Hege and Toril: Why We Write

2 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

Yesterday, we posted a story of the heroic Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, a married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers after the Norway massacre last week. The story has happily drawn quite a bit of attention and I want to take a minute to clarify things following unprecedented traffic and comments on our blog, and to follow up on our first blog post from close to a year ago, Why Write?

Firstly, there was a large debate about how many people were killed. Reports on the internet range from somewhere in the 70’s to somewhere in the 90’s. As some commenters wrote, it doesn’t matter if there was one person killed or 200, the purpose of my post was to bring attention to this married lesbian couple who saved 40 kids from possible death. Facts matter, I agree – but in the new media age, facts are hard to come by – especially when there are so many conflicting reports. I have not called the Norwegian hospitals to find out precise counts, primarily because I do not speak the language and the long distance charges would be unbearable. Does this make this couple’s story any less compelling? No.

Secondly, this is a story I’ve seen around the internet for several days now – our blog cannot claim credit for breaking this news in any way – what we did do was ask the question about why it wasn’t getting covered by the mainstream media. Several people have asked why it’s necessary to report that it was a married lesbian couple that committed this heroic deed. You never hear “A straight firefighter saved a family from a burning building.” I agree. You don’t hear in the press when someone is straight and does something good. You also don’t hear when someone is straight and does something bad. But when someone who is LGBT does something bad, you can BET that their sexual orientation or gender identity is one of the first important facts of the story.

We live in an era when unprecedented numbers of kids are taking their own lives because of the simple fact that they feel alone and trapped. For generation, at least in the US, we have raised children in a world where it is okay to discriminate against LGBT people. We have told kids as they grow up that there is nothing worse than being gay, that if you are gay, you will have no friends, no family and you will probably die of AIDS. When a child who is gay, grows up with society instilling in him the belief that being gay is a fate worse than death, you incinerate their hope.

In California, the legislature recently passed a law that would require the inclusion of LGBT history in their textbooks and curricula. The amount of pushback and hatred this new law has already received is astounding and could very well see it repealed soon – all because people are afraid that by hearing that someone gay did something great, children might make the choice to be gay – which is of course completely contrary to science. The state of Tennessee is close to passing a piece of legislation that has been called the “Don’t say gay” law. Teachers in that state are not allowed to even mention homosexuality exists – because if you don’t say it, maybe it will disappear. This is the United States our kids are growing up in.

This is a story of not only a lesbian couple that did a heroic thing, but a married lesbian couple – something that is still illegal across this country. Even in the handful of places an American can get married in this country, that marriage is not recognized by the Federal government. That leaves heterosexual couples with more than 1,100 rights which lesbian and gay couples don’t have.

Norway is a world leader when it comes to protecting LGBT people. It was the first country to enact anti-discrimination laws. They decriminalized homosexuality a full 20 years before the US (the land of the free and the home of the brave) did. They’ve had nationally-recognized civil partnerships since 1993 and marriage equality became legal in January of 2009. So it may not be a big deal in Norway that this was a married lesbian couple, but it should be a big deal here.

Thirdly – why has this story been ignored by the mainstream media? I don’t know. That’s why I posted the article. Is it because the couple is lesbian? Perhaps. Is it because the news cycle in the US is being taken-up by the imaginary “debt-ceiling” debate? Perhaps. The only thing we know for sure is that this is a story that needs to be told.

And finally, please accept our personal thanks for sharing this story on behalf of kids growing up thinking they won’t amount to anything. Thank you for sharing this story and letting young people know that no matter who they are and no matter who they love, they too can be heroes.

76 Responses to “Hege and Toril: Why We Write”

  1. ammanjah August 2, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    thank you for sharing the article and for this great point-by-point review of the issues that were raised.

    • Kai August 2, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Thanks for posting! I have been following the norwegian media since the massacre, and this is the first I see of this story.

      The final number of death victims of the terror attack is 69 on Utøya and 8 in Oslo, 77 in total. These are the official numbers from the norwegian police. Here is a list of the victims with photos: http://www.nrk.no/minnetavle/#13122924748941&height=1690&id=iframe970px

    • Alicia Bryan August 2, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      I never thought they would actually pass “Don’t say gay” in Tennessee. Shit.

    • Cheryl Dinse August 5, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      I don’t care what sexual orientation these people have, they saved lives, thats all that should matter! Brave people!

