STOCKHOLM: Swedish Crown Princess Victoria made headlines Tuesday after handing out the country's "Gay of the Year" award to an author whose writings about the 1980s AIDS crisis has gripped the nation.
"It's a true delight for me to be here tonight. To feel your power, your happiness and your sense of community," the princess said in a speech hailed as historic by media and gay rights activists.
The princess, 35, entered the stage to the tones of disco group ABBA's "Dancing Queen" at an awards ceremony organised by a gay magazine.
The prize was given to author and comedian Jonas Gardell, whose book and TV series "Never Dry Tears Without Gloves" has sparked a national debate on the treatment of gay men during the onset of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
The book's title refers to the instructions given to a nurse as she wiped tears off a dying man's face.
"Few have touched us and made us so proud as you have. Your message is clear. Straighten your back. Stretch out your hand. We will wipe each other's tears," Victoria said to the author after a surprise appearance that prompted a standing ovation at the glitzy award show.
"Victoria, you're our crown princess, but I think tonight I'm our queen," Gardell replied.
Last year's Gay of the Year title went to Sweden's first elite footballer to announce he's gay, Anton Hysen, son of former Liverpool star Glenn Hysen.
Sweden legalised gay marriage in 2009 and the Lutheran Church, which was the state church until 2000, has authorised the celebration of same sex marriages.
But the first part of Gardell's triology on the AIDS epidemic shook the country's tolerant self image and has prompted calls for an official apology to the gay community.
"I'm not looking for an apology. I want to finally be able to talk about it. To no longer put a lid on it, to finally be able to remember," Gardell last month wrote in daily Svenska Dagbladet.