Gunnlaugur Bragi Björnsson is the new president of Reykjavík Pride and he also recently took office as deputy city councillor in Reykjavík. He’s been active in social work for years, but it all started with the scouts in his hometown of Höfn í Hornafirði when he was a boy.
“I´m interested in so many things and my drive is the urge to be of use to society,” Gunnlaugur says when asked why he is so active. “I want to take part in making our community better so I have been active in all kinds of associations for a long time. It started when I was a boy, growing up in Höfn when I became a boyscout, after that I started working for the Red Cross and it has become more and more as I’ve grown older. I was on the board of the National Queer Organisation, Samtökin ’78, for a while and from there I went to be on the board of Reyjavík Pride, where I was a treasurer til earlier this year when I cecame a chair of the board.”
Besides all of that Gunnlaugur is a new deputy city councillor for The Reform Party, Viðreisn. Why did he choose to get into politics?
“Yes, I’ve only just started acting as a deputy city councillor and I’m really looking forward to tackling the job that that entails,” Gunnlaugur explains. “I wanted to offer my services to the Reform Party, partly to make sure that diverse groups had their represants in the council. We can be proud of the things we have achieved here in Iceland and how the city of Reykjavík has supported diversity and human rights. But we can always do better and it is very important that diverse groups have their say in how these matters progress in the city.”
“I had added the dots and realised who I am before I left, but I didn’t have the courage to come out then. That was to big a step for me at the time.”
Gunnlaugur says that to his best knowledge there has never been a queer person elected to the city council before, though there have been some queer individuals in some of the committees of the city, but after the elections this summer there are two of them.
“Yes, it’s wonderful that both me and Alexandra Briem got elected this summer I’m really happy about that.”
Enough of politics. What about Gunnlaugur’s personal life? What did he for example do for a living before he was elected to city counsil?
“I’ve worked in a bank for the last five years, ever since I finished my business degree from university. I’ve worked in various departments within the bank, for the last year or so as a specialist in their division of communication.”
Gunnlaugur moved to Reykjavík when he was 16 years old and has been living there ever since. Asked if he thinks growing up in a small community has contributed to his interest in pulling his weight to make society better, he says that might well be the case as obviously every individual has more impact in a small town than in a city.
“It’s hard to say exactly what it was that made me who I am today, but obviously being from a small town is a big factor. My opinion is that wherever you live your input is important and one of the things I hope to accomplish in the city council is getting in better touch with the citizens and activate them in making Reykjavík a better place for us all. I have always enjoyed being active in all kinds of associations, I studied music in the music school in my hometown as well as taking part in the theatre group there so obviously I was raised in the spirit of taking part in everything the community has to offer it has become a way of thinking and living for me ever since then. I want to take part in the game, not sit aside and do nothing.”
Being only 16 years old when he left Höfn Gunnlaugur says that he did not experience being “the only gay in the village” and in fact he did not come out as gay til after twenty.
“I had added the dots and realised who I am before I left, but I didn’t have the courage to come out then,” he explains. “That was to big a step for me at the time. Thinking back I don’t understand why I did not come out as gay after I moved to the city and experienced the difference in attitute to being queer. But I think the main reason was that I was not at ease with the thought of being gay at that time and it took some years for me to sort myself out and accept being who I am.”
Today Gunnlaugur is 29 years old and happily gay, in a relationship that has lasted since the end of last year. Does his partner take part in his political expeditions?
“In his way he does,” Gunnlaugur says with a laugh. “My boyfriend, Atte, is Finnish and has only been living in Iceland for seven months so I guess he’s still kind of figuring out our Icelandic community, but in Finland he’s been very active in his field, which is in the theatre and dance community and he is very supportive of my political career. I can honestly say that he is my biggest supporter whether it’s as a politician, president of Pride or as a person.”
“We are really excited about the program, which is bigger and longer than ever before, with more events and new features like workshops that have not been a part of the festival before.”
The Reykjavík Pride 2018 is almost upon us, will there be any changes in how they are executed with a new person at the steering wheel?
“We won’t make any drastic changes this year although new people always bring new ideas and new ways of doing things. Like previous years we’ll start on Tuesday and the party goes on til the following Sunday. Some of the events have become a fixed point in the celebrations and some are brand new. I advise all those who are interested to get a copy of our Pride Magazine or visit our website, and study the program. We are really excited about the program, which is bigger and longer than ever before, with more events and new features like workshops that have not been a part of the festival before. Some of the events are in English, others in Icelandic so I sincerely hope that locals and tourists alike will find some events that are right for them. I just hope the weather will treat us decently, though some of our best prides have actually taken place in pouring rain. It does not put a damper on the joy and happiness but of course it’s always better when the sun shines on us.”