16/02/2012 | Writer: Kaos GL
The homophobia of the system results from the assumption that, ‘if homosexual behavior prevails against the heterosexual, then the Christian maxim grow and multiply’ will no longer define the existence of the individual and the Greek genus will not be multiplied in order to finalize the existence of the Greek nation-state over time’.
By Efklia Panagiotidou
Lesbian Group of Thessaloniki, Greece
The malfunction of the Greek community in issues of identity and sexual behaviors arises from remnants of its past, on the one hand as a result of ultraconservatism and on the other hand because of the inability to give a new meaning to the democratic regime, the aftermath of the military dictatorship overthrow in 1973. The seven years of dictatorship bore the triptych of “motherland, religion, family”; which continues to exist until today as a natural collective consciousness of the Greek community. These three singular concepts create a hazardous monism that interprets the notions by making reduction to a “one and only material” and proportionally of the triptych, in only one country, one religion, and one type of family. Derivative of the monistic philosophy is nationalism, which uses the triptych as its point of reference, thus externalizing a particular set of values. The consistency of the system is based on uniformity, which isolates and ostracizes “the different” in an ideological confrontation with pluralism.
Words are given a different meaning in each value system. In the Greek Orthodox value system, the triptych is as follows:
“Motherland”: It is understood as the Greek nation-state, of which imaginary community is recognized mainly by the common Greek ancestry, and by the Greek language. The nation-state and its future existence are achieved through the perpetuation of the species and specifically the Greek species (the Greek nationality supports the notion that “you are born Greek, not becoming one”).
“Family”: It describes the patriarchal family model that is based exclusively on heterosexuality, because it is the only way that prospects reproduction, so as to complete the Christian maxim “Grow and multiply”.
“Religion”: It refers to the Christian Orthodox Faith, which treats any different sexual behavior, other than heterosexuality, as an unnatural, abnormal behavior that results from the deduction of human morals.
Consequently, it becomes understandable that the Greek Orthodox philosophy and homosexuality are two conflicting values. Same-sex relationships have no potential for reproduction and for this reason same-sex couples are considered unable to perpetuate the Greek species, an inability that excludes them from the notion of “family”. Moreover, homosexuality is rejected de facto, since the inspired Christian law appointed it as perversion from the beginning of the world (Bible: Epistulae to the Romans and the Corinthians). Homosexual behavior disrupts the balance of the existing system of values and that is because its free expression puts on the table questions about the fairness of the system, or even its viability. The homophobia of the system results from the assumption that, “if homosexual behavior prevails against the heterosexual, then the Christian maxim ‘grow and multiply’ will no longer define the existence of the individual and the Greek genus will not be multiplied in order to finalize the existence of the Greek nation-state over time”.
The protection of homosexuals was recently legislated in the Penal Code, with the new anti-racism law in February 2011, which extends the protection of law to groups and individuals who are not identified solely on the basis of race, color, religion, and national or ethnic origin, but also of their sexual orientation. The laws of the Penal Code contradict each other and that is because according to Article 347.1(b), “Unnatural licentiousness”, there is a clear discriminatory treatment against male homosexual prostitution, while the same practice in case of heterosexual relationships does not constitute a criminal offense. More to add, discriminatory treatment is the provision of a different lower age of consent in sexual acts between heterosexuals and homosexuals. For homosexual acts the lower age is defined the 17th year, while for heterosexual acts it is the 15th year.
Moreover, there is no official recognition of same-sex couples. However, on June 3, 2008, the mayor of the island named Tilos, taking advantage of the provisions of the Civil Code on civil marriage that does not indicate the exact sex of the intended spouses, performed a civil marriage between two same-sex couples. The marriage was declared unconstitutional and unsubstantiated and the Minister of Justice in accordance with decisions of the Supreme Court forbade the marriages between and ordered the persecution of any mayor that was going to wed same-sex couples. Also, absent are settings that would allow the adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples. It is an open secret that in the event of a lesbian or gay couple attempting to adopt a child, the court will reject the adoption on the ground that these couples are unsuitable to care for children.
