Brief Biography: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, World’s First Openly Gay Prime Minister?

No big deal is view in Iceland over sexuality



This article is only available in English. For online instant translation in selected other languages, see below.





When the Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, became a front-runner for the country’s Prime Minister yesterday, it was world news.

Having a woman as a head of government is nothing new, even though Iceland has always had in the past a man as Prime Minister.

What, then, makes the possibility of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becoming PM so newsworthy?


Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
photo courtesy Icelandic Government

If she does become Prime Minister of Iceland (and it is not yet a done deed as the complexities of forming a new political coalition have to be worked out), she will be the first openly gay person to head a government anywhere in the world.

And that is no "big deal" in Iceland where a person's sexuality is their own business.

So, who is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir?

She was born in Reykjavík on October 4, 1942 and after graduating from  Commercial College in 1960 worked for Icelandic Airways as a flight steward for nine years.

In 1971, she had a career change and worked in the offices of  Central Packaging in Reykjavík before becoming an elected and full-time politician, entering Althingi (Parliament) in 1978.

While at Icelandic Airways she became active in the trade union movement and was on the board of the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association between 1966 and 1969.  She was also on the board of Association of Former Stewardesses between 1974 and 1976.

While working at Central Packaging, she was in the Commercial Workers’ Union and was on the board between 1976 and 1983.

Elected to Althingi for the Reykjavík constituency in 1978, and from 2003 for the Reykjavík South constituency, she currently represents Reykjavík North.  But her more than 30 continuous years as a member the parliament makes her the longest serving woman of all-time in the Althingi.

During her parliamentary career, Ms. Sigurðardóttir has been Deputy Speaker (1979,1983-1984 and 2003-2007), and she has served on many committees ranging from Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Affairs to Economy/Trade and Social Affairs.

She has had two spells as Minister of Social Affairs – between 1987 and 1994, and again from 2007.  She currently holds this cabinet post.

Ms. Sigurðardóttir’s partner is Jónína Leósdóttir, a well-known Icelandic author, playwright and journalist.  Ms. Leósdóttir has degrees in English and literature and has translated several books from English into Icelandic.  Twelve of her plays have been produced on stage, television and radio and she has received two awards for playwrighting.

The couple are in a legal “staðfest samvist” (based on the Danish civil partnership) which was registered in 2002, AP reports.

Both are very private people, as is generally the case in Iceland.  Ms. Sigurðardóttir has never given an interview about her sexuality and her relationship.

And from a political point of view, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is a Social Democrat from the “old school”, endearing herself to many for shunning a chauffeur-driven ministerial limo and preferring to drive herself in her own car which, it is said, has “seen better days”.

■  Iceland, with a major banking crisis, is due to hold elections this spring.

■  There was one openly gay man who served as Acting Prime Minister for a very short period in Norway.  In 2002, Per-Kristian Foss  took over from Prime Minister Bondevik who was on a short leave of absence.  Mr. Foss is not named on the Norwegian Government’s list of Prime Ministers.




Seed Newsvine  




Sigurdardóttir Ready to Become Iceland's PM.  The current Minister for Social Affairs, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir of the Social Democrats, said she is prepared to assume the position of prime minister as long as she senses that her position is backed by sufficient trust.  If Sigurdardóttir does become prime minister, she will be the first woman to serve as prime minister in the country’s history and also the first openly gay prime minister in the world. (Iceland Review, January 27, 2008)

Red-Green Government Most Likely for Iceland.  A minority government between the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, with the current Minister for Social Affairs [and openly gay] Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir as prime minister, is considered the coalition most likely to lead Iceland until after the elections in spring.  (Iceland Review, January 27, 2008)


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.  

Posted: 28 January 2009 at 01:00 (UK time)
updated at 14:00 and 19:00


Fasthosts powered web hosting