Etusivu / Finland’s Queer History Timeline

Finland’s Queer History Timeline

The updating timeline of Finland’s queer history includes significant events related to, for example, culture, the queer community, and legislation. The timeline is updated as we collect reviewed historical events. Please note that this list is not a comprehensive representation of Finnish queer history.

Is a pertinent event missing from the timeline? Please get in touch with us:

  • 2023

    The Finnish Parliament approved the amendment to the law on transsexuality on February 1, 2023, by a vote of 113–69, and the law came into effect on April 3, 2023. The old law, (“Act on the Confirmation of the Sex of a Transsexual”), which had been in force since 2002, required infertility as a condition for confirming legal gender and thus violated the human rights of trans people. The 2023 reform separated the legal confirmation of gender from medical examinations and treatments. Since then, a person can be confirmed as belonging to a gender other than the one they are registered in the population information system, if they provide a confirmation that they permanently feel they belong to the gender to be confirmed. Full age and Finnish citizenship or permanent residence in Finland were set as additional requirements for confirmation.

  • 2021

    On September 15, 2021, the Supreme Court of Finland ruled that an HIV positive person using effective medication and having unprotected sex is not a crime. This pivotal decision reduces the stigmatization of HIV in a time where, contrary to popular belief, HIV is not contagious when viral loads are kept very low with effective medication.

  • 2020

    Friends of Queer History is established.

  • 2019

    The new Name Act enters into force at the beginning of the year. The articles relating to first name changes are broadly worded in relation to gender, which is a clear improvement regarding the rights of gender minorities.

    The Maternity Act comes into force on April 1, 2019.

    Seta’s Transtukipiste (Trans Support Centre) becomes the Sukupuolen moninaisuuden osaamiskeskus (Gender Diversity & Intersex Centre of Expertise) on April 4, 2019.

  • 2018

    The first Queer History Month is held in Finland from October 20 – November 20, 2018.

  • 2017

    The Marriage Equality Act comes into force on March 1, 2017. Compulsory divorce is removed from the Trans Act. Cohabiting same-sex couples are treated equally regarding social welfare.

  • 2016

    According to elementary education’s new core curricula, elementary education aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of gender diversity (from fall of 2016).

  • 2015

    The revised Equality Act comes into force. It extends the prohibition of discrimination based on gender to also cover that based on gender identity or gender expression. The Minorities Ombudsman becomes the Equality Ombudsman, who has the right to deal with discrimination on all grounds.

  • 2014

    Parliament legislates the Marriage Equality Act in accordance with the citizens’ initiative.

  • 2013

    The second citizens’ initiative in line that has gathered the required number of signatories – the Tahdon2013 [I do 2013] initiative regarding the Marriage Equality Act – will be handed over to Parliament. It received 166 851 signatures.

  • 2011

    The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) declassifies transvestism and fetishism as illnesses in Finland. Previously they were classified as mental health disorders in line with the ICD, produced by the WHO.

    Read more (in Finnish) in Antti Kauppinen’s article as well as Anukatariina Saloheimo’s article in our online magazine.

    ‘Sexual orientation’ as a reason to increase penalties for hate crimes is added to the Criminal Code.

  • 2009

    The Civil Unions Act is amended so that in-family adoption also becomes possible for couples in civil unions. Until 2009 this was only available to married couples.

  • 2007

    The Act regarding fertility treatments is accepted. It allows treatments with donated gametes without restrictions on relationships or the gender of the partner. Treatments have been given before the Act came into force, but there is heated debate regarding whether or not they should be banned. The social parent is entitled to the use of a parental allowance period if they are in a civil union and live together with the other parent and the child.

  • 2005

    Antu Sorainen is the first person in Finland to defend a doctoral dissertation in the field of Women’s Studies at the University of Helsinki. Sorainen’s Thesis ‘Accidental Criminals?: Women’s same-sex fornication trials in Eastern Finland during the 1950s’ examines lesbian history.

    Finland’s first exhibition regarding the history of gender and sexual minorities ‘Vaarin paketti ja sateenkaarinappi’ [Grandpa’s package and rainbow button] is held at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas.

