ATHENS – There were women dressed as men, men dressed as women, women and men dressed as, well it was hard to tell, and some were on stilts, others in drag or men in g-strings, rainbow colors everywhere and for a few hours during the Athens Pride 2018 parade there were no worries about discrimination or violence from people who don’t like them.
But gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other genders who marched and cheered said while they have more freedom in Greece than many other countries that it’s not enough, disappointed that Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wouldn’t stand up to the Greek Church and let them marry, although same-sex unions are allowed.
But on this warm spring night in the county’s capital the talk wasn’t of politics or equality or even of the bigotry aimed at them, but of enjoying each other’s company and parading their pride too, with straight people joining to support their friends of different sexual orientations.
“People hate because of fear. When there’s no love there’s violence,” a 34-year-old woman named Eleni told The National Herald as she stood in the midst of an overflowing Syntagma Square in a crowd authorities estimated at 10,000 people.
Nearby two women who are straight stood with their male friend, Alex, 19, who said he is gay. They didn’t want to give their names but one told The National Herald that, “I support everyone’s right to be who they want to be. We’ve come a long way about gay rights and there’s so many countries where that does not exist,” around the world and in Europe.
A pedestrian crossing was painted the colors of the rainbow to show backing for the marchers and supporters for the parade which was the 14th. Before the event, Attica Region Gov. Rena Dourou said, This year, we speak of femininity in an outstanding manner. It’s not the privilege of a single gender, as set down in a birth certificate, in most countries it’s not even a privilege,” pointing out Greece’s progress.
Their gay friend Mike, 19, a biology student, that, “I don’t come across as gay and hasn’t told his parents that he is. “I am against extremism and bullying,” and said despite new freedoms and openness that assaults against gay people in Greece are worrying. “It’s scary and sad and makes me feel less secure,” he said.
Except on this day because there was only joy in the air and an unfettered feeling they could be who they are. Mike’s friend Rachel, 20, an anthropology student said she can’t understand discrimination against sexual discrimination. “It’s pointless. They are normal people,” she said of those who are gay.
There was some lament that SYRIZA and its alleged hard-core left hasn’t done more to help them as it vowed when taking power in 2015.
“The previous government was mostly indifferent to human rights in general, so its record on LGBT rights was accordingly pretty bad. I think its worst failure was the rise in homophobic violence,” Vasiliki Katrivanou, a SYRIZA lawmaker told the site Outward three years before when her party came to power with sweeping promises, including to further the rights of gays before diluting them.
Still, hate speech and hate crime legislation is one of the toughest in Europe and in 2017, under SYRIZA, transgender people were granted the right to change their legal gender without having to undergo surgical alteration of their genitals in order to have key identity documents.
In February 2018, a county court in Greece granted a non-binary person the right to a gender-neutral name. In May, the Parliament passed a law granting same-sex couples the right to foster care children.
Gay pride parades are also held in the second and third-largest cities of Thessaloniki and Patra as well as in Heraklion on the biggest island of Crete. In a report this year by ILGA-Europe, which assesses LGBT rights in European countries, Greece achieved the highest improvements among the 49 countries in the legal and policy situation of LGBT people between 2014-18.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are allowed to serve in the military and there are neighborhoods with gay influence and populations in Athens and elsewhere and homosexual activity between consenting adults is legal.
Joining in the parade were a married couple who moved from Spain to Greece, Estan Emmerich, 45, a lawyer and Miles Mitrovic, 38, an architect. “We have faith in Greece,” said Emmerich. “It’s an amazing place.” A jubilant Mitrovic said, “Society here is much more open for us.”