Ragnar Birkir is a single parent of three girls, living in Innri-Njarðvík and working at the local primary school and as a Herbalife distributor. At night he sometimes transforms into the drag queen Ina Vagina and performs with Drag-Súgur.
He was seventeen when he first came out as gay but a few years later he had become a member of the Christian denomination Krossinn (e. The Cross), married and a father. Four years ago, after getting a divorce, he came out as gay again and he says the gay scene in Iceland has changed enormously in the twenty years since he first came out.
Ragnar told GayIceland the unusual story of his journey through bullying to coming out, retreating into the closet again and finding the family he‘d always dreamt of in Krossinn, the dissolution of that dream and the return to the gay scene.
“I was born in Keflavík but after my parents got divorced my mother started living with another guy and we moved to the Westman Islands. It was hard. I was the new kid in town and when I was eight years old the kids at school started bullying me for being gay.
I hardly knew what that meant, but it was obviously something ugly and horrible and I felt ashamed, even though I didn‘t know what I should be ashamed for.
The bullying continued til I left the island and moved to Keflavík at seventeen. There I came out of the closet and three years later I moved to Reykjavík.”
“You were urged to become “your true self”, as they called it, which meant that homosexuality was not your true identity; you were just delusional. I was not happy being a gay person and I bought into this way of thinking.”
Ragnar did not feel happy even though he had come out. He had a lot of baggage and to make matters worse his older brother did not agree to his coming out. In his eyes that meant that the bullies had been right and that Ragnar was giving in to them.
“I was very lost and lonely,” Ragnar admits. “And getting my brother up against me was not helping. So I started going to meetings at Krossinn with a girl I was working with and in a way it felt like coming home. You were welcomed as a member of this big family and everyone was supportive.”
It did not take long for Ragnar to get back into the closet after starting going to Krossinn. Asked if there was a systematic program there to try to change people’s sexual orientation he says that, no, there was no such program but it was obvious that homosexuality was not looked upon favourably.
“You were urged to become “your true self”, as they called it, which meant that homosexuality was not your true identity; you were just delusional. I was not happy being a gay person and I bought into this way of thinking, married a girl in Krossinn and tried to be “normal”. I really, really wanted to fit in and be like the others. This seemed like the right way to do that.”
The marriage was a rocky one and after the divorce Ragnar and his wife got into a custody battle which he won. He does not want to go into any details regarding the marriage, just points out that obviously it could never have worked as he does not consider himself bisexual, he is one hundred percent gay.
“I was just so lost. My mother died when I was nineteen; my older brother made me go to a psychologist to get help with stopping being gay; I had all these years of harsh bullying to work through and all I really wanted was to find some peace, whatever the cost. But now I know that I‘m gay, there is absolutely no question about that.”
Breaking down the walls
Coming back out was not an easy task. The gay scene has changed enormously and Ragnar says that he was really scared at the start. “This June it will be four years since I came back out as gay. The scene has certainly changed, but I think maybe the biggest change lies in the way I look at my self as a gay person.
When I was seventeen I only looked at the darker sides of being gay; not being able to have a family, not being normal, having to be active in the drinking and dancing scene to have a chance of meeting someone to love etc. I did not experience the gay lifestyle as being normal.
Today that has changed. Some even say that the normalisation has gone to far, that it has made gay people less visible and weakened the solidarity in the gay community. Now the communication is mostly limited to dating sites, there is no real gay scene in Iceland, no place you can go to meet other gays.
That is not necessarily a positive evolution. It‘s great in many ways, but at the same time it has made the gays less visible in the community. And I think that part of the prejudices against gay people lies within the gay community itself. There is this notion that you are supposed to be a real straight acting man even if you are gay and femmes like me are frowned upon in some circles within the gay community.
“There is this notion that you are supposed to be a real straight acting man even if you are gay and femmes like me are frowned upon in some circles … To me that looks like hating yourself for being gay …”
To me that looks like hating yourself for being gay and I‘ve spent years fighting that hatred in myself so I‘m not prepared to start acting straight again just to please some other gays out there.
It was really hard for me to start performing in drag again, but that‘s part of who I am and it is a necessary part of breaking down the walls I have built around myself as a gay person. That is what I am doing now; breaking down more and more of these walls.”
A fulfilling life
Since coming back out four years ago Ragnar has been in two short relationships, but they did not work out and obviously he sets high standards being a father of three. Laughingly he explains that some people have a hard time seeing gays as committed fathers.
“Some people get very confused when I say that I have three daughters who are living with me. It‘s like they think I bought them from some catalogue. And of course it is an obstacle for some men in dating me.
One of the guys I was in a relationship with made it very clear that he did not want children, so there was no point in keeping that relationship going.
I would never ever abandon my daughters for some guy. They are absolutely the best thing in my life. But of course I want to find love, don‘t we all?
“My life is very fulfilling as it is and I‘m positive that when the time is right I will find the right man.”
My girls are always asking me when I‘m gonna get a boyfriend, but I‘m in no hurry. My life is very fulfilling as it is and I‘m positive that when the time is right I will find the right man. I‘m just not willing to start putting on some playacting to find that love.
I‘ve spent years coming to terms with the fact that the normal version of me is the guy I am today; a gay single parent who is at ease with the fact that he is feminine in many ways but still one hundred percent male and that is exactly who I am meant to be.”