Norwegian gay pioneer Kim Friele has passed away

A very moved Crown Princess Mette-Marit together with Kim Friele. Friele's fight has meant a lot to the Crown Princess. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB
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Kim Friele, who for much of her life fought for gay rights in Norway, has passed away at 86 years old. 

Kim Friele passed away peacefully on Monday night, her closest relative, Else Hendel, informed NTB. Hendel is the great-niece of Wenche Lowzow, who was married to Friele until Lowzow passed away in 2016.

Karen-Christine Friele, better known as Kim Friele, was born on May 27, 1935, in Bergen.

In 1963, she appeared in public as one of the first gay public figures in Norway. That same year, she joined the gay organization The Norwegian Association of 1948 (in Norwegian: “Det Norske Forbundet av 1948”), which at the time was very closed off.

She was the leader of the organization from 1966 to 1971 and general secretary from 1971 to 1989. Friele spearheaded the union’s fight against section 213 of the Penal Code, which criminalized homosexuality, and the law was abolished in 1972.

She was also a strong contributor to the abolition of homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1977, and the introduction of sections of the Penal Code against racism, as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Authorship

Kim Friele has written several textbooks, articles, and pamphlets as well as having given many speeches and lectures.

In 1975 she published the book From Oppression to Rebellion. About being gay – and being happy about it (in Norwegian: Fra undertrykkelse til opprør. Om å være homofil – og være glad for det), which was considered a script that laid the foundation for further efforts. Her They Just Disappeared… Fragments of Gay History (in Norwegian: De forsvant bare … Fragmenter av homofiles historie) from 1985 is about gay people in world history from the Old Testament to Hitler-era Germany.

The fight, continued

Friele fought a long battle. She had discussions on radio and TV and always stood on the barricades for what she has believed in.

She was an honorary member of the Labor Party, where she helped establish the Forum for gays and lesbians. “You have made Norway a more decent society,” said Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in his speech of thanks in 2008.

In 2000, she was appointed a Knight of the 1st class of the Order of St. Olav, an award she herself has described as one of those she valued the most. Friele has received a number of other awards, including the Gay Movement’s honorary award and the Humanist Award.

In 1978, she was awarded the Fritt Ord prize. Her strong commitment and fighting spirit came to light again when she returned the prize in 2009 because it was awarded to Nina Karin Monsen. Monsen received the award for her criticism of the changes in the Marriage Act from 2009. These changes allowed people of the same sex to marry.

Friele has donated her entire extensive archive, which documents the fight for gay rights in Norway, to the Skeivt archive and the University of Bergen.

A partnership

Kim Friele was briefly married to lawyer Ole Friele jr. from 1959 to 1960. In 1977, she met politician Wenche Lowzow, and from 1979 they were a couple in public.

Lowzow was the first openly gay parliamentary representative in the country, and together the two women challenged boundaries in the public space. On August 6, 1993, Kim Friele and Wenche Lowzow entered a partnership, as the first openly gay couple in Oslo City Hall.

In 1989, the couple moved from Oslo to a cabin at Haugastøl on Hardangervidda. When Lowzow died in 2016, the two had been together for almost 40 years.

Rest in peace, Kim Friele.

Source: ©️ NTB Scanpix / #NorwayTodayTravel

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