The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Gay in Greece

I just came across this personal story about “Being Gay in Greece” published on the American Chronicle.

One of the hardest thing about being gay in Greece is the widespread homophobia. I’ve experienced it in school, in the workplace, in the military. You see, to much of the world homosexuality is accepted as something you are born into – with the joys and pain that come with it. People don’t fear you, at worst there is an attitude of ‘poor guy to have been born gay’. My homeland, Greece, however is very different. According to Eurobarometer 2008 – Greece and Cyprus are the two countries that have the highest rates of anti-homosexual discrimination. 85% of Greeks are against gay marriage – something that isn’t questioned in the rest of Europe.

It is always interesting (and painful) to hear from people who are actually experiencing the discrimination that I focus on on this blog. If you have a personal story, you are more than welcome to send it to me for publication here. Please send it to: thedeviousdiva at gmail dot com. You can remain anonymous if you would prefer. If you would just like to let me know your story without it being made public, let me know in the email.

Please read the full article Being Gay in Greece here

Also see LGBT Rights in Greece on Wikipedia

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14 Comments

  1. Xenos
    September 16, 2009    

    This is another of those strange areas where Greeks deny being homophobic (racist etc), even though all of the evidence points clearly to a social problem in accepting homosexuality.

    In another respect (toleration of gay sex) Greeks are actually quite liberal: they just expect anyone who is gay to be ashamed of it, not to mention it in public, and certainly not to ask for gay marriages! How ridiculous even to think of it, as the Orthodox Church cannot approve of gay relationships (but is very keen on gay sex).

    The result of this social stigma and neurosis is that entire universities have no openly gay staff or students, although if you attend student parties these things appear quite freely after alcohol has been flowing… The whole thing is just pure hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness issued by the Church and passively accepted by Greek society.

  2. Pd
    September 16, 2009    

    That personal story carries the quality of the average AmericanChronicle article with it.

    Xenos, the clergy is on average statistically gayer than the overall population according to you (“*very keen* on gay sex”) but I don’t see why that would be the case in that particular group. What’s your explanation?

  3. Xenos
    September 16, 2009    

    Pd: I have no idea! And of course, the claim is not scientifically based, but relies on popular Greek opinion… It might merely be tradition, or it might be that popular opinion is wrong :-)

  4. Oath Taken
    September 16, 2009    

    Xenos I see you cannot miss a single opportunity at Greek bashing. :-) From the late 1980s to today attitudes and tolerance towards homosexuals have moved by leaps and bounds in Greece and to not admit it is sheer hypocrisy. Are they at the level of many (but not all) other EU countries, including the “Western” ones? Clearly not but given the starting point I’m not surprised. Openly gay people star in TV shows (and TV shows have gay characters) and popular culture is full of gay personae (openly gay or having being continuously claimed as gay and having never denied – or confirmed – it). Are we at the level of full equality? Most certainly not – but to not see the progress (or in the eyes my conservative family’s previous generation the onset of depravity :-) can only be a bad joke.

    I remember when in the 1990s it was a big shock in the USA for Ellen DeGeneres to make both her TV persona come out of the closet and then come out of the closet herself. It destroyed her career for quite a few years. Now society has caught on and gay marriage is being instituted (very slowly) in more than one state – at the same time the issue most probably cost John Kerry his presidential bid in 2004 (and he was not even for it just like Obama sticking to the civil union option). But even in “liberal” Massachusetts, where it was first instituted, gay marriage came by court decision, not by popular opinion and in fact the legislature used what can only be frankly described as dirty procedural tricks to prevent the issue of gay marriage from becoming a ballot question as they knew that it would probably end up being voted down (as it did in “liberal” California). People’s attitudes cannot change overnight and marriage has such a symbolic status that you will find quite a few people that are all for civil unions fully equivalent in terms of rights conferred to marriage but draw the line at calling the union of two people of the same sex as marriage.

    As for your other stab at priests, cases of homosexual behavior (or the really serious issues of pedophilia) are restricted almost exclusively to unmarried priests aiming for positions in the church hierarchy as well as monks. Essentially the cases where celibacy is required. That is in conformance with the extremely serious issues that the Catholic church (in which all priests are unmarried and celibate) has faced. The usual gossip btw. in Greece is of bishops (or lower ranked celibate priests) having mistresses which they conceal as their housekeepers. In some cases they are supposed to be their wives practically. The gossip about homosexuality is more usually targeted at monks. Gossip towards nuns is usually meant to suggest they are having illicit relations with the local bishop or with the priest taking their confession. Married neighborhood priests, when accused, find themselves blamed of being greedy, rude, backward and when it comes to sexual mores of infidelity.