  • 2004

    The Equality Act comes into force on January 20, 2004. It includes a prohibition of discrimination and an obligation for public authorities to further equality regarding sexual orientation.

    Oras Tynkkynen (the Greens) is elected as a Member of Parliament from a reserve position. Tynkkynen is the first Finnish Member of Parliament that was openly homosexual when running for the position.

  • 2002

    The Civil Unions Act comes into force.

    Parliament approves the Trans Act.

  • 2001

    The new Employment Contracts Act explicitly prohibits discrimination related to “sexual orientation”.

    Parliament approves the Act regarding civil unions.

  • 2000

    The new Constitution comes into force. Section 6 declares equality before the law, and a general prohibition of discrimination. Tarja Halonen is chosen as Finland’s president. Halonen is the world’s first president whose resume also includes being Chair of a queer organization (Chair of Seta 1980-1981).

    The lesbian, bi, and trans themed art and culture festival Tribadien yöt ja päivät (2000-2009), [Tribadi’s nights and days], is organized for the first time in Helsinki. During the 10-year history of the festival various workshops, seminars, literary salons, art exhibitions, theater, dance, and music performances, drag king courses and competitions, and burlesque evenings were held. The program and documentation archives from the first few years can be found here:

    Read about memories of the festival from the organizers: Johanna Pakkanen and Rita Paqvalén in the article ”Kultur som politiskt vapen” (NIKK magasin 2004:2) and Finland’s first Drag King Competition winner Salome ”O. Virta” Tuomaala in the article ”Henkseleitä lainaamassa” (Ylioppilaslehti 16.2.2001).

  • 1999

    The ban of incitement is repealed after 28 years. The ban of incitement was created in 1971, when homosexual acts were decriminalized in Finland. (For further information on various censorship laws, including the ban of incitement, see the Shadows of Criminalization event from 2021).

    The age of consent for both hetero and homosexual relations is equalized.

    Researcher and civic activist Olli Stålström was sued for insult regarding his Thesis ‘Homoseksuaalisuuden sairausleiman loppu’ [the end of homosexuality as an illness] published two years earlier. The Tampere District Court dismissed the charge.

  • 1998

    Pentti Holappa’s book portraying a passionate relationship between two men, ‘Ystävän muotokuva’ [portrait of a friend], was awarded the Finlandia prize. As the first queer-themed Finlandia award-winning work, the book broke a certain glass ceiling, and during the early 2000s, the Finlandia Prize often went to queer-themed work: Johanna Sinisalo ‘Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi’ (2000, ‘Inte före solnedgången’) [not before sundown], Pirkko Saisio ‘Punainen erokirja’ (2003, ‘Den röda separationsboken’) [the red separation book], and Helena Sinervo ‘Runoilijan talossa’ (2004) [in the poet’s house].

    For further reading on the subject, see Sanna Karkulehto’s thesis: ‘From Closet to Canon and Back: Queer Political Reading and the Novels of Johanna Sinisalo, Pirkko Saisio, and Helena Sinervo’ (The University of Oulu 2007).

  • 1996

    The transvestite organization Dreamwear Club DwC was established in conjunction with the 1996 TransHelsinki event. Dreamwear Club DwC was accepted into the Organization Register the following year, and it became a member organization of Seta. Read more on the 25 year history of DwC (in Finnish).

  • 1994

    Seta establishes the Transtukipiste (Trans Support Centre), currently under the name Sukupuolen moninaisuuden osaamiskeskus (Gender Diversity & Intersex Centre of Expertise).

  • 1993

    Ilppo Pohjola’s short film examining transgender themes ‘P(l)ain Truth’ premieres in the early spring of 1993.

    The Helsinki gay and lesbian bar Gay Gambrini closes its doors on March 23, 1993.

    The international gay and lesbian research seminar De/Reconstructing Identity Politics is hosted in Helsinki on April 23-25, 1993.

    Finland’s first lesbian and gay book store Baffin Books opens its doors in July in Helsinki.

