Icelandic secondary schools are currently planning to found a national queer student union. Þórhildur Elínardóttir Magnúsdóttir, chairman of the newly founded queer student union at secondary school Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð, says that the intention is to make schools more open and queer friendly.
Before we ask you about the national queer student union, tell us a bit about your newly founded queer student union at Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð. What is your aim? “We just want to spread the queer message and to educate others about what it means to be queer, in every sense of the word,” says Þórhildur.
Þórhildur was chosen to lead the queer union without election and is up for the challenge. “The union was founded by me and five other queers students but we have known each other for a while through (the national queer organization) Samtökin ’78. We decided in-between ourselves who should be chairman, vice chairman and so on, based on who had the time and passion for it. I’ve never done anything like this before and it’s really exciting,”she says.
MH is one of the first secondary schools in Iceland to have a queer student union and Þórhildur says that the members have a lot planned for this school year. “We have set up a meeting with the headmaster to talk about some issues, such as removing gender signs from public restrooms and having obligatory education at the school for students and teachers about queer concepts.
We would also like further education for teachers so they know how to react if, for example, a trans student wants to go by another name than the one that is listed at Registers Iceland (Þjóðskrá),” she says and adds that the union is planning a queer week which will be held next week at MH.
“There will be educational messages from Samtökin ’78 and BDSM Iceland, as well as some sexual education. We will also get queer friendly musicians to perform during lunch breaks at the school and are planning a munch night where everyone’s welcome to gather at Norðurkjallarinn after school, watch a movie, eat some crisps and have a cozy time,” says Þórhildur, referring to a space at the school which is laden with pillows.
Making schools more queer friendly, one step at a time
Þórhildur is not stopping there because her vision is to found a national queer student union with all secondary schools in Iceland.
“That is my plan and I get full support from the confidential council (trúnaðarráð) at Samtökin ’78. I would like to set up some sort of arrangement with all secondary schools in the country and encourage them to found their own queer or equality union within the school, to make the schools and the student unions more queer friendly,” she says. The queer student unions that are already established in Iceland would be of any assistance to these secondary schools and guide them in the right direction.
“… this is the first step; to build a network so that all students and teachers at this educational level get education about the queer community.”
“I believe it would take longer to found a national union with all of the secondary schools in the country but this is the first step; to build a network so that all students and teachers at this educational level get education about the queer community,” she explains.
Þórhildur only got the idea this summer, while schools were on holiday, but has already taken the first steps. “I have talked to two other secondary schools that have queer student unions, Kvennaskólinn í Reykjavík and Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík, and asked for their cooperation. The next step is to contact all secondary schools in the country which will be done in the next weeks,” she says with a smile, as she heads into her next class.
But with all this going on, does she have any time to study?
“Yes, I do! But I always have to keep myself busy with something.”