Soaking Up the Sun In Iceland

Posted: October 18, 2011

This is a column I wrote for X-Tra West and it appeared in their Pink Passport travel section on September 10, 2009.

It’s twilight as we walk down a quiet side street. We have just visited the grounds of a local museum featuring statuary by Einar Jonsson, one of this country’s famous sculptors.

The twilight casts soft colours over the city and the evening is balmy. Out of curiosity I check my watch thinking it’s about 9:30 pm. To my surprise it’s quarter past midnight. I then realize the sun will begin to rise in only a couple of hours.

Welcome to a typical early July night at the 64th parallel here in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Earlier in the evening we had caught up with our buddy Jonathan, an American who has been living in Iceland with his Norwegian partner for almost five years. After conversing on a chat line for a few months we agreed that we would finally meet face-to-face at Club Q, a quiet place where young GLBT folks gather to work on their computers, catch up with friends over coffee and listen to ’70s soul music.

After an hour of salutations and exchanging pleasantries, Jonathan told us about the small but vibrant and very open gay community that attracted him here in the first place. Same-sex marriage is legal and the annual Pride festivities attract almost a quarter of the country’s population because it is considered a family event. Iceland also boasts the world’s first openly lesbian prime minister.

He explained the gay community has worked very hard over the last 10 years with both the federal and municipal levels of government to slowly integrate GLBT rights into law.

But there are two main issues that still face Iceland’s GLBT community: it’s illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children and it also illegal for lesbians to undergo artificial insemination. Many go to Norway for the procedure.

Jonathan’s convinced these issues too will be solved the same way that others have: the Icelandic way — working together and talking.

After leaving Jonathan we decide to experience The Runtur, Reykjavik’s famous weekend party scene downtown. It’s like none other I’ve experienced. All is usual on the downtown streets until midnight when an invisible hand releases a cosmic pressure valve and suddenly the downtown streets are jammed!

Partygoers already tanked from early-evening house parties hoot, holler and fall all over each other. Bouncers magically appear four to six abreast outside of every nightclub to keep some semblance of order. Vehicles crawl along the narrow streets downtown, and small parks play host to impromptu jam sessions featuring drunken young people singing in the key of “L”. We revel in the chaos of drunken patrons lined up outside of nightclubs and staggering up and down the street drinks-in-hand smashing the glasses on the sidewalks.

In what seems like no time at all, it’s 2:50 am and we’ve had enough. We walk back to our hotel as the streets rollick with partygoers. Each nightclub is filled to capacity and the thumping bass of music floods the air from every venue. Broken drink glasses lay strewn across the roads.

I notice two particularly sexy looking Nordic men hugging and kissing each other while their girlfriends laugh. Then I look at the still-blue sky that now glistens with traces of pink.

The sun will be rising soon and since we have been on the go since early this morning we decide it’s best to go to get a bit of sleep.