Homophobia is very much alive in Iceland and people need to stop acting like it is not, says young gay man who was assaulted in downtown Reykjavík for being gay.
Úlfar Viktor Björnsson was walking through downtown Reykjavík last Saturday night, on his way home after a night on the town. Suddenly a man he has never seen walks up to him and asks if he is gay. When Úlfar says yes the stranger hits him in the face and then just walks away. Úlfar wrote about this experience on his Facebook page on Sunday and since then the support has come flooding in and all the major medias in Iceland have covered the incident. We at GayIceland contacted Úlfar yesterday, Monday January 8th, to ask how he was feeling and if he meant to take matters further.
“I’m feeling very good today,” says Úlfar. “I’ve gotten such unbelievably positive response to my Facebook status and lots of people have shown me their support. I’m a bit overwhelmed by how quickly the word has spread so it has been a little difficult to take it all in, but on the whole I’m feeling good.”
Did you seek medical attention?
“No, I didn’t think I needed it. There was a bit of blood and I felt light-headed after the blow, but there are no visible injuries to my face.”
“People are still being assaulted and we are still acting as bystanders that let prejudice blossom in silence.”
You said in your Facebook status that this is the first time you have experienced physical violence, but you implied that you were used to mental abuse for being gay. Is that common?
“Yes, it’s not uncommon to experience verbal abuse and harassment for being gay. I have been subjected to all kinds of nasty comments and challenges. It’s mostly been in the form of unpleasant and degrading comments, but I have never before been physically assaulted.”
Is it your experience that homophobia is common in Iceland?
“It exists, but it is often subtle and not overtly visible. That’s why so many people seem to believe that such things don’t occur in Iceland in the year 2018. We are supposed to be more advanced in these matters than for it to happen that people are struck down for being who they are. We have come a very long way but equality is still not a fact, and I’m sorry to say that we still have a long way to go to achieve that. People are still being assaulted and we are still acting as bystanders that let prejudice blossom in silence.”
Do you know of more occurrences where people are being physically assaulted for being gay here in Iceland?
“I know of such occurrences, yes.”
You also said in your Facebook status that you do not intend to press charges for the assault. Or you still of that opinion?
“I have not made up my mind regarding that yet. I don’t know the man who assaulted me, I know nothing about him and I don’t wish him any harm. I just hope that he will seek appropriate help and that he will fare well in his life. Bringing charges is not what I’m thinking about right now. It’s the discussion that this incident has caused that matters most to me at the moment.”
“I don’t know the man who assaulted me, I know nothing about him and I don’t wish him any harm. I just hope that he will seek appropriate help …”
The discussion has mostly been supportive of you. Have there been any negative responses?
“Yes, there have been negative responses, but I was always ready for that. That’s usually the case in matters that are sensitive and a kind of taboo in society. If you talk about the injustice openly you will always have to face criticism. But I do not take that to heart and the kindness and love I have received weighs so much more in my mind.”
What have you got to say to the man who assaulted you and the people who defend his actions?
“Good question. I would wish that these individuals would seek appropriate help. It’s OK to have opinions about other people but it’s best to keep those opinions to yourself. Nobody should have to suffer for being who he is. It’s time for us to regard being gay or queer as something that people are, not something that people do.”
What is utmost in your mind after this experience?
“Let’s all try to do better and teach the next generation more tolerance. We always have to start with ourselves. But most of all I want to send heartfelt thanks to all the people who have supported me and sent me warm words and good wishes.”