With regard to military service, homosexuality and transexualism are characterized as “severe psychosexual and gender identity disorders” and homosexuals for recruitment are classified in the special category I/5, a category featuring “people unfit for recruitment”. For this reason, homosexuals tend to hide their sexual identity under the fear of unemployment, since those who do not serve in military are deprived of their right to work for the public services sector.
The presentation of homosexuality in the media is primarily negative. Nevertheless, it could be considered positive the fact that the media do not conceal the matter, denying its existence, but they expose it in the context of a social reality. Besides, even a negative presentation is better than absolute concealment of the matter, which in the background it totally rejects the existence of homosexuality as a reality. When we refer to homophobia in the media, it is impossible not to mention ESR. ESR is the national broadcasting council, which controls the quality of television programs, and gives penalty payments and fines on the programs that undermine the quality of the broadcast. There exist many cases when TV series (“kleise ta matia”), movies (“straight story”) and music videos (“firework” by Katy Perry or “raise your glass” by Pink) with homosexual content were heavily censored and were fined by that council, on the ground that “homosexuality refers to a small group of people, it is a deviation that goes beyond the normal, and the reference to these issues may affect negatively the normal development of the personality and sexual behavior of the underage viewers, it may cause confusion as to their sexual orientation, and generally as to the role of the two sexes.”
The externalization of the perception of the media towards homosexuality, comes to the surface via two different expression, that of the “perverse behavior” derived from religious and right-winged circles, and the expression that “anyone can do whatever he/she wants in their bed”, coming from the artistic circles. That last perception may partially accept the sexual diversity, restricting it however in the narrow limits of privacy, without leaving room for an externalization of sexual identity as a normal and legitimate extension of personality during the process of socialization.
The beliefs of the Orthodox Christian Faith are based mainly in the New Testament, which through its passages expresses its homophobic nature. Specifically, in the Letters to the Romans, Apostle Paul says: “…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27). Also, in his Letters to the Corinthians it is stated that: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexual offender], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (Corinthians, 6: 9-10).
Having as the pillar of its philosophy the Letters of Apostle Paul, the Church of Greece is the element that presents the most intense homophobic attitude. When the issue of civil partnership for same-sex people and the protection of sexual orientation were discussed in the parliament, as well as when television broadcasts were referred to the phenomenon of homosexuality, the reaction of the Orthodox Church was on either case really violent and harsh against homosexuals. The metropolitan of Thessaloniki, stated on live television, during a preaching, that “this kind of measures bring the legalization of prostitution and of immorality. If they are implemented, we will find ourselves against nature and we will become even worse than animals”. He even called homosexuals to repentance from the defect of homosexuality.
The preaching of metropolitan of Piraeus, a city close to Athens, ranged at the same wave length. The metropolitan said: “Here comes the question: Are there many sexual orientations so that it’s a necessity of a specific state to protect this variety of sexual orientations? In a person are there many brains, many stomachs, and many heart muscles? Isn’t it the sexual function clearly defined from the ontology of the human kind and isn’t it expressed specifically with male and female? Is there another sex in the human genus?” From these statements, it’s easy for somebody to realize that the knowledge and understanding of church concerning sexes and gender identities are completely on a fetal level.
The disappointing thing is that the right of the Greek Orthodox Church to express such an extreme homophobic opinion is as powerful and legalized as the right of each government to express an opinion in the parliament. It is legalized both from the parliament itself and the society, which in formal statistics is supposed to be 99% Christian orthodox. It is not accidental that every time I am using the word “Greek” in front of the term “Orthodox”, (Greek Orthodox) because we are talking about a national church and here is the point where religion meets nationalism and together they form a homophobic vicious circle.