  2. Stephanie August 2, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    just to say I am a Norwegian and if someone bugs you about the actual numbers of victims.
    There were 69 victims on Utøya island (including the one who later died in hospital due to gun shot wounds) 33 of these victims were under the age of 18.
    There an additional 8 victims from the bomb blast in Oslo.

    In total 77 dead from the terrorist attack on the 22 of July 2011.

    I do agree with your point though, there was another couple that was highly praised but they did say husband and wife in the articles, they could have just as easily written “spouse” when it came to Hege and Toril.

  3. Toastandjam August 2, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Fantastic, thank you for writing.

    – A UK girl thinking we were a little behind the times on the whole LGBT thing.

  4. Moomin Papa August 2, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Given that you are writing from the US, I can imagine the story only has passing interest to it’s readers anyway, whether gay, straight, married or living in sin (ha ha). Having lived both sides of the Atlantic the amount of coverage given to world affairs where the US or it’s citizens are not directly involved is minimal at best, and I’d put that down to the “who really cares?” factor. The country is so large and generates so much of it’s own news-entertainment that a foreign story either has to be catastrophic or of sufficient economic interest to generate enough attention to be reported.

    Other factors might be the identity and lifestyle of Hege and Toril only came to light as the story was dying in the press, and other issues closer to home took over. And you could be right in your assumptions that it was glossed over merely because they were a married lesbian couple – and I’d bet it did play a part as there’s none that would like to sweep this story under the carpet like networks who are backed by right-wing Christian dollars.

    I’m glad you write about this, although I’m keen on the outrage as it comes off very negatively (I’m very much a middle-ground person in many respects). A positive slant on this would have great and it would be brilliant to see this pushed to other LGBT news outlets and chat shows that are accepted mainstream channels. And this is the initial problem – you have under-represented characters that you are trying to force into the mainstream. Give them the limelight on the LGBT stage, write them up positively and slowly introduce them to the annoyingly closeted and relatively close-minded mainstream media. I understand the process is frustrating, but please keep at it.

    • JThom August 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      I believe people in America were, indeed, deeply moved and saddened by the terrible bombing and shootings in Norway. I could not believe something like this could happen in an otherwise peaceful and happy nation, as I perceive Norway to be. Yes, we do care.

  5. Rachel August 2, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I consider myself something of a crusader for same-sex marriage. I happen to be marrying someone of the opposite gender, but we are taking numerous steps towards equality, including inconveniencing ourselves in order to hold the ceremony in an equality state, and putting Lambda Legal on our registry (and have personally donated and raised thousands, in place of gifts for ourselves).

    And I was hugely turned off by your presentation of this story. There is so much awful discrimination towards homosexuals, but acting like the lack of coverage for these womens is part of that makes it all seem less serious. Crying Wolf is not helpful.

    If this was just about GLBTQ youth seeing heroes, this story would have been better presented as: Here’s this great story, and guess what, the heroes happen to be married lesbians!

    • Jamie McGonnigal August 2, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      That is the story that was told on dozens of blogs before we wrote about it here – for more than a week. We chose to raise the question – why isn’t the mainstream media covering it? A gay blog writing a gay story about a gay couple, heroic or not, does not let a gay kid in the middle of Nebraska know what this couple did. The story needs to be told widely and only by asking this question, will people begin to take notice.

      With that being said, thank you for your work towards equality and thank you for visiting the site and expressing your opinion here. We truly appreciate it.

      • Moomin Papa August 2, 2011 at 11:56 am #

        To be honest, and I don’t mean to sound facetious, but a gay kid in the middle of Nebraska most likely accesses gay blogs and discards the mainstream media as biased against them anyway.

        Your next challenge is to bring this into mainstream gay media and give it some airtime. I seriously doubt the LGBT community are tuning into Fox news for stories that concern people of their sexual orientation. I don’t know of any shows in particular that could be approached, but I’m sure you guys know some that would be more than happy to run this story in a positive way.

      • Tristan Bowersox August 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        @Moomin Papa, She’s saying the story has already been run that way by many other sources. Also, it’s not necessarily true that “a gay kid in the middle of Nebraska most likely accesses gay blogs” because that would constitute confirmation that he/she is gay. I believe the kind of kids Jamie is concerned with reaching with these stories—or rather those that she is concerned are not being reached by the mainstream media—are either repressed homosexuals or, shall we say, “latent homosexuals.” In other words, kids need this kind of affirmation while they are growing up rather than having to search for it later.

