More than just a Parade: Reykjavík Pride


Kaydin Knappenberger, Guest Writer

Reykjavík Pride is something I hadn’t heard of until my family had planned a trip to Iceland in August 2022 as my dad saw online that the event was taking place. We had two days between when we arrived in Reykjavík to when we started our tour of the island. The day we landed was Saturday, the last day of Reykjavík Pride. We got there around 6:30 am Saturday morning and then spent a few hours resting at our hotel before heading out to explore.

In the second week of August, Iceland has its Annual Pride Parade in Reykjavík. The start of the large scale resistance and fight for LGBTQ+ rights started in 1999, with the first Parade occurring the following year in August 2000. However, this was not the beginning of Iceland’s call to attention of the LGBT community. Protests had started six years prior in 1993, occurring again in 1994, as gays and lesbians in Iceland started resisting the oppression, demanding freedom to live freely, and have the same rights as their straight neighbors. As the protest shifted to a pride parade, the number of attendees increased. In the early years of the event, there were about 1,500 participants1. In recent years however, with Iceland having a population of about 340,000 people2, there have been over 100,000 people who come from all over the world to celebrate1. The celebration lasts one week, typically the first or second, in August, however the main parade occurs on the last day of the week on Saturday.

We went and walked around town for a bit, exploring while waiting for the parade to start. While touring the town, there were a few fascinating things I noticed like the famous Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavík, which is also where the parade floats were gathering. There was an abundance of pride flags in store windows, on the grass, on cars and more. Some houses or other buildings had flags or rainbow balloons hanging from their top floor balconies to watch the parade from above.The thing that took me by the most surprise, however, was not just for this week. There was an entire street that was painted the colors of the rainbow. In fact, it was the street leading directly up to the church. I later found out there was yet another road that was painted rainbow, however the second one was painted with the progressive flag (People of Color, Transgender, and Intersex inclusive).

My father had set up a time to meet an old friend of his, who coincidentally happened to be there at the same time so we found a spot along the “Rainbow Road” (technical name being Skólavörðustígur3) to watch the parade. It started around 2:00 pm with men with rainbow attire driving motorcycles down the road. There were many different types of participants. This included people who were simply dressed up in pride attire or some carrying signs with phrases like “This is Carl He supports trans right! Say hi to Carl,” “VIƉ ERUM EKKI RINGLUD / WE ARE NOT CONFUSED,” “VIƉ STӦNDUM SAMAN / WE STAND UNITED,” “FLEIRI KYNLAUS KL’OSETT”, translating to MORE GENDERLESS TOILETS, to “I’m PAN-tastic” and more. There were people from various clubs, programs, shops, etc. who were also out in the parade. For example “Roller Derby Iceland” and “Kiki Queer Bar,” who were performing and/or had a float. Many of the floats were huge buses or trucks that had loud speakers blasting music and people dancing. Thousands of people who were able to be and love themselves.

Something I noticed beyond the celebration of the queer community is that there was acceptance and celebration of all people. There was clear inclusion of people of many races, religions and disabilities. The thing that struck me the most was the disability inclusion. There were people who were in wheelchairs and using other mobility aids, and people who had a hard time talking accompanied by caregivers and loved ones. In addition to that, there were a variety of ages. Children probably no older than five or six years old dressed up in rainbow clothes and make up, ran around singing. Teenagers celebrated their freedom, and adults, some even seniors, who were out there rejoicing life and who they are.

This was my first pride event I had ever been to, so it was even more memorable for me. Seeing all the performers, floats, and people in general was fascinating to me. It was also a very family-friendly event, though it is a common misconception that some people have about pride parades and queer people in general that it is always sexual and not family friendly. I was surrounded by people who understood and loved each other no matter what. There was so much acceptance and inclusion during that hour that momentarily I forget that not everywhere are people safe and accepted.

The experience I had at Reykjavík was striking. For such a large event, there was an immense sense of community. Not only was the atmosphere inviting, but the people went out of their way to make sure people could participate. Not everyone can travel to experience that pride parade, or other pride events for that matter. However, here at SSFS we can do things to bring a similar sense of acceptance. This can range from simply supporting your LGBT friends, to participating in affinity groups or clubs, to educating others on the struggle of being in the queer community.