It is really crucial to understand the source of the high legalization that clergy’s beliefs have. That’s why we need to focus on the position that Orthodox Church had, from Byzantium to the Ottoman Empire and in the modern Greece according to our national history. Orthodox Church and its clergy are supposed to be the 2 elements which kept the Greek language alive during the Roman Empire and the 300 years of Ottoman slavery. And it did not only keep the language alive, but also connected Greeks under the same “Greek Orthodox” identity and gave them the reason to fight against the Turkish Muslim conquerors for their independence and freedom. The historical past and present of “Greek Republic” is directly connected with the existence of church and the orthodox identity, so connected that an imminent reaction against the Christian Orthodox opinion would be a reaction against the foundations of Greek nationalism.
Greek society is characterized by an identity crisis. Being a member of the European Union since 1978, serving simultaneously as an integral part of Balkan and also being influenced by its Ottoman past, it is very difficult to find a balance between these three different role identities. The interaction of these identities is confrontational, because the European one is in favor of protecting and legalizing homosexuality, while the Balkan and the Oriental perceive it through an intense homophobic conservatism. Greek society tries to escape from its Balkan and Oriental character, because they are against modernization, and to be identified as European, though it still misses that consciousness of tolerance and of equal treatment of people with different sexual orientation, which is observed in the north-western Europe. It is hard to define if this is due to a local framework lack that protects sexual orientation or if this legal framework is inexistent because of this social unconsciousness.
It is interesting that although Greece is pushed from the guidelines of the European Union Community to impose constitutional changes concerning equality, cohabitation agreement, civil marriage and adoption laws for same sex couples, every changing effort is denied from the Greek parliament. Greek Europeanization-Progressivism is hypocritical and this is reflected in that large part of society which agrees with the legalization of civil marriage or cohabitation agreement between same sex couples, but they continue to consider homosexual behavior unnatural. Progressivism lost its value, firstly because it is assumed as an extension of Europeanization and not as an extension of social maturity for human rights, and secondly because it emphasizes on norms, such as marriage and loses the essence. Pure progressivism should only be translated as a substantial acceptance of homosexuality, as a natural sexual behavior between diverse manifestations of sexuality.
Social maturity can only occur as a result of proper sexual and gender studies education, which should be offered to the citizens by the state. However, the Greek educational system is deficient on such issues, and that is the reason society is unable to understand positively or at least neutral, terms that are negatively charged. But even in cases where a scientific analysis of “homosexuality” seem to be taught without being charged with taboos or prejudices, people found themselves in great confusion to interpret homosexuality, because of the conflicting social and scientific perception of the term.
During psychotherapy, many psychologists and psychiatrists set as a target to help the person repel the gay identity and not to accept it so that it will be led to a proper socialization of its identity. These kind of examples are contrary to professional since according to DSM-IV-TR (2000)
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
) of The American Psychological Association (APA), a manual which is taught at the Greek university and it is used from psychologists and psychiatrists as their tool to recognize psychopathological disorders, homosexuality is not referred as a disorder.
Another issue is Homosexuality in Ancient Greece. There is a big amount of evidence, such as the Symposium of Plato or the poems of Sappho, were homosexual activities are described, a fact that is tried to be hidden systematically. Many books have been written, from representatives of the ultra-right political party, in which it is referred that homosexuality in ancient Greece is just a big myth. This situation is not accidental and it is strongly connected to the power of the Greek Orthodox Church and to these ultra-right parties in the parliament, which support its manifesto. Imagine how strong an argument it would be, the revelation of this entire part of different sexual behaviors that existed in a society thousand years ago. Maybe an argument that would help people to realize this timelessness of the existence of different sexual orientations, not only just in Greek society, but also in societies around the world.
Despite the sincere homophobic atmosphere, there is still a space of optimism, given by the existing gay life in Greece. The LGBT movements, the gay bars and the developing gay village in Gazi (Athens), the homosexual scene in Mykonos and the lesbian in Eressos of Lesvos which gather a great amount of gay people, and the annual celebration of Athens Gay Pride, all these show that there are still LGBT people who are not afraid to show their faces, to face the discrimination against and to externalize ideas, which give a different perspective on diversity --We are all different and all equal.