    (based on cases that reach publicity as well as a careful observation of the “popular” opinion you quote – let’s call it neighborhood gossip to be realistic)

  5. Oath Taken
    September 16, 2009    

    Oops – that’s what happens when you stick to the HTML entry box – the last sentence was left over in terms of editing instead of being placed before “Essentially the ” above.

    BTW the group that really face far worse discrimination – both in Greece and elsewhere – IMVHO are trans-gendered people – even from members of the homosexual community themselves.

  6. Xenos
    September 17, 2009    

    If you are telling us that Greece is not as homophobic as it used to be, I wouldn’t know if that is true or not. What I do know is that Greece has been a member of the EU since 1981 and is incapable of accepting the most basic legal concepts of non-discrimination in ethnic, religious and sexual orientation that have been required by EU law since 2000. It is not “Greek-bashing” to point out how backward and opposed to the modern world and the values of the rest of Europe are the Greek population and politicians.

    My comments on the Greek church are nothing more than a repeat of Greek popular discourse on the topic. Since this emanates from the Greek population it can hardly be described as Greek-bashing. Oh, wait a moment! I forgot, it’s ok for Greeks to say these things but other ethnic groups are not allowed to do so. Yes, we xenoi all know this warped Greek way of thinking.

  7. Oath Taken
    September 17, 2009    

    a) As I said the progress (given the starting point) is actually very big.
    b) You mean to tell me with a straight face that in the rest of the EU (let alone Europe as a whole) attitudes towards homosexuals are nowhere worse than in Greece? BTW you said “modern world and the values of the rest of Europe”.
    c) I gave you a detailed analysis of the popular discourse, breaking it down by category. You reply with the same old arguments. I suggest you get a more representative sample for making “public discourse” statements.

  8. Stassa
    September 17, 2009    

    Ahem. The situation of gay men in Greece is complicated (btw, I’m including trans women in that group, because historically there has been very little difference in identity, until very recently). Male homosexuality is both common and not openly discussed. Basically that means that Greek men don’t find gay sex itself a big deal, as long as the positions are clear (ie, who tops whom). But being gay or straight is a very big deal. Or at least it used to be.

    It used to be that Greece was heaven if you wanted to have gay sex, but hell if you wanted to do it openly. Nowadays, I don’t really know. Like Oath says, things have relaxed, in the last few decades. I mean, obviously.

    Comparisons with “the rest of the world” though, are, as usual, hasty and shallow. Homophobia in Greece means completely different things than it means in, say Turkey or the United Kindgom. For one thing, there is very little homophobic violence in Greece, while, in the US or the UK, when they say “gay bashing” they literally mean that people will knock your teeth out because you’re “a faggot”. I know for example that I’ve never feared for my safety even in the seediest bits of Athens. In the UK I’m always mindful (even in Brighton, the gay capital of Europe etc etc.) and discussions in trans forums are often about “safe venues”.

    On the other hand, in Greece socialising means gossip and gossip means ridiculing other peoples’ private lives. And when I say private lives, I mean sex lives, because nothing ever stays private for long. So for most people what takes the biggest toll is the constant drip-drip of small, tiny, everyday humiliations or the fact that they have to keep a part of their lives locked away, for most of their day, to pretend to be something they are not, in order to have any chance to advance socially.

    In the end, it all comes down to what kind of person you are and how you are able to handle things and establish yourself. I’ve known out gay men who were entirely accepted by their peers and others who were ruthlessly ostracised. But of course, that’s why we need legislation: to protect those who can’t survive only by dint of their personal strength. As about the whole marriage and adoption thing there’s no excuse that, say, Uruguay and Albania propose laws for gay marriage and adoption and Greek legislators claim “society is not yet ready”. That’s just malakies.

    As about bi’s and lesbians (not to mention transmen, oh no)- those people don’t exist. It’s official. Hey, I’ve been told as much by many gay men themselves. They should know.

    … yeah, identity politics. Sucks.

  9. Stassa
    September 17, 2009    

    Xenos,

    I would not hasten to pass the cigars around, when it comes to human rights in general, at the present time. It doesn’t help that the same Western countries who present themselves as bastions of human rights routinely violate the shit out of them every chance they get. I’m talking mostly about the foreign politics of certain Western powers, but even in the rest of Europe, homophobia, misogynism, racism, ableism and all forms of bigotry are alive and well and write home every Christmas. You may have missed it, busy academic man that you are, but the social movements of the ’60s and ’70s have been on the back foot for quite some time. Maybe you’ve heard of “feminist backlash” for example, or little details like how women are still paid considerably less than men, in the UK, or how rape convictions are in the 5% or so. I keep mentioning the UK btw, as a convenient example of a country some of us here know well, and one that has legislated against discrimination and for minority rights in the recent past (in fact, in the last 20 years or so).

