand respect.”
To Páll Óskar it matters a great deal that children are welcome to see the Reykjavík Pride parade. “That’s my opinion. I see it as an investment because children have to learn that queer people aren’t strange or suspicious, we’re part of the color spectrum. Many gay people also have children, children are a part of our family and twenty years from now I want to be able to ask a five-year old, who sees this year’s parade if she or he really thinks that being queer is an issue.”