The US became the first majority-white country last week to elect a non-white head of state, and this week Iceland looks like it will become the first country to have an openly-queer head of government. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a Social Democrat and the current Minister of Social Affairs who's also openly lesbian, is likely to be announced as the new prime minister as the former Icelandic prime minister leaves office due to esophageal cancer.
Besides being the first lesbian prime minister in the world, she's also the first female prime minister in Iceland.
Jóhanna's rise in politics in and of itself is pretty amazing. She graduated from a vocational high school and went to work as a flight attendant, rising up through trade union ranks to preside over the boards of both the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association and the Association of Former Stewardesses by 1975. She was elected to Parliament in 1978 and was first appointed Minister of Social Affairs in 1987.
While I'm sure a lot of people will be pointing out how different Iceland is for having an openly lesbian Prime Minister, it's also important to note that her primary pre-political experience was in labor. It's hard to imagine an American politician rising to such a level on that experience, especially after conservatives mocked Obama's experiences as a Constitutional law scholar and community organizer as incommensurate with high office.
Jóhanna enjoys a sky-high approval rating at 73% according to a December, 2008, Capacent Gallup Poll. Which will be useful, because she's taking on the biggest financial crisis, for the size of the country in which it took place, in the world's history.
Iceland apparently was bitten by the deregulation bug this past decade, and it resulted in banks taking on more debt than they could handle - an amount equivalent to about $200,000 per person. The banks collapsed this past year as loans became harder to hide and investors wanted returns, and, with that, the country's three banks were nationalized. Its currency is in free-fall and people are panicking.
It's a daunting task, and Icelanders will have a lesbian union worker to take it on. This really is a year for change.