Northern pride

Daily Parse | Homosexuals are making gains as quickly in the North as they are elsewhere, but some say it’s not a native discussion

Pride or prejudice?

Kevin McGwin

The day before she stepped down as premier of Greenland last month, Aleqa Hammond was confronted by a demonstration made up of about 500 people, according to police estimates.

The size was enormous by Greenlandic standards, but in the on-line comments to an article on Sermitsiaq.AG, a Greenland-based news website, one reader noted that the same number had attended this year’s Nuuk Pride festival (see pictures or watch the video below).

Pride events trace their roots to a 1969 demonstration in New York City. Today, cities worldwide hold parades and other related events aimed at drawing attention to the issues of the LGBT (short for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. This year marked the fifth year Nuuk has held festivities.

In Greenland, the size of the event makes it a major happening. Elsewhere in the North, other communities are getting swept up in the same current that has made homosexual rights a global topic.

Iqaluit, for example, held its inaugural Pride event last month. Events were reportedly well-attended, though heterosexuals were said to out-number homosexual attendees. The apparent show of support (or at least curiosity) came after a dispute in February over a decision by an Iqaluit city councillor to raise the Unity Flag, the rainbow-coloured flag that has come to represent homosexual rights, over city hall.

Kenny Bell, the councillor who raised the flag, wanted the city to join with other Canadian cities to protest anti-homosexual laws in Russia, which was hosting the Winter Olympics at the time. Those against the flag-raising grounded their opposition in Bell’s failure to consult the council first, as well as in arguments that homosexual lifestyles were not an Inuit custom.

Alaska is having a similar discussion over whether same-sex marriages are compatible with the state’s rough-and-tumble lifestyle, and conservative lawmakers there say they will fight to re-instate the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Alaska, in 1998, became the first US state to ban such unions, but the measure was overturned this weekend by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Kiruna, a mining town in far-northern Sweden, is seeking to show that even though real Northerners may not wear pink, they can wear the unity rainbow and still do manly things. Earlier this year, Kiruna’s ice-hockey team, which plays in the country’s third-best league, announced that the club’s sweaters for the 2014-2015 season would be rainbow-coloured in order to draw attention to homosexual rights.

Players have said the accompanying information they received about homosexual issues has given them a better understanding of their situation.

Kiruna, like Greenland and other northern regions in Scandinavia, critics argue, is bowing to the liberal attitudes that hold sway in their southern capitals. The team did lose local sponsors as a result of the decision, but it said the funding had been made up through the arrival of new sponsors, many of whom were individual givers, and merchandise sales.

In announcing the change, the team wrote that it hoped “the most laddish sport in the most laddish city” in Sweden standing up for homosexual rights would get people to change their opinion about homosexuality. The end of the rainbow, it would appear, lies in the North.



Originally published by The Arctic Journal.

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