The more I travel, the more relaxed I am about the logistics of it all. Now, I rarely book airport transfers, or accommodation at my destination unless I am arriving during unsociable hours. This is not usually problematic. So, I was a little taken aback when I arrived at Keflavík Airport in Iceland on a Friday afternoon to be told there was no accommodation available in the whole city. Totally. Booked. Out. Apparently there was a festival on, and Reykjavík had swelled to twice its size. (I am still a little dubious that Tourist Information was correct on this – not even one room?) Anyway, as luck would have it, I had a tent (I planned to go hiking at some stage) and when I asked “Even the campground?”, Tourist Information seemed to think I may be in with a chance.
So bus to the campground it was, and as it turns out they had plenty of room. And plenty of rain. Yes, it was still technically summer here, but aside from the relatively long days I did not find much to distinguish an Icelandic summer from a Melbourne winter. There was definitely not going to be any sun-baking!
So, decked out in wet weather gear I set off to explore this city. Now Reykjavík is a capital city, but it is not exactly big. Iceland itself only has just over 300 000 residents, with about two-thirds of these living in the Reykjavík district. The city itself *officially* has around 120 000 people. But despite her small size, Reykjavík holds her own as far as capital cities go. There is a wide variety of cuisine, nightlife, galleries, and museums, and because of the size much of this is conveniently within walking distance. Live music is a big thing, as are cafés, and there are plenty of examples of both. There are pubs and clubs, and books. Yes, books! Everywhere. There were at least five big (read: multilevel) bookshops in the town centre alone, and most of the cafés had books available to read. Not only are books one of the most popular gifts to give in Iceland, it also appears they like to write them as well. And when you do write a book in Iceland you have to donate two copies to the National Library, ensuring the countries literary heritage is well documented. So my first evening in Reykjavík was spent with books and music and coffee and beer.
The next day it was raining and overcast – for something different. So what could be better than to start the day with a swim in a geothermal pool, conveniently located right next to the campground. Win. 😀 There are no chemicals used in these pools as the Icelandic people strongly believe in the healing and restorative properties of this water, so they are rather strict about hygiene. Shoes must be taken off before entering the changing rooms, and you must wash thoroughly without wearing bathers before entering the pool. And they mean thoroughly. Attention should be paid to areas that could be particularly dirty (eg. feet, head, genitals, etc) and there are helpful diagrams illustrating this for all the international visitors. So after a thorough scrub it was lovely to spend some time chilling out in the pool before heading back into town to see what was going on with the festival that had forced me into a tent for the weekend – Pride.
Pride is a Big Deal in Iceland, and it is one of their largest and most popular festivals. Iceland is one of only 11 countries in which same-sex marriage is legally recognised, and their Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is the first openly lesbian head of state in the world. This is the 14th year that Reykjavík has had Pride, and it was not going to be stopped by a little rain. There was colour, and dancing, and costumes, and of course there was music. Even a Whitney Houston medley. 😛 But the most important thing to note about Pride is there were *families*. Children and brothers and mothers and fathers. Sisters and uncles and aunts. Because Pride is not really so much about celebrating the fact that you are a part of the GLBTQ community, although this is definitely a nice thing to celebrate. 😉 What Pride should really be about is celebrating the fact that you are part of the wider community. Pride is the removal of shame. Pride is a recognition that who you are is OK – by your standards, by your family’s standards, by your friends’ standards and by society’s standards. (<- yes, I know it’s not all of society – yet) Pride is belonging.
I had a friend ask once if it was possible to support same sex marriage if you don’t believe in marriage, and my answer to this is “Of course!”. Because the debate is not really about marriage, it is about equality. It is about two *consenting* adults who love each other wanting to be able to express their commitment to each other in the same way as any other two consenting adults. Neither of my parents have ever married, and I have grown up believing that marriage is not a necessary part of a successful relationship. But just because I don’t believe marriage is necessary doesn’t mean I think that it is wrong. And I think it should be available as an option for *all* my family and friends. If they want to. To say it is OK to have some of the privileges of being a member of society, but not all of them, is just not on. It is exclusionary and discriminatory.
I still have friends who have not told their parents about their sexual orientation because they are afraid it may change the way their parents feel about them, or that they would be a disappointment, or that their parents would reject them completely. I wish I could turn around and make them a guarantee that this would not be the case – that these people are their *parents* and it is their job to love you unconditionally – you know – no matter what. But the world is not all cotton candy and fairytales, and because I wish it does not make it true. So Pride is important because it both celebrates how far we have come and recognises how far we have to go. I hope one day in the future we will not need Pride anymore because no one will care about the differences. Or even better, they just won’t realise there are any. But until that time we need to keep colouring our streets and shouting our stories. And don’t forget to bring your families. 😀