Thursday, December 9

From being hated and feared, Kim Friele ended up as a popular country mother

From being hated and feared, controversial and steep, Karen-Christine Friele ended up as a beloved country mother. Embraced by the people themselves.

Karen-Christine Friele in connection with an interview in Aftenposten about gay rights in 1980.
  • Anette Trettebergstuen
    Anette Trettebergstuen

    Minister of Culture and Gender Equality (Labor Party)

Gay activist and barricade stormer Karen-Christine “Kim” Friele was born in Bergen in 1935 and died on Monday this week. Kim Friele turned 86 years old.

I even met Kim when I was in my early 20s. Even then she became a role model, someone to reach for, a lady to look up to. Kim followed, criticized, challenged – until recently. It is not many months since she contacted clear demands about what should be improved. Uncompromising to the last.

To find oneself – and others

It was not in the cards that Kim Friele would become Norway’s most important champion of gay rights, born into Bergen’s finest bourgeoisie as she was. In 1959, Kim married her fiancé, lawyer Ole Friele jr. But something went wrong, and the following year, the marriage was dissolved.

After leaving the marriage behind, Kim Friele began the work of finding herself. On the way to the realization that she felt an attraction to other women, she had a single clue:

In her mother’s medical book from 1922, she had read that gay women wore gray walking suits, big feet and short hair. While the men had squealing voices and often called each other by female names.

Kim has described with lively and self-delivering humor how she sat on a bench at the National Theater every Saturday afternoon for two years and looked in vain for her species friends.

Karen-Christine Friele when Aftenposten visited her in Geilo in connection with her 80th birthday in 2015.

His back straight and his head raised

She eventually found them. All in 1962, she became involved in the gay organization The Norwegian Association of 1948 (DNF-48) and was shortly after elected to the board. It soon became clear that she was a great force that would make a difference.

The union’s line of discretion was abandoned, and Kim Friele took the gay struggle out into the open, into the newspapers, out into the squares and streets. The fight against invisibility, criminalization and morbidity was underway. Kim Friele was the leader of the gay movement for 25 years, until she resigned as general secretary in 1989.

Next year, Norway will mark Skeivt Kulturår 2022. 50 years after the Storting abolished Section 213 of the Penal Code, which criminalized sexual intercourse between men. It is largely to Kim Friele’s credit that the law was repealed in 1972.

Friele was also a strong contributor to the abolition of homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1977, and that Norway in 1981 expanded sections of the Penal Code against racism to also apply to discrimination related to sexual orientation.

Thanks to her, gays and lesbians could walk the streets with their backs straight and their heads raised.

Loved and disputed

But a long life in the struggle for freedom and equality had cost. Kim was not a neutral person, and she was also controversial internally in the gay movement. Not least, it attracted attention that she went against the Partnership Act.

At the same time, Kim Friele and Wenche Lowzow were one of the first couples to enter into a partnership at Oslo City Hall on a sunny summer day in August 1993.

From the time she resigned as general secretary of DNF-48, Friele was a state research fellow. She continued to be an important voice for gay rights. She wrote books, participated in debates and gave countless lectures around the country.

Kim was particularly concerned that the youth should be enlightened and informed. Through his work in life, Kim has tirelessly reminded us that we must not take equality for granted. It is not a case that is won once and for all, it is something we must stand up for, every day – also in the future.

Kim Friele and partner Wenche Lowzow during the gay parade in Oslo in 2010.

Embraced by the people

For his work in the service of the gay cause, Kim Friele received a number of awards and prizes. She received the Fritt Ord Prize in 1978, the gay movement’s honorary prize in 1994, and in 2000 she was appointed a knight of the Order of St. Olav.

During the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the dissolution of the union in 2005, Friele was one of – and the only woman among – the five finalists in the selection of the Norwegian of the Century. King Olav V won.

In many ways, this award sums up Kim’s rich life. From being hated and feared, controversial and steep, she ended up as a popular mother-in-law embraced by the people themselves.

For a fairer society

The humanist and human friend Friele fought for a warmer and inclusive society with space for everyone. A just and equal society.

Thanks to her, I myself have been able to live in openness and freedom – and without shame. At the same time, she is more than a historical icon, more than the activist and organizational person. To me she was a great role model and my friend.

The gay queen at Haugastøl!

Dear Kim: I light peace over your memory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *