Greek and gay – is it ok?

Homophobia is till strong in Greek society.

Gay. ‘Yes, and?’ you might ask.

What about Greek and gay?

Again not a new concept, there are many openly gay Greek Australians.

Ok then, consider the scenario that your son/daughter or future child came to you and said, ‘I’m gay’.

How accepting would you be? How happy would you be for him/her to attend family functions with their partner as a couple?

Michael* (not his real name), 50, from the gay support organisation, Greek and Gay says that whilst the second and third generation Greek-Australians are more tolerant of homosexuality these days, they are not always accepting when it concerns their own children.

Another member of Greek and Gay, John* (not his real name), who said that after he came out to his parents, “the walls of the Parthenon came down screaming!”
“Wailing women at a funeral are nothing compared to what my eyes feasted on. I faced comments like – ‘how could you do this to us’, ‘we will not be able to show our faces in public’, ‘we need to take you to the priest and he will fix this’ and so on.”

Yet, there are exceptions. Michael reveals that when his brother George* (not his real name), 32, came out to his mother 10 years ago, that she was delirious for a few days but then turned around and said, “I still love you, you’re my son.”

You may argue that homophobia exists across cultures, not just amongst Greeks.

This may be true but a new report by the Institute for Rights Equality and Diversity has reported that Greece has higher levels of homophobia, discrimination and opposition to same sex marriages compared to other EU states, (Eurobarometer, 2008).

Transexuality is listed as a psychiatric disorder when it comes to males doing their military service.

The same report concluded that violence and harassment by police officers in Greece against lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT) is a common phenomenon, but that they are shielded by homophobic prejudice permeating the Greek community.

Author Miltos Pavlou attributes the prejudice to issues concerning awareness of the wider public, or as the LGBT put it, “ignorance is the enemy.”

Australia does not fair much better according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Kyklos, which found that as a nation we still have a significant level of homosexual intolerance.

“A lot of people see Mardi Gras and think we’re all like that but we are a bit more sensible, sophisticated, and have good jobs so at the end of day what does it matter?” says Michael.

Although he believes that the older generation are stuck in their ways and that their views cannot be changed, Michael says that, “the more supportive family members are, the easier it is for people to come out.”

“They only live once so they might as well make the best of it instead of living a closeted life just to please their parents by getting married and down the track finding that it’s not working.”

Greek and Gay tips to support your gay son/daughter:

  • Shock and disorientation are natural. But your son or daughter wants that bond of love and respect to continue, and you have a duty to understand them, without presenting additional burdens of guilt and shame in what is already made difficult by unrealistic societal expectations.
  • Keep reminding yourself that your child hasn’t changed. He or she is the same person as before you learned about his or her sexuality. It is your dream, your expectations that will have to change if you are really to know and understand your gay son or lesbian daughter.

Greek and Gay celebrated their 14th birthday party Kolasi 09 at The Market in South Yarra last night.