Aoife celebrates an unheralded hero
On the corner of Vester Voldgade, Farvergade and Lavendelsgade, just by Copenhagen’s Town Hall square, you may soon be able to enjoy a cup of coffee on a bench, in a square dedicated to and named after gay rights activist, Axel Axgil.
The world famous activist fought for gay rights his entire life, alongside his husband Eigil Axgil. In 1989, they married and became the world’s first same-sex couple to enter into a registered partnership – after 40 years of being engaged and fighting for equal rights.
Inspired in part by the exclusion of lgbt people from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Axel Axgil played a key role in initiating the founding of what would become LGBT Denmark – The Danish National Organisation for Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered persons, originally the Association of 1948.
The two men lived their lives openly gay, in a time when homosexuals were frequently persecuted, they campaigned and distributed gay magazines and erotic material. As a result, Axel Axgil both lost his job and his house and, in 1955, he was arrested and jailed for a year for distributing erotic material.
In 2007 Axel spearheaded the founding of Regnbuen (The Rainbow), a grave for lgbt people in the Assistens Kirkegård (Assistens Cemetery). On October 29th 2011, 15 years after the death of his husband Eigil, Axel died 96 years old and was laid to rest at The Rainbow.
In relation to the announcement, Copenhagen’s technical and environmental mayor stated that she hopes the new square will highlight society’s treatment of minorities and the continued fight to secure their rights. Choosing to name the square after Axel Axgil seemed an ‘entirely natural’ choice, considering the fact that Denmark lead the way for many years on gay rights and that a large part of that fight had its base in Copenhagen.
When Axel Axgil threw himself into the fight to secure rights for gay people, there were large personal costs tied in with that fight. I hope that naming a square after Axel Axgil can inspire all minorities to fight for their rights and remind the majority of the importance of an open mind and the need to treat everyone equally.