To anyone living outside of Iceland, the ´78 Organisation doesn’t automatically make one think of LGBT rights. However, within Iceland that link has been firmly established in people’s minds, as that is exactly what the society in question (founded in 1978) fights for. The problem with giving your organisation an obscure, non-descriptive title of what it does is that you risk that one day it will start to incorporate something completely different from what was originally intended. That may have been what happened last week, when the BDSM organisation of Iceland was allowed to become a part of ´78: the National Queer Organization of Iceland.
This move didn’t go down well with everyone, and prominent members of ´78 have come out saying that they no longer wish to be a part of it, as in their view BDSM has nothing to do with LGBT rights. Now it looks like their abbreviation will need to be extended to LGBTBDSM – and that’s a mouthful. However, in the view of the BDSM organisation, as comes out in its statement to the media, BDSM-tendencies should be defined as a sexual orientation, which rationalises the organisation’s allegiance with the LGBT community – especially as the BDSM-prone face extreme prejudice from society according to the aforementioned statement.
While it’s tempting to write off this stunt of the BDSM organisation as trolling towards the ´78 Organisation, this development isn’t all that surprising, considering other recent examples of social movements attempting to redefine basic concepts, retrofitting them to their own agenda – such as the view that only people of one particular skin colour can be racist, and only one of the two genders can be sexist. So, it was predictable that the concept of sexual orientation (the basis of the LGBT civil rights movement) would one day be picked up by some obscure minority group and stretched to fit their own cause.
It would have made more sense for the BDSM organisation to come out with a statement about society’s prejudice before the era where BDSM fetish had become so normalised as to be a common feature in popular TV shows (even though, admittedly, it’s always going to seem odd that someone is openly a part of a community that’s based on a sexual fantasy). The timing of the organisation daring to become vociferous may rather be an indication of society’s general indifference towards conduct that in more puritan times may have been considered deviant. But, naturally, the only statement from an outlier group like that which could be of any relevance to the rest of society would have to be centred on the prejudice the people of that group face.
While it may seem far-fetched to define a BDSM fetish as a sexual orientation at all, there is one aspect in which it makes sense for the two organisations to unite, which is that year after year, the annual Gay Pride parade has featured a prominent display of people in bondage, thus inviting the association that has only now become officially established, though much to the dismay of several of 78´s members. These same individuals didn’t bother to complain publicly when this link was repeatedly implied through the annual Gay Pride demonstration – the only protest instead coming from outsiders of the gay community, who claimed that the parade should be more family oriented. The bondage feature has always stood out as quite an obscure statement for Gay Pride, as supposedly the focus of the whole event is meant to be on gay rights, while it’s not as if straight people going around in bondage in public is generally tolerated, and so in that way one could view the parade as promoting gay privilege, rather than equality. From that perspective it’s perfectly fitting that the union between LGBT and BDSM be officially acknowledged, as has happened with the BDSM organisation being accepted into ´78.