Icelandic writer, Jónína Leósdóttir, will be reading from her book at an event in Tórshavn in Faroe Islands this evening, prior to the Faroe Pride festival commencing tomorrow where her wife, former PM of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, will participate. GayIceland got a hold of Jónína as she was practising reading excerpts from her book in Danish, for tonight’s crowd.
How does it feel, being invited to participate in Faroe Pride? “Just fantastic! We were invited last year but had prior engagements and were really sorry about that. But it’s going to be no less fun participating this year as we can now celebrate that same-sex couples in Faroe Islands can now get married. We’re so happy for them; Jóhanna and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary last month, when we were at World Pride in Madrid.”
It’s also almost 7 years since then Prime Minister Jóhanna and Jónína experienced prejudice in the Faroe Islands where they were on an official visit. One of the Faroese MPs, the leader of the Central Party, refused to attend a dinner party held in the honour of the Icelandic PM, apparently as he didn’t accept same-sex relationships.
What was this experience like for you? “Personally, it didn’t offend me at all. But I was saddened on behalf of the many Faroese people who got upset about his behaviour. I actually thought it was a little funny that he should say he wasn’t coming because of my presence and that Jóhanna was flaunting her sexuality by having me accompanying her on the visit.”
Do you and Jóhanna follow the matters of queer people in Faroe Islands especially after this experience? “Yes, we’ve been watching the developments closely through e.g. the Facebook page of the LGBT society there. I also have a gay cousin who’s settled down there with his Faroese husband.”
“Faroe Islands have made an incredible achievement in such a short time. I admire them. It’s difficult everywhere to change attitudes but, in my opinion, especially so in small communities.”
Things have evolved quickly in Faroe Islands lately with same-sex marriage legalised 1st of July this year, after the bill passing in third attempt in April 2016. Can you explain this quick change since your visit in 2010? “There was much turbulence after Jóhanna’s official visit and thousands of Faroese people joined a Facebook group where people objected the MP’s conduct. Soon after, an LGBT society was formed there and they established the Faroe Pride. Now, an openly gay woman is an MP at the Faroese Parliament and they’ve just legalized same-sex marriage so the diligent campaigners in Faroe Islands have made an incredible achievement in such a short time. I admire them. It’s difficult everywhere to change attitudes but, in my opinion, especially so in small communities.”
You will be reading excerpts from your book “Jóhanna and I” at a bookshop in the shopping centre in Tórshavn. Have you noticed much interest in the event? Is the book available in Faroese? “The book shop will be selling it in both Icelandic and Danish, I suppose it’s easier for Faroese to read the Danish rather than the Icelandic, unless they’ve lived in Iceland for some time. Unfortunately, my Danish is very rusty so I will be talking about the book in English, but the reading will be in Danish – I’m just about choosing which chapters to read and practicing reading out loud in Danish!”
Why did you feel it was important to tell your story? “Because the story of Jóhanna and I isn’t just a story about two individuals, but also a story of a massive change in attitude that happened towards the end of the 20th century. When our relationship began, in 1985, homosexuals were still being banned from bars and clubs, the words “lesbian” and “gay” were banned in broadcasts from the National Broadcasting Service (RÚV) and so on. Just last week, I attended the funeral of the first chair of Samtökin ’78, Guðni Baldursson. He and his comrades – and the people who then followed – completely changed Icelandic society.”
Jónína’s event starts at 7pm in Rit og Rák, Tinghúsvegur 60, Tórshavn.
The opening ceremony of Faroe Pride starts at 4pm tomorrow, in Tórshavn, where Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former PM of Iceland, will address the crowd.
Happy Pride, people of Faroe Islands!
Main photo: Sigurþór Gunnlauggson.