        Sorry if I put words in your mouth, Jamie.

    • Melissa August 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm #


    • Tracy August 2, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

      Rachel, it’d great that you and your future spouse have taken such an active stand in support of marriage equality. However, marriage rights are just a tiny piece of the equality puzzle for GLBTQ people in the US and of course around the world. We are invisible in the press, unless of course we do something bad. Visibility is as crucial as having awesome advocates like you. I am sorry you were turned off by this article, but I think it is tremendously important to tell this story and I was very happy with the way this question of media coverage was posed. Congrats on the pending nuptials — my wife and I were married in our home state of New Hampshire last year and can’t wait for the day when marriage equality goes national!

    • David August 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

      You missed the point, Rachel. As the authors stated, this article is not about presenting heroes to queer youth, it’s about the media’s selective blindness to queer people in general, and so it’s absolutely about homophobia. The authors said this themselves, so there’s no need to try and guess at their intentions as you do in your last paragraph. Also, the authors didn’t “cry wolf,” they presented their theory which you’re free to discuss, but to just jump to calling it “crying wolf” is dismissive. If homophobia’s not to blame, what’s your own explanation for the complete absence of this story in the mainstream media? As the authors say, the human interest “hero” story is one the media usually laps up, as long as everyone’s straight. I’m sure you do agree that it’s incredibly harmful for society’s major institutions, such as the media, to pretend that queer people don’t exist.

    • Beth August 3, 2011 at 12:47 am #

      I agree, the way this story is represented victimizes the GLBTQ community when the real point is that many many people tragically died, also victims of hate. So while I commend the couple that rescued so many, I do not think it’s appropriate to turn this into a story about the homosexual struggle.

    • Joe August 3, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      While I appreciate your sentiment Rachel, as an ally, I would hope that you would support the work of TBLG people wherever it happens. This story was inspiring to me not only in that this couple committed such a heroic act, but also because their story challenges what our media says same sex couples are capable of. To see these women portrayed as heroic, committed, and selfless, but also as married lesbians, is necessary for redefining what can be possible in the eye of the mainstream media.

  6. Maria August 2, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I’m glad to hear this story. I’m wondering if the fact that they were a couple would make the news if they were a straight couple with different last names. Would the writer include that fact if it’s not relevant to the story? “John Smith and Mary Doe, who are married, rescued . . .” I think it would only be included if it were needed to clarify something.

    • Maylene August 3, 2011 at 8:56 am #

      Exactely. Excellent last line.

  7. Melissa August 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    After reading the articles, moreover, the last paragraph of this article, I am prompted to say: Hege & Toril didn’t rescue people BECAUSE they are gay, they rescued people and HAPPEN to be gay. It doesn’t matter what “kind” of person you are to save people – you could be an alien for all I care! Just save me!! The fact that they are gay shouldn’t be concealed but it also shouldn’t be the focal point of the story. The fact that they (along with others like Marcel Gleffe) jumped into action without regard for their own safety should be the focus of the story. “Young people” should be taught that being a hero isn’t the goal. Helping and saving others whenever you can should be the goal.

  8. cinnamongirl August 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Thanks for this! Nice post.

    I think not only is this a positive article about a married lesbian couple, it is a positive human interest story in general. After disasters/terrorist attacks, it seems to be the norm to pick out human interest stories – from a journalistic/media selling point of view, it makes an unimaginable tragedy more real when we get a glimpse of the people involved. And yet this act of heroism, this very personal account of what happened has been ignored… could be because they are a lesbian couple. It wouldn’t surprise me to see it all over the place if they were a straight couple… if course I can’t know that, but I have my suspicions.

  9. Soheila August 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    do you cnn iReport any of your stuff?? you know that you can, right? i mean if you want to hit mainstream media with this kind of stuff you have full access to do that not only with your local news stations to CNN MSNBC and FOX all have viewer publishing.

    i agree they deserve recognition. not because they are a lesbian couple, but because under fire they continued to go back and save these people. Thats what struck me the most. even though their boat was riddled with bulletholes, they continued to save lives.

