While there seems to be no shortage of LGBT+ social networks and support groups in Iceland, Reykjavik undoubtedly polarizes most initiatives. Moving back to her hometown in East Iceland after spending years in the capital city, 42-years old Jódís Skúla wished to change that and created Hinsegin Austurland. Allegedly first of its kind in East Iceland, the new LGBT+ organization will be kickstarted in Egilsstaðir on December 28.
A few days before the inaugural meeting, Jódís agreed to share her journey from rural Iceland to Reykjavík and back again, and told us more about the origins and purpose of Hinsegin Austurland.
In 1996, Jódís Skúla left her hometown in East Iceland and moved to Reykjavík. She explains that she moved because at the time, as a young lesbian living in the countryside, she felt ”alone in the world”. ”How isolated we really were back then in the country might be hard to understand now … Not only wouldn’t we hang out with other local LGBT folks because many were essentially living on the down low but many of us wouldn’t even attend events in the capital city because we couldn’t afford the trip,” she says.
”It would definitely be easier if we had some place or local organization to gather and call our own.”
There, in the capital, she found ”a community, orbiting Samtökin ´78 and Reykjavik Pride,” she remembers. While working a full-time job, she became an active member of Samtökin, the national queer organization of Iceland in the late nineties. ”I was even the cleaning lady for a while,” she says and laughs.
Now a mother of four and a lawyer, Jódís has decided to move back to Egilsstaðir, more than twenty years after she first left her hometown. ”Things have definitely changed, as more LGBT people now live out in the open,” she says.
Still, she believes there is room for improvement. ”There is no place or organization here like Samtökin ´78 or Kíkí, where LGBT people can socialize,” she explains.
Of course, like anywhere else, LGBT people find ways to meet, make friends and fall in love but, according to Jódís, ”it would definitely be easier if we had some place or local organization to gather and call our own”.
Some time ago Jódís finally took the plunge and decided to create Hinsegin Austurland together with her long-time friend Þórhallur Jóhannsson and Marteinn Lundi, chairman of Kindsegin – Hinseginfélag ME, a local LGBT+ high school organization. Their goal is clear: to prevent isolation and hopefully create a sense of community among LGBT+ people living in the countryside.
”When I was growing up here in East Iceland there were no role models”, she explains, ”and I found myself so isolated that I chose to move to Reykjavik. I don’t want young people to ever experience the same feeling of loneliness. And even though times are different now we still need to stand together and protect the rights we have fought for and overcome still-existing injustice,” she says.
”Next year, Hinsegin Austurland plans on holding meetings twice a month all across East Iceland, offer companies and other organizations educational workshops and throw pop-up events every now and then.”
With the generous support of local businesses and the help of volunteers Hinsegin Austurland will be kickstarted on December 28, 3pm, at Hotel Valaskjálf in Egilsstaðir. Jódís suggests you stick around after the inaugural meeting: a wild drag competition has been scheduled and Haffi Haff is expected to perform as well as Páll Óskar later in the evening.
”Next year, Hinsegin Austurland plans on holding meetings twice a month all across East Iceland, offer companies and other organizations educational workshops and throw pop-up events every now and then. And of course”, she adds, ”be there for anyone who needs us”.