Luckily, there was Amphi

Irene Petropoulou

Queer Athens-Episode-Cover

Eirini Petropoulou has been an LGBT activist in Athens since 1985 and was the editor-in-chief of the infamous Amphi magazine in its final years. In this episode she shares the insights gained from decades of working with a number of LGBT organizations and projects across four decades, including the formation of the Lesbian Group of Athens and the efforts that produced the first Athens Pride in 2005.

Luckily, there was Amphi

episode transcript

Eirini Petropoulou: Luckily, there was Amphi


My name is Eirini Petropoulou. For several decades I have been an activist in LGBTQ spaces. I have participated in many things,...

Luckily, there was Amphi

Eirini Petropoulou: Luckily, there was Amphi


My name is Eirini Petropoulou. For several decades I have been an activist in LGBTQ spaces. I have participated in many things, especially in the last few years, but let’s see how this whole story got started.

The story begins before my teenage years.  At that time I wasn’t yet aware of any stigma, I had no point of reference at all. Imagine that in a four-volume psychological encyclopedia we had in my house, homosexuality was mentioned only as a disorder, a perversion. So imagine my shock when I first opened it and saw that. I said, oh! I snapped it shut and I didn’t look at it again. Even though I used to perouse the volumes regularly,  from that moment on I avoided them completely. 

I tried to start searching for answers, but there was nothing! Sometimes when there was a sex crime or a scandal, anything involving pariahs and outcasts, I would hear people saying – and I’ll use the word I heard – “Well, he must have been a faggot who was out cruising.” That was my second shock. 

So the best strategy I could figure out was, “Don’t say anything until you understand what’s going on.”   So that’s what I did.  I finished school and was off to England for my university studies.  I was hoping to find some answers about my sexuality and the way it troubled me.  I figured if I couldn’t find any answers I should then go to a psychologist to straighten me out so I could stop torturing myself and others…mostly myself 

  Fortunately in England, because we are talking about the early 1980s –  I left in ’79 and came back here to Athens in ’85. In England, we managed. First of all, the Help Line was advertised,  a telephone hotline for homosexuals.  From there, I found my way at the university.  I made friends, got involved in organizations both on and off campus. And I finally began to understand my sexual identity. Because I was involved from the beginning with the activist movement in the city where I was studying, Cambridge, a politicized sexual identity emerged for me, but my frist priority early on was  my personal sexual identity.  The political part followed.  I think it was a result of being involved in movement issues and even with lesbian groups there, which were self-managed. I remember that they said –  and I say the same things sometimes here in Greece – that if you want young people to accomplish something you need self-determination and self-management.  Don’t expect any money from a sponsor because if you do, you’ll be subject to their agenda. That’s how I got started. 

So when I got back to Greece, late ’84 or early ’85, I looked around to see what’s going on in Athens. What did I find?  Fortunately, there’s Amphi magazine. I often browsed the downtown kiosks in those days. Especially around Kaniggos square, you could find everything. Everything you wanted! 

Fortunately, one day a particular magazine cover catches my eye.  I’m intrigued, I approach it, and I see that it says,  “Amphi: for the liberation of homosexual desire.”  Whoa, I say, now this is what I’m looking for. I bought it. I go home and start flipping through it. When I say home, I mean with my family. I find out about the space on Zaloggou street, I find out it exists. I figure that I should do a reconnaissance trip there and see what’s going on. 

So I went down to Zaloggou street to see what kind of political action was going on there, because that’s what I was interested in. When I arrived there was a group of young people hanging out, boys, very friendly and welcoming.  We introduced ourselves and I said, “I’ve just returned from studying in England. How can I help out and get involved here?”

They didn’t turn me away. They asked me what it was like in England with the movement. I told them, and I asked them about what was going on in Athens.  I saw them biting their nails a little bit. One person said, well, we’re trying, I said okay, tell me about it. 

What some of the people said to me was, “Look, we can’t say we’re gay.  If we tell our family, we get in trouble. If we say it at work, we get fired. We have to hide it. Whatever happens, happens in the dark.  Some people get married.”

I asked, “Do you mean gay men are getting married to lesbians? Or are we talking about marriages in which one side  doesn’t know what the other side is doing?”  They told me that most men don’t tell their wives. I thought it was strange, but over time I realized that there is a certain logic to it; people are either trying to cure themselves because that was a prominent discourse at the time,  or they are leading a double life and hiding it behind the image of a respectable citizen. They weren’t thinking about it like that. They were just having a marriage to cover up their homosexuality. 

