On the last Friday of July, Queerolinska raised the rainbow flag at Karolinska Institutet, marking the start of Pride Week. In a matter of days, Stockholm will transform, and the (in)famous Swedish reservedness will be replaced by the glorious song and celebration befitting the hosting of EuroPride 2018. All around Europe, plenty of progress has been made concerning LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. What makes Sweden the ideal host for the Pride festivities of Europe?
Disclaimer: LGBTQ+ in this article is an abbreviation that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (1).
Story by: Lena Schaller
Legislative Landmarks in Swedish LGBTQ+ History
A quick glance at Sweden’s history as a frontrunner when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights gives us a clue as to why EuroPride 2018 is hosted here. Sweden was the first country in the world to allow legal sex change, the seventh country to legalize same-sex marriage, and is one of nine U.N. member states that includes a specific clause in its constitution which prohibits discrimination in “health, employment, housing and education,” based on sexual orientation (Article 2 of Constitution of Sweden).
What is most striking about these accomplishments is that they are all relatively recent developments. Aside from the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity (1944), Sweden’s legislative affirmation of LGBTQ+ rights took place just within the last 50 years. These victories were by no means simple — change was driven by years of protests and rallies from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. This progress has not been seamless, either. For example, in becoming the first country to legally recognize sex changes, Sweden included a clause requiring sterilization — a clause which was repealed as late as five years ago, in 2013. However, Sweden has been actively working to remedy the mistakes of the past by providing monetary compensation to those affected, promoting LGBTQ+ education in schools, and by adopting further hate crime legislation to protect transgender individuals. In its efforts to improve the well-being of its transgender population, the Swedish government is also considering implementing gender-neutral personal identity numbers, as well as an alternative gender symbol (X) for Swedish passports.
“Sweden has been actively working to remedy the mistakes of the past”
Key Players of the Modern LGBTQ+ Rights Movement in Sweden
At present, the direction of LGBTQ+ rights in Sweden is shifting. The majority of grand parliamentary decisions have been made, the historic legislative victories immortalized. Currently, the priorities listed in the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)’s 2017 report include the preservation of these legal gains, the continued visibility of LGBTQ+ activism, and the ensurement that existing legislation will have a noticeable and positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ people. In Sweden, ILGA collaborates with the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), an organization founded in 1950, and currently is comprised of 38 branches and over 7,000 members. RFSL is active on many different fronts, including by spreading information, organization of social and supportive activities, and political lobbying.
RFSL also collaborates with Sveriges Förenade HBTQ-Studenter, the umbrella organization uniting all official Swedish HBTQ+ student associations, including Queerolinska. On Saturday, August 4th, the student associations of Stockholm will march alongside Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sophiahemmet, Ersta Sköndal Bräcke, and Handelshögskolan under the banner of Academic Pride. This will be the first time these institutions are marching as one, in a prominent show of solidarity – one that will likely continue in years to come.
“[Academic Pride] is the first time these institutions are marching as one”
EuroPride 2018: Bring on the Glitter, Music, and Global Awareness
As much as Pride is a time for celebration, it carries a sense of responsibility as well. Sweden’s liberal view on the freedom of expression of identity and sexual orientation is not universally prevalent, which we must recognize during Pride. While Swedish residents can celebrate an entirely gender-neutral Marriage Code, Sweden is one of merely 27 countries where same-sex marriage is recognized by law (as of June 2018). Across the globe, members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face discrimination, harassment, and threats of violence. While historic, the LGBTQ+ rights movement is by no means finished. Pride was born from, and continues to be carried by, the courage and strength of HBTQ+ activists across the world. Stockholm EuroPride 2018 will be both a vibrant celebration of the progress made in the name of LGBTQ+ rights, as well as a call to further action.The flag has been raised, and the fight has just begun.