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For years, LGBT+ people in Scandinavia have enjoyed extensive rights and one of the highest levels of acceptance anywhere in the world. But rather than taking this for granted, Winq examines the reasons why — and asks if the situation really is as rosy as it seems

Clad in a dark, formal suit, and a crisply ironed white shirt, Norway’s reigning monarch looked out over the crowds assembled in the park of the Royal Palace in Oslo. As the formal pleasantries that opened his speech at the 2016 summer garden party launched into an exploration of what his country stands for, the faintest hint of a smile crept over King Harald V’s face. Perhaps he had just remembered that the particularly garish pink tie he had chosen for the day was particularly apt.

“So, what is Norway?” he asked. “Norway is high mountains and deep fj ords. It is plains, skerries, islands and islets. It is fertile fields and gentle hills.” So far, so standard — a monarch’s tribute to his subjects’ homeland. But the king then launched into a defence of religious tolerance, refugees, diversity, and — perhaps most unusually for a then 79-year-old, LGBT+ rights.

“Norway is, above all, people,” he said. “Norwegians are girls who love girls, boys who love boys, and girls and boys who love each other.” Although the crowd giggled, perhaps a little nervously, this scene — of a hereditary monarch and head of state so unequivocally supporting LGBT+ people — is not one you would be likely to see anywhere else.

The Scandinavian countries, of which Norway is just one, are famous for their liberal, tolerant and ethically sound way of life, particularly when it comes to LGBT+ rights. But does this image really hold up to scrutiny?

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About Winq

The new autumn issue of Winq includes a world-exclusive interview with Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin as his long-awaited memoir is published. And Booker-Prize winning author Alan Hollinghurst gives his first interview about his latest novel, The Sparsholt Affair. We also chat to Andrea Riseborough about playing Billie Jean King’s girlfriend in Hollywood movie Battle of the Sexes, and comedian Simon Amstell tells us about mixing stand-up with self-help. We look at the reality of gay life in South Africa, often held up as the most accepting country in Africa, and examine the reasons why Scandinavia has become one of the most liberal parts of the world. Plus we meet the gay man who looks after London Zoo’s gay penguins!

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