There were the other cases of gays and lesbians. Okay, they did it for financial reasons. They said openly, we did it just to make our parents happy and inherit the assets they promised to us if we were married.   Anyway, that was one strain.  The marriages that took place to hide the homosexuality. 

The space on Zaloggou street was the office of AKOE, the Greek Homosexual Liberation Movement, which published the magazine Amphi. That’s how I got to know the place. I didn’t meet Loukas Theodorakópoulos, its founder, at that time, because he had already left, but I met others. I met some of the guys who edited the magazine.  The magazine was then taken over by Valianátos, it was already starting to change, but anyway, people were always coming and going at that time. We had our parties. Every day the office drew at least 10 or 20 people.  They would come down to hang out and talk, friendships were formed. There was the first telephone hotline that was created in Greece.

  It took about a year and a half of me being involved before I was allowed to answer the phones for the hotline. It was strictly reserved for certain people who knew how to manage it.                                                   We had a Logbook where every call was recorded so that the next person on phone duty would know what was going on and there would be a so-called follow up.   You had to know how to manage the calls, because not all situations were this simple: guys, I’m from the country, I have to say two things to unload, I have to sleep peacefully. And of course there were some callers who just abused the line to make fun of us. Okay, what kind of jokes and what kind of pranks and what kind of threats this line was getting isn’t important. It was the first telephone support line in Greece. 

  AKOE never became an official organization with a constitution and that, unfortunately, ultimately led to its demise. But the goal of AKOE, and what the magazine Amphi was all about, was the liberation of homosexual desire. 

We were trying to get gays and lesbians to accept their sexuality, to understand that there was nothing wrong with them.  To deal with it personally first and then move on from there. 

Plus, thanks to Amphi, there was visibility of the Athens gay community. It gave a form to homosexuality. 


We didn’t have much interaction with the state unless there was some weird legislation on the table, like the one inspired by Ladas from his time as the Minister of Public Order under Greece’s military dictatorship. That bill was re-proposed in 1977 by the administration of Konstantinos Karamanlis. It was before my time, but that bill targeted homosexuals by criminalizing cruising.  Those events inspired the beginning of AKOE in ’77. In ’78 the first issue of Amphi magazine came out, if I remember correctly. The magazine unfortunately ceased publication in my hands in 1991. I’ll explain what happened.

AKOE provided a physical place where people could gather and feel safe. Secondly, they published Amphi to promote visibility.  And then, there were also some protests happening from time to time against the conservative government – and later even the socialist government – who wanted to limit any non-normative sexual expression. 

 Now, when you’re working with a lot of people, disagreements are inevitable. It’s just not possible for everyone to agree with each other all of the time.

In the movement, sometimes we would fight, sometimes we’d get along, sometimes we’d have different views on organization, on management, on issues, whatever we were facing. In a political movement, that’s what happens. And we grew closer through solving these problems.

Once a week there was a General Assembly meeting. The magazine was run by an editorial board of five people. These five wrote the content and decided on the features.  There was one person to act as the designated legal representative.  The finances were never robust and could never be robust. 

That is, we all pitched in and all gave money to the person who was in charge of the magazine. I don’t know how he got enough money to keep it running. I know how I made money when I took over the magazine. And at some point, Valianátos, who was in charge at the time, decided to take the magazine and move it to a different office. I wasn’t right there at the time but I remember a girl who was there, who I was dating at the time, came to me and said, “Eirini, save us. Valianatos  wants to take the magazine away from AKOE  or he’ll walk away. 

We need somebody to replace him.” 

I was working in publishing back then. Because I knew the publishing process, the first thing I said was, “Come on, no big deal. I can get the situation straightened out legally as long as everybody agrees.  And we can keep printing our magazine. From then on if we want something we have a whole publishing company with a whole printing plant available. I don’t think my boss will say no if he gets paid for the job.  And if he starts looking at me funny because of my affiliation with AKOE, so what. I’ll come out at work. I can handle it.” 

But it wasn’t an easy process. We finally got to the point of asking the editors, “Guys what’s going on here?  Where are your financial records? What are you doing?” But there were no financial records at all, even though the magazine was a commercial activity. 

