Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, but Queer Pluto gives LGBTQI youths somewhere to be.
Navigating the world as a teenager is difficult, and that can be even tougher for youths who identity as LGBTQI or are questioning their identity, sexuality, gender, the meaning of life, or even what planet they are from. Queer Pluto provides a safe space for discussion and for young people to meet others like themselves. GayIceland sits down with co-founder of Queer Pluto, Ragnar Birkir Bjarkarson to discuss the project and the difference it makes in the lives of young people.
According to Ragnar, who is gay, the project was set up by two friends who wanted to make sure that the local young people of Keflavik, a town in the South of Iceland, had somewhere they could feel safe and socialize. “Me and my friend Guðrún María Þorgeirsdóttir started it. Her daughter was coming out of the closet trying to figure who she was and we started talking about what a cool organization they had in Reykjavik and how cool it would be if the youth here in Keflavík had the same thing. I have three kids and I wouldn’t want them travelling so far to have to go a group like that, especially since we are thinking about children aged 12- 17.
“They are there to have a sense of community with other LGBTQ kids who are questioning life and sexuality and feel safe. We have information group talks about being gender fluid, straight, bisexual, gay etc.”
He adds that the name Queer Pluto comes from Guðrún’s daughter, Elíana Sól, who he thinks is a very brave young woman. “She said, ‘if women are from Venus and men are from Mars, maybe gay people come from Pluto?”
The group runs on Thursday evenings from 8pm to 9:30pm at a place called 88 Húsið. Keflavík. Everyone between the ages of 12-17 is welcome and the sessions run with a strong sense of trust and respect between members.
“What we talk about during the session is in privacy, and we don’t talk about it to anyone outside of the group. Parents are also welcome but we haven’t had any parents join yet. You can bring friends who are there to show support, or friends who also questioning their sexuality and life in general.”
Although young people of all identities are welcome, typical group sessions involve discussing sexuality, identity and anything else that the young people want to bring up.
“They are there to have a sense of community with other LGBTQ kids who are questioning life and sexuality and feel safe. We have information group talks about being gender fluid, straight, bisexual, gay etc.
But we also talk about how life is in school knowing that you are the way you are. Are you being bullied? Do yo have friends? How do you feel in society? Helping them understand they are not alone in the world. There are so many people who are LGBTQI and have been, in other words in the same shoes as these kids. There is nothing new under the sun.”
From his own experience, Ragnar saw the importance of having an inclusive and supportive space for LGBTQI young people.
“I think it is very important to have a community like this for children at this age. I wish that I would have had the opportunity to be in something like that at their age. I grew up on a small island and at the age of 8, people there had decided I was gay, I didn’t even know what that meant and I was bullied a lot. I would have wanted to understand it better.”
“I grew up on a small island and at the age of 8, people there had decided I was gay, I didn’t even know what that meant and I was bullied a lot. I would have wanted to understand it better.”
As with any LGBTQ group, there is always a worry that it will be met with negativity from the community, but for Queer Pluto the experience has been positive.
“We have only experienced positive things,” says Ragnar. “There were a few schools that didn’t want to put up our advert about the youth group but it was due to a combination of being afraid about how parents would react and about the new ‘personality law’ that came in Iceland in June last year. So the reaction has mostly been very good.”
Speaking about where he would like to see Queer Pluto in five years time, he says: “I would like to see it at a the same location which is great and more kids being there and the group fully gripped into the community.”
Queer Pluto welcomes anybody aged 12-17 on Thursday evenings from 8pm to 9:30pm at 88 Húsið, in town Keflavik, in the South of Iceland.