    Tampere’s Seta hosts Vapautuspäivät on August 12-15, 1993.

    Marja Kaskisaari’s Licentiate Thesis ‘Minä, vieras ja moderni’ [me, foreign and modern] is reviewed at the University of Jyväskylä on November 9, 1993. It is Finland’s first licentiate thesis regarding lesbian research.

  • 1992

    Meikänainen Oy Ab, which publishes lesbian and gay literature, is established.

    In conjunction with the CSCE follow-up meeting in Helsinki, Seta organizes the international conference Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights in New Europe on April 4-5, 1992.

    Finland’s first lesbian and gay film festival is held in Turku on April 22-24, 1992, on the initiative of the Chair of Seta Hannele Lehtikuusi. The festival became an annual event, first under the name Pervoplanet, and later as Vinokino. The festival has since expanded to tour other cities as well, including Helsinki, Oulu, and Tampere.

    The lesbian and gay bar Don’t Tell Mama (DTM) opens its doors on October 6, 1992.

  • 1991

    Seta becomes a federated umbrella organization.

    Ilppo Pohjola’s film ‘Daddy and the Muscle Academy’ premieres on October 14, 1991. The film is about Touko Laaksonen, also known as Tom of Finland.

    The University of Helsinki holds the inaugural lecture of the ‘Sapfon tyttäret’ [Sappho’s daughters] lecture series on September 16, 1991.

    Pentti Holappa’s play ‘Adieu!’ also examines a relationship between two men.

    A poetry anthology work group publishes the lesbian poetry anthology ‘Ääriviivasi ihollani: Naisten rakkausrunoja naisista’, ‘Dina konturer på min hud: Kvinnors kärleksdikt om kvinnor’ [your contours on my skin: women’s love poems about women].

  • 1990

    Finland’s second gay and lesbian bar Mixei [why not] is opened in Tampere in February 1990.

    The Turku area Seta organizes the first Vapautuspäivät held outside of Helsinki on August 16-19, 1990. In connection with the event, four protestors publicly called for sexual relations between two people of the same gender, then turned themselves in to the police for breaking the ban of incitement. However, the Courts found that they had acted thoughtlessly and they were not convicted.

    In Tampere 15 women establish a national Lesbian Research Network (LTV) on April 11, 1991. The LTV network persisted until 1995. Quarterly network letters are recorded in the collections of the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas.

  • 1989

    Jaakko Virtanen’s short film ‘Liitto’ [union] comes out, and it portrays a relationship between two men.

    The first ‘Voi lesbon kevättä -feminaario’ [’oh lesbian life’ feminar] is held in Helsinki on May 5-7, 1989.

  • 1988

    Correcting your legal gender marker becomes possible in Finland after a trans woman won a Supreme Court case regarding changing her legal gender marker. There were however varying practices regarding changing names and gender markers, as decisions were made in local registrar offices, and often depended on the awareness and resourcefulness of the person affirming their gender.

    During the Helsinki Festival, Tiina Lindfors’ dance piece ‘Olennainen’ [pertinent/I am a woman] is performed, which depicts a relationship between two women.

  • 1986

    Seta establishes AIDS Support Centers. The first AIDS Support Center opens its doors in Helsinki on October 13, 1986. Later further Centers were established in Turku, Tampere, Oulu, Kuopio, and Lahti, and in 1997 the Centers became part of the HIV Foundation.

    The Nordic Lesbian Feminar is held in Helsinki on May 16-18, 1986.

  • 1985

    Seta begins broadcasting radio programs on the Radio City frequency on May 6, 1985. The radio program is called ‘Puskaradio’ [through the grapevine/bush radio]. ‘Puskaradio’ changed its name a few years later, becoming ‘Radio Toinen Linja’ [radio second line]. In Finland it used to be said that someone was ’puskassa’ [in the bush], whereas now it would be said they are in the closet. Seta’s office was located in Kallio, on the Toinen linja Street, at this time.

