Despite their young age, Havu Härmä has already made a big impact. When Havu started speaking out about their life on social media, they did not see it as activism, but as a way to alleviate their frustration around the lack of people to relate to on social media. Since then, their voice has been amplified by positive feedback from other young people and their parents.
It all started when Havu participated in starting Kirjava – A public LGBTQI+ friendly youth space in Helsinki. It was the first of its kind in Finland when it opened in 2014. Kirjava was very much needed and served as a safe space where LGBTQI+ youth could come together and share experiences. Havu has vast experience in advocating for equality. They’ve volunteered at Helsinki Pride – community, participated in starting “dream camps” providing peer support for LGBTQI+ youth, and they participated in the Väestöliitto youth working group that brought Veckan Sex, the sexuality education theme week, to Finland. Talking about Pride 2018, where they put together an exhibit highlighting stories by transyouth, still puts a big smile on Havu’s face. The highlight for Havu was when their idol, President Tarja Halonen wrote in the guest book of the exhibit. Amazing!
What type of role models have you had and how have they impacted you?
I’ve thought both about role models and what drives me to do what I do a lot lately. The list includes a few unruly people who do things their own way. These include for example Tove Jansson, who was a rebel of her time. I also consider my mother and grandmothers as my role models because they are powerful and do as they please. I’ve identified with Viima Lampinen as they were the first person, I ever heard speaking about non-binary identities. I also find role models in social media and there are also amazing activists in my own circle whose work helps me to believe in what I do.
I might not have any clear individual role models, but I get strength from community. Community is my role model. Everyone, who has worked for the community before me. The fact that I can speak as freely and openly as I do and be myself openly, rests on decades and centuries of work and activism before my time. We stand on the shoulders of giants and the solid foundation that they have laid. They give me the strength to grow as a person and do my work.
What kind of role models did you miss while growing up?
Although I’m still young, I feel like media showed a very one-sided view of life in my childhood. Only when I started finding out about things myself, I started seeing people that looked like me. But they were hard to find. I don’t remember ever hearing about LGBTQI+ people in my own circles or in media. Role models were missing exactly when I needed them most, in my childhood and youth. I wish I would have seen different types of people with different identities and paths. I would have needed to see examples of what I could be like and what my life could look like as an adult.
I’m really happy that I’ve now been able to find people to identify with in media and social media. Now I feel like even traditional media is starting to show different life stories and paths. It’s a big deal that there are people and paths to relate to in TV shows now too. It’s particularly important to show empowering and bright stories from a diverse set of people.
What would you say to 13-year-old Havu today?
10 years ago Havu was quite lost and didn’t feel great. At that time, I didn’t know I belonged to a minority both in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. First, I would tell myself to stop caring about other people’s opinions! Already then I wanted to please everyone else. I still don’t want to upset others, but through my activism I’ve found some healthy arrogance and I’ve learned to both demand space and get my voice heard. It’s ok to take up space and make your voice heard! Look around for different role models, there is no single given path that you should take, you’re allowed to create your own paths. Also, I would say to focus on taking really good care of yourself. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is also true for activism.
What makes you speak out about minority and sexual health issues publicly?
This goes back to the importance of role models. I didn’t really have them growing up, so I decided to become one. The speaking began from a personal need for information. For example, for years I had no idea that I needed to think about prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). I’d only learned about the importance of contraception, which wasn’t relevant for me. If I didn’t have that information, how would anyone else? Realizing how many of us there are who need this type of information has encouraged me to speak out even more. When I started speaking openly about my life on social media, I was thanked a lot for bringing up important topics. That’s when I realized what a powerful tool social media can be. Since then I’ve spoken more about minorities, body image, sexual health and sex.
A lot of good has come from speaking up. Time after time when I bring up a new topic, I get feedback that it’s really needed. I really can’t describe the feeling when a young person tells me I’ve had an impact on their life. For me, being a role model for young people means setting a safe example and providing support on their level. Reaching out should be easy, even by sending me a DM on Instagram.
What kind of greetings would you like to send to people during Helsinki Pride week?
Let yourself shine, don’t tone yourself down for anyone else! Pride Week is a wonderful reminder that we are an insanely beautiful and diverse community with amazing people and growth stories. These should get more and more visible, every day of the year. You can also have fun, but I hope Pride returns to its roots this year, to the demonstration. Above all, Pride must be a show of our power, the power of community. We should be proud of ourselves.
One last question. What is your own dream for the future?
First of all, my own personal life dream is to have a family.
It would be amazing to have a job where I could bring up the voices and stories of a diverse set of young people. The scouts taught me to support others and make space for new faces and voices.
I would also love to do more art projects as it’s a powerful way to make an impact. As a freelancer, I could do a variety of training and performance gigs. 😉
Thank you Havu!