For Margrét Ágústa Þorvaldsdóttir, coming out was a long and difficult process. It took years for her to accept that she was gay, and it was only a few years ago that she began coming out to her family, friends and community. Now, Margrét wants to share her story so that people out there in similar situations know that stories like theirs can have a happy ending.
Before coming out in 2016, Margrét was married to her ex-husband for 13 years. The two of them met when Margrét was 16 years old, and she says they started dating shortly after that. They married when she was 23 years old, and they had their first child a year later.
“At that time, I wasn’t unhappy. I wanted to believe that I was in love. I loved the feeling of security, starting a family, building a life and that kind of thing,” she says. “I felt attraction to women, but I pushed it away. I thought that all women probably felt the same at some point. And time went on — we had two more kids, bought a nice apartment, and busy family life took over.”
Margrét says something changed after her youngest child was born in 2009. “I felt sad, I struggled figuring out what was missing, what was wrong with me. I felt the attraction towards women growing stronger. Feelings that I had probably suppressed for many years. I tried to push those feelings away again, but they just kept coming back stronger and stronger.
“Those years were tough. I struggled alone for years. Just trying to figure out if it was just a phase that would pass, or if I was truly attracted to women.”
‘A huge weight off my shoulders’
In those days, Margrét says she didn’t know of anyone who had gone through something similar, and she was afraid to seeking out other people or information on the internet. It wasn’t until 2015 that she says she finally stopped questioning her feelings and said the words out loud to herself for the first time — she was gay.
“A huge weight was off my shoulders doing that,” she says. “But at the same time I thought: now what?” It was another year before she told her husband and asked for a divorce.
“During those years I felt guilt, I felt anger, I felt confusion, sadness, and isolation. I was scared and I struggled every day,” she says. “I knew my life was a lie and I couldn’t be authentic in any way. I did my best just hiding my feelings and I screened my thoughts and words. I started avoiding conversations, I stopped talking to family and friends, I just wanted to keep my family together. I stayed in my marriage because I thought it would be better for my kids.”
“During those years I felt guilt, I felt anger, I felt confusion, sadness, and isolation. I was scared and I struggled every day. I knew my life was a lie and I couldn’t be authentic in any way.”
When she eventually came out, Margrét says her family was very supportive — including her ex-husband. “I didn’t know what to expect from him, but he was the best. He supported me all the way,” Margret says. “My closest family knew that I was hiding something big, everyone knew that I wasn’t feeling well. I think they were actually relieved knowing the reason for my unhappiness. I haven’t had any problems with my family. I think actually the divorce was more of a thing for the kids than actually me coming out.”
In particular, Margrét says her sister was a huge support for her as she was coming out. “She was the one who I confided in and the first one I told about this. She took a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Margrét says. “She’s the one who I can always look to with advice, or just to talk. She never judges me in any way, and she listens to my stories. She gives me advice when she can, but just to be there and listen means a lot to me.”
‘I’m not a new person’
Since coming out, she says one of the biggest challenges has been figuring out for herself who the real Margrét is. “When I was in the closet it was a complete isolation,” she says. “I didn’t talk to anyone, so just opening up to anyone was a big deal to me. I cared a lot about how people saw me and what they thought about me, and I was very aware of myself and how people saw me. And that’s a challenge that I’ve had to deal with on my own, just coming out as myself, not trying to be someone who I’m not.
I even thought about who I should be now that I’m out of the closet. I can be anyone that I want, but you can’t change who you are really,” Margrét says she realized. “I’m not a new person now that I’ve come out of the closet. I’m still me really, but even more me than before.”
She says that coming out later in life definitely makes you feel kind of like a teenager again. “Opening up on your thoughts and feelings, that opens you up in a different level.”
Although she had no connections in the gay community in Iceland, after she came out Margret says she really wanted to get to know other queer people and become part of the community. “I craved meeting people and relating to finding my tribe,” she says. “Just finding people who share the same experience — that meant a lot to me.”
‘People have been very welcoming’
One of the first things Margrét did after coming out was join the Reykjavík Queer Choir. “That was a smart move,” she says. “I’ve met amazing people and made great friends who have actually made this journey a lot easier.”
Now, Margrét says she feels like she’s part of Iceland’s queer community. “People have been very welcoming,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a big deal to people who I came out late in life. Just during the time that I’ve been out of the closet I now know other women who have gone through exactly the same thing that I did.”
Despite the warm welcome, Margrét says she hasn’t started dating yet. “It hasn’t been long since I came out of the closet, so I’m really taking some time to adjust to my new life,” she says. “I was never in a rush to start dating again.”
When asked what she would like to say to other people going through similar experiences, she says she wants people to know that their story can have a happy ending. She also says she think it’s important for people to find someone to confide in.
“If you can confide in a family member or a friend, I would definitely recommend it because having to go through this alone is probably the hardest thing, just keeping it all to yourself,” she says. “Sharing it with someone might take a little bit of weight off your shoulders.”