Athena’s Pride: Gay right to march in Greece

The Athen’s Gay pride march has had a difficult time in being recognised, but is growing year to year.

The Stonewall gay riots following the police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York have been commemorated around the world ever since by LGBT people; in recent years, this commemoration has been in the form of Gay Pride “pride”.

In Greece, endeavours were made during the 1980s and 1990s to organise such an event, but it was not until 2005 that Athens Pride established itself. Andrea Gilbert, a member of the committee says to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE):

“It was the first time this event was held during the day in a central, publicly visible square in the past, Pride events were held at night and included a parade around Syntagma, (Constitution Square) that passed in front of the Vouli (Hellenic Parliament building).”
This year’s event takes place on June 13, the month the Stonewall riots, (this year marks the 40th anniversary), took place. Plateia Klathmonos, where the Pride will take place is a busy, central square in Athens.

The event kicks off in the morning with stalls run by LGBT organizations, political parties, media organizations, Amnesty International and other groups and live music, and ends with a big party after the parade.

“It’s always challenging to get people to parade,” says Andrea. “The community here tends to be apathetic and somewhat closeted. But our numbers are growing.” Last year, police estimated 4,000 people attended.

“Athens Pride started out with only the Pride event and a fund-raiser,” says Andrea to NKEE. ”

But from last year, there have been parallel events one-two months beforehand. This year there were an academic forum on Greek LGBT sociological issues, held at Panteio University; a presentation and discussion of Greek LGBT cinema, and Artists for Athens Pride, a fund-raising exhibition of contemporary Greek art, curated by Andrea at The Breeder gallery.

Athens Pride “relies on the generosity of the [LGBT] community and others,” comments Andrea. “It does not receive any direct government support, apart from a minor donation from a branch of the Ministry of Health. “In fact, the Mayor of Athens has “refused to give it the city’s aegis, an honorary title given to many events held in Athens.”

Most of the funding is derived form fund-raising initiatives, contributions from gay bars and individuals and merchandise sales.
Andrea says there is “good press coverage. Eleftherotypia one of Greece’s largest newspapers the country and Athens Voice [a street press publication], as well as LGBT community outlets, are media sponsors. “We only get negative press form the neo-Nazis. Even media outlets that are not sponsors like Ta Nea give us good coverage.”

Andrea believes that it is very important to have Athens Pride and similar initiatives focusing on LGBT rights in Greece because it “helps to break through barriers.
There’s an attitude that ‘we have no problem here’, but that’s false. Maybe there’s not a lot of violence or outright discrimination, but it’s there. It’s very hypocritical; there’s a veneer of tolerance, but LGBT people are kept in a subordinate position.
We can’t be ‘out’, we’re portrayed as caricatures in the media and popular culture. Athens Pride is about visibility, recognition, celebration and strength in numbers.”

Athens is also a ‘beacon’ for the region. “Other Pride initiatives in the region look to us for encouragement. Athens Pride attracts LGBT people from all over Greece, Cyprus and other Balkan countries.”
“This year, it is hosting a group from Sofia Gay Pride and, in turn, is planning to mobilise LGBT Greeks to attend the Pride event in that city.

Andrea hopes that people will come to Greece in summer and go to Athens Pride. She has met at least one Melbournian who participated in the parade and would love to see more do the same.