ATHENS – It’s not easy being gay in Greece and it’s even tougher for gender queer children and youths during a time when many people are questioning and challenging their sexual identity and how to be identified.
In May, Greece banned conversion therapy for minors, a practice aimed at suppressing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and which the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community worldwide, as well as health experts, have condemned as harmful, noted Reuters in a report.
The measure pushed through Parliament by Greece’s Conservative New Democracy government means that psychologists or other health professionals need a person’s explicit consent to perform treatment and face fines and a prison term if they violate the law.
“There were some false treatments that stated that when a minor has chosen a different sexual orientation, his parents could supposedly proceed with ‘treatments’ for this child to ‘return to normality,’” Health Minister Thanos Plevris told Parliament, defending of what was done.
“Obviously these treatments not only are not a therapy but they are not supported scientifically,” he said in defense of the legislation.
That’s on paper, but in real life people such as queer artist and author Sam Albatros, who was raised in a rural part of the country, told the news agency that they don’t have an easy time in their lives, using pronouns they prefer.
“My mom said: ‘Don’t worry, when you grow up you are going to marry a woman, you are going to have kids and you will show them’… The worst thing is that she said this to actually comfort me,” Albatros said.
That reflects the prevalent attitude that the LGBTTQQIAAP (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgeender-Transsexual-Queer-Questioning-Intersex-Ally-Asexual-Pansexual) community, youths and children face.
Albatros (their artistic name) published Faulty Boy,, a book describing the what queer children are confronted with in a country where the Greek Church teaches that what they do is a sin.
“Of course I felt the pressure to change,” said Albatros, although Prime Minister Kyriakis Mitsotakis, whom the agency said doesn’t want to portrayed as ultra-conservative or against gay and other gender rights appointed a committee to draft a national strategy for improving LGBTQI+ rights.
“I know that much remains to be done,” he said on May 17, the international day against homophobia and transphobia. “Modern Greece has the will, the maturity, the heart and the soul to cover for the lost ground.”
DO YOU TAKE THEM?
But while gay unions are allowed, gay marriages aren’t, although the government has also repelled a ban on blood donations by gay men and has been training civil servants on LGBTQI issues, said Mitsotakis’s chief Economic Adviser Alexis Patelis.
There have been advances over the years along with setbacks, particularly the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA walking back pledges for further gay rights reforms to help the community.
The news agency noted how complex the issue is as governments and politicians try to show concern without going all the way with legislation that some critics said is half-hearted at best.
Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry or adopt children and while the conversion therapy ban excludes adults, it requires their consent, which the LGBTI+ proponents said is akin to torture for them.
It also confines practitioners to paid health professionals when they are often conducted by religious and other counselors, the report added.
“Unfortunately in Greece all of the reforms that have been approved (by parliament), are half, incomplete, with very dangerous gaps and loopholes,” Parvy Palmou a gender queer, non-binary psychotherapist with Greece’s Transgender Support Association told the news agency.
The government also plans to ban unnecessary “sex normalizing” surgeries on intersex babies born with atypical chromosomes that affect their bodies in a way that does not fit with the normative definitions of male or female.
Rinio Simeonidou, mother of an intersex teenager and member of Intersex Greece, a group which supports about 250 families with intersex members, said that, “They need to be able to decide for themselves at an appropriate age if and when they will perform any operation knowing the consequences and alternatives and not injure their body and soul irreparably.”
She told Reuters that 13 years on from her own experiences, doctors were still advising mothers of intersex fetuses to terminate their pregnancies.
While polls done this year by the Eteron and Dianeosis institutes showed that a majority of young Greeks support key LGBTQI+ reforms there is staunch opposition, including in the Church.
Seven priests wrote to Mitsotakis protesting against a TV advertisement for same-sex marriage: “Christians … know that God created two sexes, man and woman. There is no third sex,” they said in their letter, although the community said there are many.
Albatros, who lives in London and has earned hundreds of admirers for their art, said they don’t plan to return home. “I still do not feel comfortable here,” they said about Greece.. “I’m very bad with having to fight for things that I consider that they should be a given.”