  10. Stephanie August 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Who cares who they love! These women are amazing! Thank you for being so brave and saving these children!

  11. Maria August 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    did you guys realise that the original finnish report that was linked here is only about this incredibly brave couple that saved many peoples lives, while risking their own? the article doesn’t say anywhere “lesbian married couple” (there is also no separate words for “he” or “she” in finnish, only one word for both). their names were mentioned and from the picture published one can obviously tell it is a female couple. but the article and report itself makes no point of it whatsoever.

    amazing hearts you have hege and toril. ❤

  12. Rebecca August 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for reporting this and encouraging us to share. (And thank you to Hege and Toril, of course.) It’s on my Facebook Wall right now.

  13. Dee Dee August 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Thank you Hege and Toril for your bravery. No doubt young lives were saved because of you.

  14. Hali Cespedes-Chorin August 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    If they had been a married heterosexual couple, the media would have reported the fact that they were married. These women saved 40 kids! Thank GOD for them! Thank God they were together!

  15. Serena Patterson August 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    great story–it made my day. I followed the links here, and heartily do agree with the commentary. Here in North America, good news stories involving heroes who “happen to be gay” ARE suppressed; if the story is reported at all, the gayness is deliberately disguised. Yes, a “married couple” would be identified as such if, and only if, they were straight. Call me sensitive, but don’t say I make up the bias–I’m a 52 year old married lesbian with three children, and I know what they’ve gone through in the way of invisibility and stigma. The gay kid in Nebraska, or the kid with lesbian moms in Iowa, they need to see these stories. Thanks again!

    • Connie August 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

      Serena wrote “Here in North America, good news stories involving heroes who “happen to be gay” ARE suppressed” Please the cite examples of where this has happened? Which towns, which newspapers or tv stations have been involved? What heroic actions of gay people have been overlooked? You must use this opportunity of high blog traffic and diverse readership to expose the issue.

      • hvmorris23 August 7, 2011 at 11:20 am #

        You realise this is a blog and expecting a bibliography to be attached is a bit much. Also blogs’ tend to be places for peoples opinions, so class it as hearsay which is probably true.
        I think they raise some good points, I do not remember the last time anyone gay has been mentioned on english news, the only one fighting for a cause right now is captain jack harkness in Torchwood, they slip his shenanigans into the storyline and everyone loves it.
        I think alot of people could do with some good publicity.

  16. seven August 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    For the articles published, the amount of victims, or those killed etc, always varies from paper to paper, and most times it is not intentional error but rather depending on the time that the story was investigated . For example, a tragedy happens and they say that ten people were killed, yet perhaps the next morning or week later, the report is that forty people are killed etc. It is a very simple –time thing. All the numbers might be correct at the time this was reported. Yet society and the public always look for the sinister or evil “hiding” of facts and figures. Ever stop and think that most of the figures are true but varied depending on when they were reported or where the person had sources?

    The story of a hero or hero couple or hero married couple surely is good news, good that these people were saved or helped or rescued. I think that instead of people complaining about news that they think is false or tainted or loss of facts, perhaps those writing or complaining might just pause, and might just write their own stories –of the truth, after the incidents. Write the good stories; write the hero stories, and then leave all the assumptions of alleged deliberate errors to time. Eventually someone will report the facts, clear and untainted but usually that does not happen until a while after the event.
    Perhaps a lesson from the book, “The FOUR AGREEMENTS” –never take anything personally. And then get on with it. Get on with life, and get on with celebrations and thanksgivings, and get on with whatever creative positive things that life brings to all people at some time in their lives.

    I think that all the complaints about the figures and complaints about the wording of the article just takes away from the real triumph of the moments that saved lives

    That is just my opinion. Nothing personal, no offense, just my opinion of what I read there.

  17. James Bradford August 2, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    The *reason* that it is important to point out the GLBTQ status of heroic people is because in the world we live in people are automatically presumed heterosexual unless it is stated otherwise. The reason you don’t read “a straight fireman saved….” is because people presume everyone around them to be straight. Gay people, like any other people, need to see themselves represented in the media in a positive way. We need people to look up to. We need heroes of our own. Does the sexuality of these two women have relevance to the act? No. In a world where so many people think GLBTQ individuals are worthless, however, it will *ALWAYS* be relevant to say when a gay person has done something of extraordinary worth.

