Gay in Greenland

It’s not only the houses that are colourful in Greenland. A nascent gay scene has thrust a country at the edge of the world into the spotlight. But could the rainbow be fading already?
December 4, 2017
By Mitchell Jordan
Posted: Updated:

Back in 2011, a seemingly ordinary Greenlandic man by the name of Erik Olsen became something of an internet sensation.

In an interview with Metropolis TV, Erik spoke about the struggles of being openly gay in the country’s capital city, Nuuk (population 17,000).

“It’s difficult for me to find a boyfriend here,” he admitted.

Billed ‘The Only Gay In Greenland’, (a more correct, albeit less sensational title would be The Only One Out in Nuuk), the interview endeared Erik to sympathetic viewers around the world.

Fast forward a few years and Scandinavia On My Mind decided to catch up with Erik who, at the interview’s conclusion, announced his plans to leave for Copenhagen, a city with a thriving gay scene.

Erik Olsen (image supplied)

Erik Olsen (image supplied)

When we arranged to chat via Facebook Messenger, Erik, now 47, was still living in Nuuk, where he works in radio.

He’s quick to apologise for his English, though he needn’t bother. His voice is calm and crystal-clear as he carefully considers each question.

Speaking about being (supposedly) the only gay in Greenland, he replies: “I’m not the only gay here – there’s many!”

So why then was he considered to be Nuuk’s one and only?

“Some people just don’t tell their family and friends,” Erik explains.

When he put an ad in the paper (yes, people do still read them), he was disappointed to discover that everyone who contacted him was someone he knew already.

Erik admits that: “it’s easier to be gay now in Greenland – especially Nuuk.” The tiny city took giant steps in 2010 by hosting its first Pride.

“I was so happy,” Erik says of being amongst the 1000-odd locals who came to show their support.

Gay sex has been legal since 1933, with gay marriage legalised just last year. Interestingly, Erik notes that there has been no Nuuk Pride for the past two years.

“I don’t know why,” he says.

Attempts to confirm or find reasons for this were met with a stalemate, but the last video footage this writer could find was of Nuuk Pride 2014.

In any case, queer Greenlandic writer, Niviaq Korneliussen, may be proof that if there are no rainbow flags on the streets, it doesn’t necessarily mean the locals don’t want to see them.

The 27-year-old’s debut novel, Homo Sapienne, a piece of queer literature, has shot to best-seller status in the country and is about to be published in English as Crimson (rights have already been sold to the UK).

Erik praised the book and described Niviaq as “a great writer.”

But despite all these changes, he still finds himself alone and perpetually single having never had a boyfriend.

“I feel sad sometimes and I miss having contact with another gay men who I can talk about my feelings and someone I can love,” he says.

Mostly content (but not 100 per cent), Erik finds fulfilment through his work, friends and taking walks through the city of fjords.

“I’m hopeful for finding love one day,” Erik continues.

As for moving, well … we’ll see. He’s travelled previously to Turkey, Austria, Germany and Copenhagen and seems to enjoy a simple life.

Unlike most cities, gay life in Nuuk is not separate.

“There is no gay bar,” he says, pausing to add: “yet.”

About the Author

The boy with the thorn in his side. Still looking for the light that never goes out.

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