Icelandic secondary school to mark a policy in queer matters, the first to do so. Headmaster believes that other schools in Iceland will follow suit.
Gardabaer College (Fjölbrautaskólinn í Garðabæ) aims to mark a policy in the matters of queer students, the first of Icelandic secondary schools to do so.
The wheels have already been set in motion, and a committee is working on marking the policy.
The headmaster, Kristinn Þorsteinsson, is sure that other secondary schools in Iceland will follow suit and that a policy in the matters of queer students will be marked in all Icelandic colleges in the future.
“We have to take notice of changing times,” Kristinn says. “Researches in United States have shown that queer students, especially the girls, feel worse than other students during their tenure at colleges and we have to address that. It’s not enough to guarantee queer students equal rights, which of course is bound in the law, but we also have to look out for their wellbeing and do what we can to make their college years a good time.”
And this will be the first time that an Icelandic college marks such a policy?
“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” says Kristinn. “None of them has done it yet, but I don’t know what they are planning. Maybe some of the headmasters of the other colleges are sitting at their desks right now, making plans to mark such a policy, you never know. I am at least sure that it will be standard practice within few years. The times call for a change in these matters.”
How the policy will be executed is not clear at this moment. But there has already been a meeting about the subject at the college where 30 people attended and showed lots of interest in this new policy marking.
Kristinn says that the idea for the meeting was not his but that two of the teachers at the college, Petrún Björg Jónsdóttir and Bjarni Snæbjörnsson, who came up with this idea and organised the meeting.
We did ask members of the National Queer Organization, Samtökin ’78, to come and hold lectures about trans and non-binary matters last year and we learned a lot from that. But the queer community is changing rapidly and we need to be up to date with those changes. We need to be constantly educating ourselves on queer matters and have a marked policy.”
“It can only be for the good of a society to grant minority groups the rights that we in the majority have always taken for granted.”
Last year Kristinn was on a study leave in The United States where he made an effort to look into how schools handled the matters of queer students.
“I stayed in California and was especially interested in looking at how the law about education in that state handles queer matters. I have to say that I was impressed by what I learned and I admire them for their efforts, not least because the prejudices that they are dealing with are far stronger than what we experience here in Iceland. And if they can do it in that environment it should be an easy task for us to mark a policy in Icelandic secondary schools that really ensures the wellbeing of queer students.”
Owercame his own prejudice
But why did this Icelandic headmaster take such an interest in how queer matters are handled in California? Kristinn says that in fact it all started 13 years ago when he hired the first queer teacher to teach at Garðabaer’s junior college.
“Yes, it was not til 2005 that we hired the first queer teacher that we know of. She told us in her application that she was a lesbian living with another woman and I have to admit that even though I thought of myself as very liberal I hesitated to hire her and we at the administration discussed it. Thankfully we overcame our prejudices and we hired this great sports teacher that has enriched the school for thirteen years now.
A few years later we hired a trans woman and again we had to overcome our prejudices and fear to do so. We hired her and she was a good employee but she has now left us to work in a new field where she is excelling at her job.
So, what did that teach me? That there was never anything to fear but fear itself. I find it hard, in fact to come to terms with how prejudiced I was only thirteen years ago.
“… it is not only I who has changed but the whole of society has come a long way in it’s attitude towards queer people and we want to make sure it will keep changing even more for the better.”
But in these thirteen years it is not only I who has changed but the whole of society has come a long way in it’s attitude towards queer people and we want to make sure it will keep changing even more for the better. To deny queer people the opportunity to live their lives as they choose or are meant to do will always result in making their lives and the whole of society poorer.
We don’t have to know any details in the diverse world of sexual preference or gender, we only have to know that in our society there is room for everyone. It can only be for the good of a society to grant minority groups the rights that we in the majority have always taken for granted.”