The National Queer Organisation of Iceland, Samtökin ’78, is celebrating their 40th anniversary this weekend with a big gala.
They have come a long way in those 40 years and GayIceland contacted Daníel E. Arnarsson, the executive director of Samtökin ’78, and asked him about the celebration and the future plans for the organisation.
Forty years have passed since the founding of Samtökin. What would you say is the biggest accomplishment or victory in the fight for queer rights in that time?
“To answer this question, I think we have to look back in time to the years when Samtökin were founded. If we compare the way things were back then with how they are now for the LGBTI community, we see that society has progressed in leaps and bounds. Society has come a long way towards tolerance and liberality. Same sex couples are today allowed to get married, which was a huge victory for those who began the battle back in the day. Iceland is now a rather safe and open place for LGBTI people, as opposed to the way things used to be, when queer people were an easy target for discrimination, as well as being silenced publicly.
“If we compare the way things were back then with how they are now for the LGBTI community, we see that society has progressed in leaps and bounds. Society has come a long way towards tolerance and liberality.”
On this front, Samtökin have always campaigned for visibility and people‘s right to be who they are, free from prejudice. It is hard to name any one thing as the biggest accomplishment, as the victories have been many over the years, and it is important to acknowledge and thank the people who have fought these battles with us. It is perhaps appropriate to say that we are celebrating these individuals, who have shaped and formed our community, taking the moment to show appreciation for the past, while we look hopeful towards the future.”
Daníel says that Samtökin have grown a lot over the past few years and they have noticed an increase in the amounts of projects and cases they have to deal with. “This increase demands a bigger budget, which is one of our prime concerns at the moment. Samtökin have been seeking ways for improvement and will continue to do so in the coming years, as we face new challenges. Things are constantly in motion and we must always be ready and able to respond to the needs of our diverse community. Samtökin lead the fight for queer rights and I envision a future where we can be an even greater force for social progress, for the betterment of our entire community.”
“More than anything else, this anniversary is an occasion to pay tribute to the queer community and celebrate our diversity. We are celebrating our right to be who we are.”
What about the headquarters of Samtökin at Suðurgata 3? There have been rumours about plans to open a café on the first floor and expanding to different floors – what can you tell us about that?
“Then you are telling me something I don‘t know! At the moment, there is unfortunately not a lot of room for changes in our headquarters. We are much more focused on our day-to-day operations, strengthening our team by hiring new staff and making the organisation more efficient overall. Still,
it is an intriguing idea, like many ideas we have heard about possible ways to expand our service. It is no secret that our current place is not big enough for all of the things we would like to do. For the time being, we will let this suffice, though it is always hard to predict the future.”
The Anniversary Gala is happening this weekend – how will Samtökin be celebrating?
“More than anything else, this anniversary is an occasion to pay tribute to the queer community and celebrate our diversity. We are celebrating our right to be who we are. In the last fourty years, a lot has changed for the better and we will continue to do our best for the community.
The Anniversary Gala at Iðnó on Saturday will be an opportunity for us to relax for a bit and enjoy ourselves, with cheer all around us. Tickets are still available and we hope to see as many as possible join us for this occasion, which will certainly be a night to remember, with dinner, performances and more. To buy tickets, you can visit our website, www.samtokin78.is, but the dance afterwards is free and open to all.”