samkynhneigd.is a new website in Icelandic that focuses on news and education on gay matters. Behind it are three guys, Frosti Jónsson, Páll Guðjónsson and Matthías Matthíasson, who all have been prominent in the queer community in Iceland. GayIceland asked the three about the website.
To begin with, what kind of website is samkynhneigd.is?
“Hopefully it’s entertaining and educating. It’s meant to be a platform for increasing the self-image and solidarity of gay people by publishing news and educational articles. Gays and lesbians have their own history of fighting for their rights and we are proud to be who we are. We want to keep this history alive as well as keeping track of what’s happening today. In our opinion there is a need for a website that tells news from the gay community as well as gathering and publishing articles about the culture and history of gay people in Iceland.”
So the content of the website will be news and education about gay history?
“The news of gay happenings will govern the homepage but there will also be links to interviews and coverage of gay matters in other media as well as links to topics and articles that we have gathered. If you click the music button, for example, you will hopefully find at least one video from each of the Icelandic musicians who are “out and proud” gays and lesbians. We have no doubt that we have missed a few of them, as not all musicians have videos on YouTube, and we welcome all information about more artists that fit this category.
“We hope that samkynhneigd.is will be a good addition to the things happening on the gay scene in Iceland.”
Another category is films and TV where we point out films and TV-series that feature gay characters or are connected to gays and lesbians in any way and are accessible for watching. The drag-scene in Iceland has blossomed in the last two years and it gets it’s own category. Luckily we have access to material from gayice.is which is one of the biggest source of photos and videos of that scene. For example the first ever show of Drag-Súgur and recordings from the visit of the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race to Iceland. Sex and sexually transmitted diseases should not be a taboo and we cover that in a special health category.
There has been a lot of coverage of gay matters through the years and we have tried to gather articles and radio shows that have brought up that aspect of our culture. Some of it deserves more attention and spreading than it got in it’s time and we will keep adding to that category little by little.
And of course we welcome all information about material we might have missed.
We gathered a few questions regarding gay matters and from that material emerged a few articles under the heading Questions and answers.
We have already gotten response to these articles and some critique on how we have approached the subject, which we appreciate and have responded to. We have already rewritten some of the material in this category and deleted some of the articles. We aim to cover matters concerning gays and bisexuals from a positive point of view and will do our best to do so.”
What made you decide to launch this website?
“We hear a lot of complaints about nothing happening on the gay scene and that people miss having a place where they can meet and get to know other gay people, but then you realize that the people complaining have simply not heard of the things that are happening on the scene. The need to publish this information in one place was therefore obvious every time you had a conversation with gays and lesbians about how to better their social scene. There are some groups on Facebook with different emphasis but none of them focuses on matters concerning gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The homo-chat (hommaspjallið) on Facebook has though been a friendly and vibrant platform lately, but not everyone is on Facebook. So the website is an attempt to reach a bigger audience and introduce events in a more efficient way.
The website gayice.is has promoted events, venues and the pink economy for 14 years in English and mostly aimed at tourists. GayIceland has done a really fine job in the last few years in covering and telling news of the queer scene, but there too everything is in English. Even though most Icelanders can read English they are not all fluent or find it hard to read and understand English in the same way as their own language. So there is a risk that announcements in English will pass people by in the flood of announcements that fills Facebook.
“ … the response has been very positive on the whole and we have gotten comments like this: “Great enterprise”, “Long awaited enterprise” … We also got good points on what could be better and reacted to them.”
There are also a lot of gays and lesbians who are not part of the friends groups of other gays or lesbians but want to connect to the community, make friends who are on the same page and strengthen this aspect of their self-image and hopefully samkynhneigd.is can help them find something to connect to.”
You all have a history of fighting for gay rights in one way or another so you are not exactly newbies in these matters. Tell us a little about that?
“We have all done some work for the gay community. Frosti and Matthías have both been chairs of Samtökin ’78 (The National Queer Organization) and Páll has run the website for Samtökin ’78 for years. All these jobs have been voluntary work. Frosti and Páll have also been the frontmen of the men only festival Bears on Ice since it started in 2005, besides organizing a lot of events for gayice.is as well as the FAB parties.”
Do you each have a special task for the new website or do you do it all together?
“How we split the tasks between us it not necessarily fully formed yet. Each of us works on all kinds of things. Páll is the technician though, as he has a long experience of creating and running websites for associations and firms. It was obvious that he would be the one creating the website, organising the content and designing the look. He also took on the task of gathering and layouting most of the content that’s already been launched with the help from good people.
We have gotten very positive response when we asked for permission to use material from other media. We were also surprised to find out how much was in fact going on in our community when one bothered to look for it. And the website that we launched is much bigger and more diverse than we dreamed of when we started out.”
You are all guys. Do you intend to get women on the editorial board of the website in the future?
“Yes, we are completely open to that idea. We were just so eager when we started out that we didn’t have time to work on that. But we have some good people behind us, both gays and lesbians, and they have sent us material and pointed out stuff that we could use, so even if it’s only us three that are credited for this project the group that affects the choice of material is bigger and we have a good social network behind us.”
What has the response been since the website was launched?
“We had only just launched the website when we became victims of the system crash of our hosting company, 1984.is, and it was just recently restored. In spite of those difficulties the response has been very positive on the whole and we have gotten comments like this: “Great enterprise”, “Long awaited enterprise”, “You make me happy”, “Thanks a lot, you get things done”. We also got good points on what could be better and reacted to them. Of course the website is brand new and will develop in time, not least according to the responses of readers. We hope that samkynhneigd.is will be a good addition to the things happening on the gay scene in Iceland.”