    • Connie August 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

      95% of my gay friends are clearly gay as evidenced by their mannerisms and perfect appearance. (5% try not to stand out) They do not need the media to identify them as “gay” and frankly would be insulted by that action. If a straight person doesn’t “get it” during an interview, then so what? The extreme freak show GLBTQ in the Bay area do more HARM for the cause than good. Their extreme behavior and style would not be tolerated by many- maybe most???- if they were heterosexual. Bad behavior is bad behavior no matter what your choice in “partners” is.

  18. alexes August 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    thank God that these ladies were where they were, and that they were brave enough to risk death to help these kids. it isn’t just that they are being ignored because they are gay, but the fact that they risked being shot to save these kids is being overlooked because they are gay!!! they went back each time knowing they could be hurt – no one knew at the time how many gunmen there were.
    they are heroes, and should be praised and given medals.
    i live in Canada, where anyone can marry someone of the same sex, but we haven’t heard about this. we have been flooded with news of the horrible event, but this one wonderful thing has been omitted.
    shameful, just shameful.

  19. Rebecca Fein August 3, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    I think this story is being ignored in the mainstream media because they only focus on the perpetrator. The stories are never about the victims as is evidenced by the coverage of Fort Hood’s shooting in 2009 and the Virginia Tech shooting, as well as other similar tragedies. I know for example that 77 people were killed in Norway, but I can’t name even one of them. The mainstream media is hung up on talking about this lunatic who wants to talk about honor but has no clue, as my husband (a former U.S. Marine) says, “There is no honor in shooting up a bunch of kids. This guy knows nothing about honor.”

    I wish the media would change the way they cover things, they just like to either make people look bad or talk about bad guy. The story should be on the people that died, there was 1 story about funerals for some unnamed victims and had basically nothing but the red rose and explaining that this is a symbol for the Labor Party. To me this is very sad, it would seem that people would not do these things as publicity stunts if they weren’t covered. However, the media continues to reward these people with their unending minutes of fame.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I came here from another site that my friend maintains and had a link to the previous post on this story that you wrote. It is great to see a positive story out of this tragedy and how brave of that couple. I hope they get a medal or something out of it for their quick thinking and actions. Any death is tragic, but their quick action and thinking led to a lot less death and risk their own lives in the process. Now there is a story about honor, regardless of their sexual orientation or marriage, or anything else about them.

    I hope the Norweigan media will pick up the story and out of that others will pick it up. It’s just a very sad state of affairs when it comes to the media.

    • John McCarthy August 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      You don’t have to be gay or lesbian to appreciate the lack of media interest in many important subjects, which affect all of us, regardless…..

      http://www.reocities.com/larryjodaniel/21.html and /22.html

      These unanswered letters and total lack of media interest show that treason in wartime backed by irrefutable government documents fits into the category of ‘strategic silence’.

      These are the actions of government, specifically the US National Security Council, which must be exposed if our Constitution is to survive the government inside the government.


      • John McCarthy August 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

        Additionally, it matters not what your persuasion is when it comes to your humanity. Hopefully, that truism is on the mind of the leaders of countries around the world which seems to be at perpetual war with itself. Amazingly, the only other species on this planet that organizes for war are the ants.

  20. Moo August 3, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    As a suggestion regarding ‘facts in the new-media age’. If you’re unsure of the number (and if, as you believe, the exact number doesn’t matter) then don’t put a number at all. Simply say “a large number” or ‘scores’ of people were killed.

    Much better than making false claims, and doesn’t distract from your story – even in the new media age.

  21. Wolf Baginski August 3, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    I’ve seen a couple of mentions of people with boats in the UK’s media, but all I can recall of the detail was that one of these people was on the island, apparently campsite staff.

    I have a definite impression that the reporting here set a pattern–a sort of story–and stuck with it for the reported events on the island. There were frequent mentions of people who had hidden from the killer, and almost been discovered. Then the emphasis shifted to the court appearance, to possible links between the killer and political groups in the UK, and to the general reaction in Norway, the mourning and the declarations of politicians.

    And, as already pointed out, this couple knew they were being shot at, and kept going back.

