Pride and a fight for LGBTQ+ recognition in Greece

Greece’s LGBTQ+ community continues fighting for acceptance of sexual diversity. A sea of rainbow colors surrounding the White Tower of Thessaloniki last weekend was a good sign, with more than 15,000 people taking part.

It is still a novelty for prominent figures to speak up for sexual freedom in a country where the Greek Orthodox Church continues to have a strong influence on politics. Ahead of the Thessaloniki Pride celebrations three years ago, for example, a representative of the church said no queer-identified people even lived in the city and that all the participants had traveled there from Greece’s capital, Athens. “Priests continue to preach against sexual diversity,” said Filippa Diamanti, a teacher and equality activist. “This is dangerous, it makes some people want to resort to violence.”

The situation for queer people in Greece has generally improved since 2015, when the left-leaning Syriza government was elected. “Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently gave an interview to the gay magazine Antivirus – that’s a small revolution,” Diamanti said. Despite this, members of the LGBTQ+ community often face discrimination or even violence, whether in the workplace or privately. “We have to raise more awareness in schools and talk openly with students about sexual identity,” Diamanti said. “Schoolbooks need to be rewritten, and educators need to be trained in such matters.”

What many people consider everyday situations can remain battles for LGBTQ+ people in Greece, the psychiatrist Stavros Boufidis said. “Transgender people face discrimination on a daily basis, and they really do need to be wary of physical attacks,” he added. In his view, Greek society is still not ready to accept the full diversity of sexual identities. “My clients often feel like prisoners,” he said. “They have no control over their situation, and they feel alone. That can lead to depression and other psychological disorders – and, in some cases, even suicide.”

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