Sódó Reykjavík: How Homosexuality was Brought into Discourse in Early and Mid-Twentieth Century Iceland

Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores how homosexuality, as a concept and phenomenon, became in the early and mid-twentieth century a part of Icelanders’ vocabulary, public discourse, and conception of the world. To use Michel Foucault’s terms, the following discussion focuses on how homosexuality was brought into discourse in Iceland and asks if that process was concurrent with the neighbouring countries or unique for Iceland, a rural island on the periphery of Europe. Building on media discourse, memoirs and personal recollections it seeks to shed light on how Icelanders’ awareness of (predominantly male) homosexuality and the existence of homosexual men became more public and vocalized, and how this new public awareness and formulation of male homosexuality was an integral part of the modernization of Icelandic society. The findings show that while it was rarely addressed in the first half of the twentieth century, public discussion of homosexuality increased significantly around 1950 and included grave concerns regarding the existence of male homosexuals in Reykjavík. This suggests that (male) homosexuality was in this period becoming a more prominent part of Icelanders’ vocabulary and conception of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-207
Number of pages14
JournalNORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Nordic Association for Feminist and Gender Research.

Other keywords

  • history of homosexuality
  • Iceland
  • modernisation
  • queer history


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