    The terrorism we’re more used to in the UK has happened quickly. A bomb, usually, and even the shootings have been brief events. The feel I was left with by UK reporting, of something where survival was a matter of luck, and there wasn’t time for anybody to react, is consistent with that sort of terrorist event. It becomes a matter of medical aid and rescue. That might be one reason why this story didn’t get picked up.

    This story is so different from the pattern, even before the LGBT angle comes in.

  22. Rachel August 3, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Thanks, these are all excellent points. Just a quick addition: maybe the media don’t talk about the ‘straight firefighter’ who saves a life, but you can guarantee there will be mention in the report about his wife and kids, or her husband and kids, probably even a picture of them all together in a big hug!

  23. Teresa August 3, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    While I certainly agree that anti-LBGT bias could be the reason this story wasn’t picked up (as well as the more mundane reasons listed by a commenter), it’s interesting that no one points out another possible bias-related reason: The heroes were women and, as such, don’t fit into our stereotyped image of women. Multiple oppressions exist…

  24. Chelsey August 3, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    This is a great post. Would you happen to have a list of the rights that gay American couples don’t get in civil unions? My mother-in-law and i had an argument about this a few weeks ago and I couldn’t find the list I used to have on my computer (and, for whatever reason, Google has done me no good).

  25. New Mexico sister August 3, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    If Navy seals had risked their lives to rescue 40 teens from a mass murderer, they would be all over the top headlines in the U.S. and on the cover of major magazines and awarded medals. It has nothing to do with news cycles. The “mainstream media” in this country is all about keeping quiet and invisible any segments of society they want to keep quiet and invisible. Thankfully we have the internet as a workaround.

  26. Jamie Allen-Finn August 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    I am a straight female but that doesn’t’ even matter those 2 women are HEROES and they should be treated as such by the world.The fact that everyone is making a big deal out of their sexual status is absolutely absurd! The way I have ALWAYS seen it is you can’t help who you love and who loves you back and if I had met a woman who loves me like my husband does I’m sure I would be with her. we are all HUMANS FIRST!! everything else is just semantics!

  27. jan August 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    What the does lesbianism have to do with an act of heroism? Its apples and oranges. This was brainless commentary.

    • amanda August 4, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      As a Norwegian I find it incredible disrespectful to try to gain a political point out of this tragedy.

      I am all for gay rights, and as a ground rule I live by, I does not matter if you’re gay, straight or bi. It shouldn’t matter in this situation either.

      There was several people that helped out that day, including a German tourist that saved over 150 people. Never heard anything about him in international media either.

  28. livetleker August 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    I commented on the actual post, but you haven’t put me through. At least I found your blog this way, and that’s a good thing 🙂

    But as I said in the other comment: The head of the police forces in Norway, Øystein Mæland, is married to another man, and as far as I know, they have two children together. That might explain why some of us Norwegians were a bit upset by your post.


    I am absolutely sure this was not an issue for the journalist covering this case. And as an answer to your last post about kids playing together. Yes, of course I would. My kids have had friends with homosexual parents, they have homosexual friends and homosexual teachers.

    Today I heard Barak Obama saying in a speech that he wanted gays and straights to holde hands, – well – the world is moving in a better direction.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Astfgl August 5, 2011 at 6:04 am #

      Just to clarify for any non-Norwegian speakers why I think livetleker linked to this news article: It doesn’t mention Mæland’s marital status with a word, not even that he’s married. It focuses on the facts that are relevant to the article (i.e. his job/previous jobs). Am I right?

      And re the kids post – my best friend when I was little had two mums and a divorced dad. I think it’s not that uncommon in Norway. :~)

  29. Steve August 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    The American Media short-changed its audience of a positive human interest story.The News reported the events in a manner that concentrated more on the terrorist’s motive (anti-islamic) and the response time to the island by the Norwegian LE.

    This couple (irregardless of their orientation) responded quickly into harm’s way a story I would have thought the media would have picked up as a profile in courage. Similar to the selflessness of the Firemen in the 911 diaster.

    This couple is an example for us all. Makes me proud to be 1/4 Norwegian.

  30. David August 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Amanda, here is a selection of articles about the German tourist which were posted more than a week ago:


    You can’t find a similar level of coverage for Dalen and Toril. It would be nice if we lived in a world where sexuality doesn’t matter, but this is a luxury afforded only to straight people. If we ignore the problems then they won’t get any better. Change can be made by drawing people’s attention to our institutions’ shortcomings, as is being done here.

