A safe, progressive and socio-economically advanced utopia is the general international perception of Denmark, the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions in the form of registered partnerships in 1989.
It was proof that Denmark had come a long way since its harsh 1930 penal code, which changed the legal definition of homosexuality to be scientifically that “homosexuality is a disease, not a crime”.
However, discrimination based on sexual orientation was only banned in 1996. And it took another nearly two decades for a new same-sex marriage law, which came into force in June 2012, to come with of a law finally confirming broad bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) rights.
But does true acceptance come with rights? Does the LGBTQ+ community feel included in this Scandinavian land? Is there still discrimination or intolerance, or is Denmark really one of the happiest and most progressive countries for LGBTQ+ people?
Ahead of Pride 2022, which ends with the annual parade on August 23, CPH POST spoke with five young LGBTQ+ people, from different countries, who live, work or study in Denmark.
What is their view of inclusiveness in Denmark, what challenges do they face in the homogeneous Danish society, and do they feel welcome or find it difficult to fit in?
A 31-year-old non-binary genderqueer (they/them) from Brazil pursuing a doctorate in Denmark, who changed his name for this article to protect his identity.
What do you think should be done to help and support queer people?
Last year, World Pride in Copenhagen was a pure entertainment corporate spectacle where everything was sponsored, run by capitalism and run by giant corporate brands. Instead of business events, there can be queer people talks, empathy circles or get-togethers where people can share their stories, struggles or anxieties, no matter who you are or where you’re from. . There should be discussions about the discrimination or insults that LGBTQ+ members face on a daily basis, battles with family, acceptance among friends or partners, and educational or employment opportunities.
What are some of the issues, besides gay rights, that should be talked about during Pride?
If Denmark already has progressive gay rights, which it probably does, we should talk about other issues such as the refugee crisis, deportation centres, asylum seekers, immigrant inclusion and the going beyond the binary norms of society. We could look beyond Denmark and help gay people all over the world. We have to open up to non-Europeans – include non-whites because we don’t want to be a minority within a minority. It’s queer activism, and it would be inclusive pride where we celebrate love for every human being and every living thing.
A non-binary pansexual (they, them) from Dugirat in Croatia who lived and wrote his master’s thesis in Denmark.
What are the struggles within the LGBTQ+ community? Is there any sort of negative reaction or judgment towards the identity crisis or sexual orientation?
I think we need to change our view of homosexuals. Often, gays, lesbians, trans, and members of the LGTBQ+ community are seen as colorful, cute, and pretty people. We’re not just cute and colorful. We are more than that. You don’t wake up fagot one day – you live with yourself every day. That’s what you are. We have to fight for our rights and continue queer activism because it is a process. It’s not just during pride or queer marches that you come out and celebrate, it’s everyday that we fight for our LGBTQ+ rights. It does not mean that one day we celebrate love and freedom and the rest of the time we face criticism and discrimination in our daily lives.
Have you lived or been part of queer activism?
I believe queer activism begins in everyday life. You don’t know you’re in a closet until you come out. Listen to people in the closet. Don’t store them in the closet. It’s really tight in there. I have attended many protests and marches for human rights, peace, equality and women’s empowerment, but when I attended Pride I felt like I was considered a colorful entertainment object. People were just holding their beers and watching what was happening. It’s not a fun day. Yes, it’s a celebration of love, but there can be so much more to do on a day when queer people have everyone’s attention.
Gin Garcia Martin
A 23-year-old queer bisexual agender (they) activist from Bilbao studying bioinformatics in Denmark.
How long have you lived in Denmark?
I moved to Denmark from Bilbao and have been living here for over a year. This is my first time living outside of Spain, and for a year I have felt at home in Denmark because I have the space to carry out activism through micro-activities that make me feel included in society.
Have you encountered racism, transphobia or queerphobia in Denmark?
I researched and found that there is an influential binary gender system prevalent in Denmark. For example, the last digit of the Civil Registration Number (CPR), which is the basic identification proof of every resident in Denmark, indicates the person’s gender in the binary system. The last odd numbers are for males and the even numbers are for females – there is nothing for third gender or non-binary queer people. In addition to racism, there is transphobia, homophobia and queerphobia in Danish society, which is under the rug.
Do you think there is room for queer activism in Denmark?
I strive to spread gender neutrality, body positivity and queer inclusion, but queer activism is non-existent in Denmark at a political or grassroots level. It seems that we live in a perfect country in a perfect world and everything is fine. There is no voice or struggle for trans rights. Perhaps we lack a critical perspective from the queer community itself. At the decision-making level, I think there should be an active representation of the queer community in Danish politics. Queer people are best placed to know the struggles they face under their skin, instead of just having the queer people research institute or a binary politician pass laws for the community. Also, at a basic level of social interaction, I think people should respect pronouns because they’re not just pronouns, they mean a lot to me and to us.
David August Holst Ayoub
A 22-year-old non-binary pansexual (they) who moved to Denmark from Palestine when he was three years old.
Do you feel safe and included in Denmark?
Compared to Palestine, Denmark is a much safer country for LGBTQ+ members because in the Middle East one can be killed or abandoned if they come out as queer. In Denmark I feel safe because I can be myself and whoever I want, but at the same time Denmark is not 100% safe or inclusive. Often when I hang out with my queer friends, I face homophobic criticism or slurs directed at me on the street or in nightclubs. Even though it is a progressive country where education is available for free, not everyone accepts homosexuals.
What can be done to spread inclusivity in Denmark?
Before you hate someone, just put yourself in their shoes. Respect; if you can’t accept queer people, then mind your own business and let people do it. I worked as a volunteer at the queer bar Kromosom in Aarhus City, where we organize drag shows, queer concerts and music events, essentially providing space for open multilateral conversation. There should be more creative spaces and not just gay clubs or trans bars. There should be spaces where queer people can engage in conversation, share their stories, find connections, do what they want and feel like they belong, so they can create something together for social change.
A 22-year-old lesbian software engineer from Lisbon (she), who has been studying and working in Denmark for over two years.
What are the differences between living in a city and in a small town in Denmark?
I need to live in a city to feel at home. I was originally living in a small town in Denmark called Horsens and it was not a good experience. Horsens is a small town where people are not open minded or have a queer community. There are no spaces for volunteering or queer clubs to share and connect with others. But when I moved to a big city in Denmark, I was able to be openly lesbian. I feel good in a big city, but I don’t see myself living here for long.
What challenges did you face living in different parts of Denmark?
Danish gay people connect with other gay people in Danish society, but not so much with international gay people. I can connect much more easily with an international member of the LGBTQ+ community. I think Danish society is welcoming but not inclusive. Comparing Portugal to Denmark, back home there are a lot of queer clubs, voluntary organizations and safe spaces. I felt free in Lisbon and I also feel free in Aarhus or Copenhagen. But I can’t live in a small town – even in a developed country like Denmark.