    The anarchist cultural group Extaasi [ecstasy] was born in 1985. One member describes the group spirit (translated from Finnish): ”What was Extaasi exactly? An anarchofeministic, lesboanarchistic, queerfeministic difficult and dear product of its time. Extaasi was everything that came to the minds of a group of women. Well, women and women. Gender was not a fixed thing for everyone at Extaasi, but something free flowing. Gender expression was a site for experimentation, a demolition site, where perhaps something permanent may also be constructed”.

    Read more on memories from Extaasi (in Finnish):

  • 1984

    The first Finnish research anthology regarding homosexuality, ‘Rakkauden monet kasvot’ [the many faces of love] is published on April 25, 1984. It was edited by Kai Sievers ja Olli Stålström.

    The gender minorities organization Trasek is established on May 19, 1984 in Helsinki.

    Finland’s first gay and lesbian bar Gay Gambrini opens in Helsinki on July 4, 1984. It is located in the inner courtyard of Iso Robertinkatu 3, away from the prying eyes of passersby.

    Seta organizes the annual meeting for the International Gay and Lesbian Association IGA (presently ILGA) on July 9-14, 1984. Lesbians are moved to graffiti walls with symbols, and for example a gas station wall reads ’Lesbous suonissa’ [lesbianism runs through my veins].

    Pirkko Saisio’s novel ‘Kainin tytär’ [Cain’s daughter] is published. It is the first Finnish novel which openly depicts a relationship between two women.

    The lesbian group Akanat begins to host theme evenings. The first evening held in October had the topic ’Lesbianism – Sexuality, Lifestyle, or Something Else?’. Reports on these theme evenings were written in the magazine ‘Torajyvä’, published by Akanat, which can be read in the reading room of the National Library, or at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas for research purposes.

  • 1983

    The Helsinki lesbian group Akanat created their Statement of Principles on January 12, 1983.

    Seta begins hosting discos at Botta on March 14, 1983. Club Triangle took its name from the pink triangles that gay men sentenced to concentration camps in Nazi Germany had to wear on their clothes.

    Seta starts an information campaign on the prevention of HIV transmission in the spring of 1983. In the summer of 1983, the first cases of infection hit the headlines.

    The Seta general assembly decides to create the Seksuaalinen tasavertaisuus [sexual equality] Seta Foundation on June 5, 1982, and the Foundation is registered on April 12, 1983. The Foundation provides grants for things such as research.

    Almost 80 lesbians “take back” the Wanhan Kellari Karhu Cabinet after the Vapautuspäivät march. Lesbians had often sat in the Karhu Cabinet particularly in the 1970s.

  • 1982

    The first national lesbian meeting was held at the Uusi ylioppilastalo [new student house] in Helsinki in conjunction with the Vapautuspäivät in 1982.

    The magazine ‘Leila-Sanomat’ published by the lesbian group Akanat appears in November 1982. Prior to this there was ‘Pärrä’, and later ‘Leila-Sanomat’ became ‘Torajyvä’.

    The film ‘Avskedet’, directed by Tuija-Maija Niskanen, premieres. It is an indirect portrayal of the relationship between Vivica Bandler and Tove Jansson.

    The first national lesbian camp was organized in Tuupovaara on July 10-17, 1982. SQS magazine published an article regarding the lesbian camp as a subcultural intermediate space (in Finnish).

    Seta’s research group helped a University of Helsinki research group produce a study on the living conditions and lifestyles of gays and lesbians. Through this nation-wide project 1051 questionnaires were collected. The results of the research were published in 1994 in the book ‘Rakkauden monet kasvot’ [the many faces of love].

  • 1981

    For the first time, Seta organizes the Vapautuspäivät protest march in Helsinki in May 1981. Police confiscated an incitement poster and questioned protestors that had been shouting slogans, who in the end were not prosecuted. The Vapautuspäivät protest march was organized annually, bar 1986, up until 1989, after which the Vapautuspäivät were also held in other cities. The name ‘Vapautuspäivät’ [liberation days] was borrowed from the Gay Liberation marches, which were held in the US in memory of the Stonewall riots.