  31. Astfgl August 5, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    I do see your point, and I understand what you’re trying to do here. However, I think that the couple’s sexual orientation pales in the face of so many dead youths, of every sexual orientation (and religion, and gender identification, etc), at least in the Norwegian media and the minds of the Norwegian people.

    I don’t know much about US news reporting, but I do also think that in a situation like this a country half way across the world would focus mostly on the tragedy and the terrorist that perpetrated it, and not devote too much time to other aspects of what happened. Maybe some focus on the survivors themselves, I don’t know. Correct me if I’m wrong here – how has this been covered in the US?

    Bear in mind also that many people participated in heroic rescues, saving the same or more number of people. (The number of kids saved by Dalen and Hansen has been reported as 25-30 in Norwegian media by the way, not 40.) It seems… wrong, somehow, to promote some rescuers more than others, even if it is to point out the fact that LGBTQ people do good things as well as bad, just like everyone else.

    That being said, I did a quick Google search in Norwegian and found more articles about one man (mostly because of his distress at having to leave kids behind) and a heterosexual couple than about these two, who only seem to have been interviewed by a local newspaper. Here’s what seems to be the original article: http://www.helgeland-arbeiderblad.no/nyheter/article5681862.ece It’s only in Norwegian, sorry!

    On the other hand (yet again, I’m running out of hands), we don’t know if this lack of reporting/interviewing by more national media is because they had enough heroes to interview already, were put off by the women’s sexual orientation (unlikely in Norway IMO, I don’t know about the rest of the world), because Dalen and Hansen did not want any more attention, or for other reasons.

    I’m trying to formulate what exactly it is with your acticles that sits wrong with me, but I’m not sure to which degree I’m succeeding. It goes something like this: Yes, it’s important to promote the fact that LGBTQ people can be heroes too, but the way you’ve formulated your article makes it seem as if their orientation is more important that their heroism and that of the others. Frankly, your article may come across as if you’re using the Utøya attack to promote tolerance of LGBTQ issues, and I’m sure that hasn’t been your intention at all.

  32. Denni August 5, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Although I agree that it is appalling the way that gay people are treated, I do feel that it is silly to feel that their sexual orientation or their relationship status has to be mentioned at all in an article. It is just as dumb to point out that a husband and wife were having dinner and rescued xx number of people. There were two people having dinner who heard the screams and came to the rescue. You can bet those poor kids weren’t asking these two people what their sexual orientation was…or whether they were married….they were two people who came to their rescue…that’s the important part. Having the bravery and determination to risk their own lives to help others. That’s the important part. They are heroes. No gender, no sexual orientation, no relationship status report….they are wonderful people and heroes.

  33. Megan August 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I am sad to see how much negativity you received as a result of your post, though I can understand their view point. I do however agree with your original post as to why it was not reported? I was shocked to have never heard about it and therefore of course you have to question- why?


  34. Neil Elliot August 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    The same thing happened during our 9/11 tragedies. One of the men on the plane (which crashed outside of NY because of an attack against the hijackers by some passengers) was openly gay, and he was not mentioned in any of the reports, even after it was proved that he was one of the main instigators against the terrorists. We can’t give any credence to GLBT citizens who are heros. After all, they are anathema to the “christian” community, right?.

  35. Texan August 6, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    What I find interesting, since it’s 3 in the morning and I have a defective battery on my smoke detector and figured I would read the comments, the context of blogs/ journalistic articles is forgotten by the responders.  As we go global with our ability to instantly communicate, we have still assumed that either the readers know our culture (and it’s issues) or we have assumed the whole world is just like our neighborhood/town/country. Does all responsibility lay in the journalist to know their audience, or does the audience need to educate themselves about the journalist?  I believe anyone who wants a better world for all beings should attempt some humility and not cast stones.  But we are human… If there is a definition in any language that can explain all actions of all people that we can agree on it’s probably whispered by children and forgotten by most when we are grown and fragile.

