Once a week the rainbow flag is put on one of the tables at the coffeehouse IÐA Zimsen where a diverse group of gay men meet and talk. Hafsteinn Sverrisson is the organizer of these meetings.
“I thought it might be a good idea to offer an opportunity for gay men to meet in a casual alcohol free environment, where everyone can just sit down and have a nice talk about issues and interests that we have in common. So far the only way to meet gay men has been at a bar, and that’s usually with the intention to hook up,” says Hafsteinn, when asked why he decided to have these meetings.
“However some guys have been afraid to show up, thinking this a hunting ground for men looking for sex, and they’re worried about being judged for their looks. But I emphasise that this is not what the meetings are about. It’s about being among peers and getting a much-needed break.
I feel that this is something that is much-needed and I’ve been proven right during our last meetings where we’ve had lively discussions on what we can do to mobilise our community. I sense a strong desire for an active queer community all year around, not just once a year when we celebrate Pride.
Each meeting is different. Some with heated discussions and other with card games and laid back talk where nothing is off topic.”
Do you think the important milestones in gay rights these last years have eliminated the need to be active within the gay community?
“Not at all. While emphasising that we’re like everyone else and should be treated the same, it’s possible we’ve turned a blind eye to the fact that we’re actually not like everyone else. We’re the same, but different.
There are those among us who find themselves yet again on the fringes of society. Some of them are even the people who fought bravely for the rights we have today. They’ve been pushed to the sidelines possibly because of the rise of the homonormativity and the prejudice that has risen within the gay community itself.
That’s one of the many things that we discuss at our meetings, and we are all of different opinion, but all agree that we need to keep talking and nurture our community.
Also, this has been a great opportunity for the older generation and younger generation to meet and share our history and learn from each other. I’ve found some of my own prejudice dissolve in our conversations. Our history doesn’t end here.”
“…some guys have been afraid to show up, thinking this a hunting ground for men looking for sex.”
Since this has been going so well, are you opening the doors to other groups?
“No, this is only for men who define themselves as homosexual. Although I encourage others to form their own groups, because it’s really important to be among people who define themselves the same way you do and have similar experience.
There’s never a dull moment at the meetings.
However I think we should also work towards strengthening the queer community as a whole. On our most powerful meetings where everyone has so much they need to share, I can feel that there is something in the air, a hunger for change that we can only satisfy when working together. I’m talking about a cultural change not a political change.
Society has accepted us but we don’t necessarily fit into the mainstream culture and we desperately need our own. There are still a lot of people who are terrified of accepting themselves for who they are, and if we can create a culture where they feel welcome then that will make a big difference.
I’m talking about simple things, like a coffee shop for queer people where the main goal is to create a community but not to make a profit. A place where all the new families within the queer community can get together and get to know each other.”
Do you welcome gay men that don’t speak Icelandic?
“Of course. When someone shows up who doesn’t speak Icelandic, we accommodate and switch to English.
Like I said these meetings are open to everyone that defines himself as a homosexual, that’s the only requirement. The men that show up are of all ages, from all stages of society, and even of different nationality. Some are very expressive, others just like to sit and listen.”
Where and when are the meetings?
“We meet at IÐA Zimsen coffeehouse every Tuesday at 7PM. I put the rainbow flag on our table so we’re not to be missed.”