November 30, 2021
Karen-Christine Friele, known as Kim Friele (* May 27, 1935 as Karen-Christine Wilhelmsen in Bergen; † November 22, 2021) was a Norwegian LGBT and human rights activist and author. She is considered the most famous and influential LGBT activist in Norway. From 1966 to 1970 she was the chairwoman and from 1971 to 1989 the general secretary of the organization Det Norske Forbundet av 1948 (DNF-48).
Youth and first marriage
Friele was born as the daughter of the shipowner Rasmus Johan Wilhelmsen (1903–1984), brother-in-law of the shipowner Hilmar Reksten, and Ruth Adelheid Johannesen (1904–1990). She grew up well-off with her conservative parents and an older brother in a villa in Fana, what is now a district of Bergen. She later said of her parents that they received her coming out as a lesbian relatively well.
After graduating from school in 1954, she studied languages at various universities, including six months of English at the University of Cambridge. In England she also worked as an au pair for the family of the conservative politician Bernard Weatherill. There she was nicknamed "Kim". Friele had initially planned to study law, but due to her wealthy parents she did not receive a scholarship and a degree was felt to be unnecessary in her conservative environment. In 1958 she started working as a secretary at Opplysningskontoret for forsikring in Oslo. On August 8, 1959, at the age of 24, she married the lawyer and childhood friend Ole Friele Jr., but the marriage was dissolved again in 1960. However, she kept the adopted surname in order not to have to trade under her maiden name again as "Fräulein" (frøken). She later kept the name for practical reasons, as a bust of her had since been erected in Oslo and she wanted to avoid trouble.
Engagement in DNF-48
Hoping to find entry into the then secretly operating LGBT group Det Norske Forbundet av 1948 (DNF-48), she said she sat on a bench in front of the Nationaltheatret every Saturday after her marriage. Finally Friele was accepted there. Since homosexual acts between men were still forbidden in Norway at that time, the organization had to act very cautiously and the members mostly used aliases in order not to be recognized. Friele became the first person in Norway to openly use his name to appear in the media as a homosexual person and was also the only known openly homosexual person in Norway for several years. Because of her openness, she received numerous threats and was also physically attacked. From 1966 to 1971 she was the chairman of the DNF-48 and then its general secretary until 1989.In her time at the head of the DNF-48, Friele fought against, among other things, Section 213, which criminalized sexual acts among men. The paragraph was removed from the law books in 1972. Friele also came into contact with the psychiatrist and conservative politician Astrid N. Heiberg, who helped to partially eliminate homosexuality as a diagnosis of illness. After Friele was banned from entering the United States because of her homosexuality, she wrote letters to 700 US politicians. She later also gave a speech in the US Congress, and after retiring from her tenure as general secretary at DNF-48 in 1989, she moved from Oslo to Hardangervidda. She later lived in Geilo with her wife. In 2014, after 51 years as a member, Friele resigned from the National Association for Lesbian and Homosexual Emancipation (LLH; Norwegian: Landsforeningen for lesbisk og homofil frigjøring) and thus protested against the decision of the organization to appoint the Minister for Children, Equality and Inclusion Solveig Hor