  36. Texan August 6, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    And perhaps it goes deeper, here in the USA, with not being mentioned, because the mainstream media would also have to admit that two women were able to haul 40 drenched terrified teens into their boat in four trips to safety. All without the help of a man. Which is completely unrepresented, unless of course you watch mainstream advertising, marketed at women, where men are all represented as idiots we need to pity. I bet there’s a TV producer already spinning this whole event for a ‘made for TV’ movie about 2 American ‘friends’ who while vacationing in a strange foreign place save some kids from an evil Man, with ‘breaks’ every 10 minutes for scented plug-ins, sturdy trash bags, kitty litter, laundry detergents and hand softening dish soap. Things women should buy that ‘obviously’ will prevent such horribe events from ever occurring here. Do we turn away or promote respect and justice? Some days it’s hard to face the world. Think of the victims of any tragedy. Some will come out better prole for it and some will retreat into rhetoric and hate. Do we judge them whatever route they wind up? Yes, we will. And we will label them as good Christian/Muslim/Buddist/Jew/Hindu or Evil Fundamentalist C/M/J/atheist depending on our own biased convictions. The world grows smaller every day. To all the people who helped and will continue to help to heal the wounds from this tragedy, thank you.

  37. Jennifer Daly August 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Great article, and thank you so much for posting this.

    I just have one comment. I think it’s worth adding that it is important to mention that the couple is a lesbian couple not only because a person’s marginalized sexual orientation typically gets airtime when the person has done something “bad”, but because a. Married couples are still assumed to be heterosexual and so the Other still requires qualification, and b. (I think) it’s pretty certain that this story was underreported because the couple is gay. If you’re going to silence a story because it’s about gays, then we’re going to uncover the story on that very premise. Until gays, and married gays especially, are no longer seen as Other or out of the ordinary, we’re not going to pretend that we’re not being seen that way.

  38. eve August 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    What struck me most when reading this article was that these women showed an amount of love and caring for other people’s children that some parents in the US don’t show for their own children. And yet, due to their same-sex relationship, if they were to choose to have a child/children, at least one of them would be denied parental rights in many places in the US. I realize that’s not part of the original message in your article, and that these women live in Norway which has different laws and attitudes, but it’s a huge part of LGBT discrimination in the US that infuriates me.

  39. Lenka C August 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Hi there,
    I hear your cry and I totally agree that such an act of bravery and humanity should be publicised.

    I even understand why are you trying to emphasise that it was “a married lesbian couple”. And I totally agree that we should not bring up our children in fear.

    We code our social understanding of the world to our children as soon as they arrive into the world. We would like to think that the advice we give to them is for their own good. But do we always think about what are we teaching our children, or are we merely repeating what our parents or other influential people have said to us?

    I currently live in the Caribbean. Living here can come as a bit of a cultural shock to some. At first I felt as if I had travelled 20 years back in time, hearing that being gay is contagious,…that if God wanted us to be gay, he would make us that way (completely disregarding the fact the God may have done just that). Even people, to whom I have the utmost respect for, are scared to allow their children to be friends with a gay person. Being gay can still be dangerous here, due to an negative upbringing/education.

    However, it is my humble opinion that the reason why the Norwegian newspaper failed to mention that the children were saved by a “married lesbian couple” may have been an example of a “Norwegian comprehension of equality”. Because once we truly accept equality, there should be no reason to say what kind of married couple it was. Instead we ought to highlight what a beautiful example of humanity it was.

  40. Mike Worsman August 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing the story about the Norway couple that saved 40 children, we are a news website in Australia that looks at the most interesting and inspiring news and are featuring it as the top story on our site today. See it here http://www.ourworldtoday.com.au/news/article/couple-saves-40-teens-from-massacre I am sure you and your followers will appreciate the news we’re producing

  41. Rob Fetter August 9, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    Excellent post, and I agree on almost all counts. I am particularly pleased with your point about how the media (and the rest of us too, mostly) don’t identify social identity unless it’s a marginalized person doing something bad. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, I made a big deal about how a white man had engaged in domestic terrorism. Few people understood the point: when black people commit crimes, their race is identified, but when white people do so, it’s not. The same is true of LGBT people. Good job.

    One quibble: the debt-ceiling debate is not imaginary. Just because it’s not your primary focus doesn’t mean it’s not real or not important.

  42. Angelika August 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    thank you for caring, sharing & inspiring !
    imho this courage & encouragement is ageless and it can, me-hopes, will inspire people & women all over the world.
    it did/does inspire and move me, emphatically indeed ❤
    greetz & cheers
    Angelika (germany)


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