  10. Xenos
    September 17, 2009    

    Stassa: I don’t really disagree with any of that. My point was about the legislative situation in Greece, a country which has too many laws for completely irrelevant things (including “photographic laws” to award jobs or fake university degrees to political friends) and yet has never made any attempt to justify its inclusion in the Council of Europe by passing adequate human rights legislation. Continually, the state is dragged kicking and screaming before the European Court of Human Rights, and even the European Court of Justice for its denial of basic rights.

    Now, what you are talking about in the rest of the EU (especially the UK) is how the society tries to avoid conforming to such laws. That includes ordinary people, employers, trade unions, local government… Enforcement of law is not easy, and this area of law is one of the most difficult to implement. Nevertheless, with some effort, a little support from legal aid centres or with legal aid, and some hard evidence, you will win your case in the UK. In Greece, there is no legal aid, the relevant laws have been passed only recently and reluctantly, and their enforcement is almost entirely absent. You are very unlikely to win any case relating to discrimination — not least, because of the corruption and ignorance of Greek judges.

    So, if you want to complain about British society and the violent homophobia and racism there, I agree completely. But at least you have some legal protection. In Greece, the violence in these areas is slowly emerging, but has been zero in the past. The real damage to people is done by malicious gossip, exclusion of people from networks and access to employment etc: in a society where almost all employment is gained through connections, this is a very serious (almost violent) thing. You cannot compare across societies, but you can compare how states and government perform in trying to promote individual rights and protection. Greece is an abject failure.

  11. menos
    September 21, 2009    

    The notion that you cannot make cross cultural comparisons on issues like this is just a cop out. Greece IS behind other EU nations on gay rights and issues. That’s just a fact. I’ve lived in both Holland and Greece and the attitudes towards gays in Holland are totally different.

    To be ‘openly gay’ in Greece is still a problem. We can’t deny that.

    STASSA: I agree the ‘social movements have been on the back foot for a long time’, esp in Greece.

    Did any of the great micro-political movements of the 60’s hit Greece seriously? i.e comparably to other Western nations?

    The women in Greece today remind me of where American and Australian women were in the 70’s.

  12. Stassa
    September 23, 2009    

    The Netherlands are way ahead most nations of the world when it comes to lgbt rights. If you want a clear picture of the situation in Greece, compare it, or any country for that matter, to the average situation for gays in the world today. Otherwise you might as well compare lgbt rights in Greece with lgbt rights in Afghanistan, say.

    Human rights legislation, as we understand it today has only been around for two generations, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. The European Convention was adopted in 1950. As to lgbt rights, the Yogyakarta Principles (specifically addressing the application of human rights legislation to sexual orientation and gender identity) were drafted in 2006 and they have not yet been adopted formally by the EU, or the UN, or anyone basically (though the European Comissioner has urged the member states to do so). The few countries in the world who actualy recognise and protect lgbt rights have mostly done so very recently. Anti-discrimination legislation and legislation recognising same-sex relationships or allowing adoption or fertility treatments for same sex couples has started appearing, very timidly, since the 1970s or so. If you look at protection specifically for the expression of gender identity, the record is sparser than Xenos’ hairline, but who gives a shit for a bunch of trannies, eh?

    You wanna know what the problem with lgbt rights in Greece is? I’ll tell you what: nobody gives a shit. And I do mean the lgbt people themselves. There’s very few who really care about being able to marry or have children. There is no such thing as an “lgbt community”, not even as the backstabbing, bickering and bitching “community” you can find in “civilised” Europe or the US (which at least gets the job done). The result is that demanding our rights is left to a few individuals, who, basically, do whatever the fuck they please and answer to noone. So we’re in the shit, yeah. Actually, we’re left waiting for society at large to change on its own, and you know what? I’ve met enough straight, heteronormative, cisgendered people who were a hundred times more open-minded than many gay “activists” I’ve had the dubious pleasure to converse with. So, yeah, society is going to change- slowly and not thanks to anything we do. ‘Cause we do fuck all, except blame the government and fantasise about how life is “better, abroad”.

    ??? ?????? ??????????, ??? ???????? ??????????.

  13. Xenos
    September 23, 2009    

    “Xenos’ hairline” ?? What ARE you talking about?

  14. The new Greco-bactrian migration
    September 23, 2009    

    Thanks Stassa, interesting information.

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