Gay culture in Norway and the US
Hi, my name is Ella.
I am adopted from China with an American mother and a Norwegian father. I lived half of my life in various countries in southeast Asia, half my life in Norway, and have now settled down in the States. Looking back at my life, I believe I knew I was attracted to the same sex at the age of six. In hindsight though, I did not have the vocabulary nor could I name or label it. I just knew I was different.
When I got to high school, wireless internet had become a thing (yes, I grew up with the landline internet), and I was able to look into gay culture. Learn the vocabulary, know what it meant to be lesbian, butch, gay, LGBT, queer, etc. Gay/Lesbian is the label that best fits me, not to say that I have to label myself, but that will be saved for another time.
Not until college did I know that there were resources out there such as groups, meetings, and summer camps where only people identifying as LGBTQ+ were allowed to attend. Of course you weren’t questioned upon entering the meeting or summer camp if you were truly gay.
At Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) I finally came out of the closet because closets are for clothes, not people. PLU made me feel welcome as a queer person. It was here I first came out and first felt comfortable with my identity. They made me feel like a fellow Lute where my gender, upbringing, class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. did not matter. I was Ella, and that is the only person I can be. As Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.”
Pride flags in the window or an “all welcome” sign were visible down the hallways at PLU. Students knew that professors would sit and listen to anything you wanted to discuss, possibly while sipping a coffee. In Norway, however, I never saw or felt the open connection to the point where I could just walk in and chat with someone.
PLU had two LGBTQ+ groups on campus, Queer Ally Student Union (QASU) and Crossroads. Crossroads was unfortunately shut down after running for 28 years. It was a private group that allowed people who were still in the closet to attend and explore where they fit on the gay spectrum, as the time, place, and location were not published. Meeting with the Crossroads representative helped ensure that no one would out a member and the new member would see a familiar face at their first meeting.
The other group, QASU, was open to those identifying as LGBTQ+ as well as Allies. Some of the things discussed in this group were current events and ways of making the campus a better place for LGBTQ+ students, such as gender-neutral housing and gender neutral-bathrooms. The Tunnel of Oppression, a walkthrough simulation of social justice issues, was planned and created by students in QASU. As I can recall, one year people in the audience were handed little slips of paper that gave them an identity; written underneath their identity was a reason for being denied housing, adopting a kid, job acceptance, or promotion. The hope was that the audience would understand that LGBTQ+ people are being treated differently every day. It is a constant battle to be seen as equal, like our straight friends.
Pride parades are held worldwide to celebrate those who have gone before us to make the world a little bit more LGBTQ+ friendly than it was a year ago, a decade ago, and one hundred years ago. The Stonewall riot in 1969 was what prompted much of today’s continued fight for equality. A year later, the first Pride festival/parade was held. I have yet to attend a Pride parade in the U.S., but went to the Pride street festival in Tacoma last year. I hope to take my daughter and girlfriend to the one in Tacoma in a few weeks. I am excited to bring my family with me. Since I came out (about three years ago), I have been to a pride event every year, whether it be in Tacoma or Oslo. The past three years I have also volunteered at a queer youth camp in Norway. I enjoy getting to meet new people and hear their stories because everybody’s is different.
Oslo Pride is a week-long celebration, including concerts, debates, games, parties, and of course the parade through the main streets of Oslo. Floats, music, and banners are abundant and so is the audience on the sidewalks who are there to cheer us on.
Postscript: Over the days it took me to write this article, the LGBTQ+ community suffered a great loss. 49 people died and 53 people were injured during a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando. A few days later, another shooting happened in Mexico. The Orlando shooting has been deemed a terrorist attack, an attack against the gays, an attempt to make us feel less than others.
Ella Andersen (23) was adopted from China by an American mother and a Norwegian father. She’s lived in China, Norway, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the USA, and currently lives in Tacoma, Wash., with her girlfriend, Kellie, and child, Angelica. Ella has attended PLU and has an EMT certificate. She loves soccer and other sports.
This article originally appeared in the July 1, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.