    On June 26, the Medical Board announces that it has removed homosexuality from disease classification.
    Learn more about the history of queer medicalization by watching the Wrongs of History 1, the Wounds of Medicalization videos.

    In July 1981 a group of queer activists plan and complete a series of graffiti hits around Helsinki. The graffiti contains anti-incitement-ban and anti-discrimination slogans such as “you too could be gay”.

    In Turku members of the queer community made their first trip to the Laitila Tuliranta on August 28-30, 1981. These trips became a long-standing tradition.

  • 1980

    Seta begins hosting discos at the Vanha Poli on April 10, 1980. Prior to this, dances had been held at other places including on the premises of the Hämäläinen, Southern Finnish, and South West Finnish sub-municipalities. Studio 302 took its name from the former ICD diagnosis code F302 that was assigned to homosexuality and “sexual deviancy”. Discos at the Vanha Poli ended in 1984 when Seta’s lease was terminated due to the AIDS panic.

  • 1979

    Dance Theatre Raatikko explores gay themes in the dance piece ‘Mitä nyt (eli) erään johtajan lapsuus’ [what now, a certain director’s childhood].

  • 1978

    Seta members are able to meet with a minister for the first time when Minister of Justice Paavo Nikula receives them on November 28, 1978.

  • 1976

    Christer Kihlman’s play ‘Hundarna i Casablanca’ [the dogs of Casablanca] brought prejudice faced by minorities to the stage.

    The women at Seta host the first meeting aimed at women at the Kotinurkka cafe on December 17, 1976, and establish several women’s action groups.

  • 1975

    SETA magazine begins being published.

    TV 1 broadcasts Sepi Niemi’s documentary ‘Homoseksuaalit – eräs vähemmistö’ [homosexuals – a certain minority] on June 12, 1975. It was the first television program to factually discuss homosexuality.

  • 1974

    The first gay dance in Turku is held on February 2, 1974 at the Rautatieläisten talo.

    The Seta organization (from the words ‘seksuaalinen tasavertaisuus’, meaning ’sexual equality’) is established April 29, 1974, with four people present. They organized the first dance in Helsinki at the Rautalammintie student residence.

    Finland’s first gay protest is organized on July 27, 1974 at the Vanhan kirkon puisto [old church park] in Helsinki. The old church’s male youth ministry leader Seppo Kivistö had written an article regarding homosexuality and the social standing of homosexuals in the ‘Ilta-Sanomat’ under the pseudonym ’Stefan’. When his identity was exposed, he was dismissed from his post. At the protest that was organized at the Vanhan kirkon puisto there were 40 protestors present with posters, who for the first time in Finland were openly and publicly protesting using their own names and faces. The case was widely and publicly discussed over the next few months.

  • 1973

    Vagabondi, the local Tampere branch of Psyke, is established.

    At Åbo Akademi University Ewa Ehrstedt’s and Bo Mellberg’s Master’s Thesis ‘De homosexuellas sociala ställning i Finland’ [the social standing of homosexuals in Finland] is produced, the making of which was supported by Psyke through the handing out of questionnaires.

  • 1971

    Homosexual acts are decriminalized on February 1, 1971. At the same time, the age of consent for homosexual acts is raised and a ban of incitement is implemented, meaning public promotion of homosexuality is punishable by law. The ban of incitement affects how the media deals with homosexuality.

    The country’s first transvestite club, the Jasmin Club, is established on March 6, 1971.

  • 1970

    Psyke supports the study regarding the sexual and social behaviors of homosexuals produced at the University of Tampere in 1970–1971.

    Psyke received its own space on the basement floor of Kalevankatu 45 where it arranged club evenings. Author Kaarina Valoaalto depicts these evenings out in the book ‘Huono iho’ (1986).

  • 1969

    Psyke begins publishing Finland’s first regularly published sexual minority magazine on April 25, 1969. ’96’ (‘Ysikutonen’, [ninety-six]) was published until the end of 1986. Lesbians and gays were able to find company through the personal ads column of the magazine. ’96’ magazine can be read in the reading room of the National Library of Finland, or for research purposes at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas.

    On December 2, 1969, the Director at TV 2 shelved the film ‘Oletko sinä…?’ [are you…?] directed by Matti Lehti, which depicts the love story of two young men. The film was first aired on television in 1999. Further reading (in Finnish): ‘Sensuroitu ohjelma homoudesta’ or ‘Helsingin Sanomat 1969’ (behind a paywall).

  • 1968

    Finland’s first sexual minority publication, the printed leaflet ‘Homo & Societas’, was produced in the spring of 1968. It was published by ‘Toisen säteen ryhmä’ [the second ray group].

    The ‘Toisen säteen ryhmä’ is disbanded in February, as the organization registration office refused to register the group. Most of the members joined the ‘Marraskuun liike’ work group 13, which was established in the summer of 1968. Its purpose was to further the rights and standing of those belonging to sexual minorities.

    Psyke becomes Finland’s first registered organization for sexual minorities when the registration goes through on February 2, 1968, a time when homosexual acts were still a crime in Finland (until 1971).

    Psyke organizes Finland’s first gay dance at the Lucci restaurant in Helsinki in February 1968. ‘Hymy’ magazine writes a scandal piece regarding the dance at Lucci’s, which scares participants into staying home. Further reading on the ‘Ranneliike’ website (in Finnish): Hymy-lehden kohureportaasi Lucci-ravintolasta 1969.

    The book ‘The Erotic Minorities’ by Swede Lars Ullerstam is published in Finnish (‘Sukupuoliset vähemmistöt’).

    In early December 1968 the media reported that in his 1967 annual report, the Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that appearing in the clothing of the opposite sex cannot be regarded as a disguise prohibited by the statutes of many cities. These statutes were apparently used against transvestites and others exhibiting non-normative gender expressions.

  • 1967

    Finland’s first sexual minority organization ‘Toisen säteen ryhmä’ [the second ray group] is established in November 1967. The organization tries unsuccessfully to become registered. In spiritual thinking, the second ray of the rainbow represents the ability to give and receive love.

  • 1966

    The book ‘Sukupuoleton Suomi‘ [genderless Finland] edited by Ilkka Taipale is published. In the book lawyer Herbert Gumpler in his article ‘Homoseksualismista juristin silmin’ [homosexualism through the eyes of a lawyer] criticizes the law which criminalizes homosexual acts and leaves gay men vulnerable to blackmail and assault.

  • 1964

    The restaurant Wanhan Kellari is opened in November 1964, and sexual minorities begin to frequent it as their own. It is often said in the writings of queer history that the gays took over Wanhan Kellari. The restaurant remains a meeting place for gay men for several decades. Lesbians would also meet at Wanhan Kellari. Wanhan Kellari was divided into a bar and grill, with the grill in particular being popular with gay men. The Wanhan Kellari Karhu cabinet on the other hand formed what could be called Finland’s first lesbian bar. A customer may have been able to skip the queue by saying they had “a reservation at the grill”, or that they were “going to the grill”. In the 1960s women had more difficulty meeting at bars, as they were not allowed in without a male companion.

  • 1963

    Christer Kihlman’s breakthrough novel Den blå modern (The Blue Mother) is published. One of the book’s themes is homosexuality, and the following year it won the State Literature Prize.

  • 1903

    The first known Finnish lesbian story Ystävyyttä [friendship] by Aino Malmberg is published.

  • 1894

    The law criminalizing homosexual acts for both men and women comes into force in the Grand Duchy of Finland. From a European framework perspective, to also criminalize homosexual acts between women was rare.

    See for example the following sources:

    The Shadows of Criminalization event recordings

    Löfström, Jan (1991) ”’…silloinkin Kun Sitä Naispuolinen Henkilö Harjoittaa…’: Naisten Homoseksualisuuden Kriminalisointi Suomessa 1888-1889.” Naistutkimus 4, no. 3 (1991): 18-26,.

    Virtanen, Johanna (2008) Luonnotonta haureutta : samaan sukupuoleen kohdistuneen halun määrittäminen Suomessa vuosina 1880-1920. Master’s thesis, University of Jyväskylä.