Doesn’t AKOE have a legal status? Well, No! Because the old guard didn’t want it, never wanted it to happen. They said, ”We don’t want it to be  an organization with a constitution and bylaws, and all of that kind of formality.” For their various reasons. From the rumors that I heard, they didn’t want AKOE to have official status because they were afraid that anyone would then be able to come join. They were worried about nefarious infiltrators, because that was a common practice of the dictatorship and caused the demise of many leftist organizations in recent memory. OK, sure, but by that point we were no longer living under the junta. We now had a socialist government in Greece, so there was no chance of that happening. 


I thought it was  highly unlikely, but to reassure them I said, “OK. I’ll get  the legal adviser and the financial adviser of the publishing company where I work  to tell you  guys exactly what’s going on.”   I had already briefed those people. That was my first act of coming out in my professional life, by the way.  So, the professionals came into the AKOE offices to explain the matter. They gave AKOE some options:  You give AKOE a more formal character or you create an organization within the organization that will take over to solve the financial and legal issues of the magazine. Again,  because it’s a commercial activity, it would need a tax identification number, and proper record-keeping. It means going through the procedure of legitimization with the tax office, but once it’s done, you will be legal. You don’t have to play hide and seek with the tax office anymore.

But after all that, they wouldn’t accept it, they wouldn’t accept any of the proposed options. In fact I remember the accountant of the company told them,  “what, do you want to break the law here selling a magazine?!  and how much money will you make like this? If it’s just a fanzine distributed by hand, nobody will stop you or catch you. But come on! You have this for sale on the newsstands. It’s not acceptable!” 

Fiscally things were starting to get difficult at that time. PASOK –  the socialist party – was in power and they were trying to get Greece’s finances together just before Tsovólas, the minister of finance, gave it all away. So here comes Gregory Valianatos one fine morning with a new founding charter for something called EOK:  Ελληνική Ομοφυλοφιλική Κοινότητα – the Greek Homosexual Community. It’s settled, EOK will take over the magazine. 

AKOE will stay as it is because the old guard don’t want to change. 

The flock agreed. Despite all the misgivings some of us had, we said okay. Let’s give it a try because otherwise, I said, I’m not taking over a magazine that could expose me to legal and financial risk. And so through AKOE, EOK was created. EOK was created just for this practical reason. Nothing else. 

But inevitably, with this set-up, AKOE takes a back seat. Already at that time, the organization had begun to wear out. It needed renewal, more energy and fresh blood, and indeed if it wanted to continue to exist it should have put more emphasis on visibility. 

It should have been more outward looking. AKOE could have voiced the community’s needs and demands – which were so numerous at that time, all of them unfulfilled. But to do any of this, AKOE needed legal standing, which they refused. 

So the legal issue was resolved by creating  EOK. Then, one fine morning I was bringing something to the Amphi offices on Zaloggou street. When I entered, I was surprised to find the offices empty.  Apparently, the management of  EOK had decided that we no longer needed to have the Zaloggou space, as it served no purpose. The people come and go. They put on their shows, they have their fun. But now there were bars here and there, there were other places to go. So we didn’t need that spot anymore. So I’m left with a magazine with no headquarters, and I have to keep the thing going. 

We have reached 1989.  That’s where it ended. The space on Zaloggou closed and never reopened.  That was the end for AKOE. Of course some people tried to continue it. It was over by then, the core members were all gone, that is, we accepted the news about AKOE and said okay guys let’s give it a decent funeral and move on. So we had EOK, of which I was a founding member, and I stayed close for as long as I was in charge of publishing the magazine. But we lacked a clear vision for the organization. 

I stopped putting out  Amphi in ’91.  The last issue was December ’90 and then I got served with a lovely lawsuit for defamation. Ten years before, Lukas Theodorakopoulos had gone through the same process. 

That lawsuit cost me two years of my life. I was ultimately acquitted in the Court of Appeals but I can say that it shook me up.  Fortunately I had Katerina Iatropoulou supporting me.  She calmed me down because I was one step away from turning to tranquilizers. At that moment I decided that enough is enough. This magazine has no offices,  it only comes out whenever I have money to publish it. I couldn’t find contributors for the final issue. I had to write almost all of it myself, using various pseudonyms so that it wouldn’t be obvious that Eirini Petropoulou writes it and Eirini Petropoulou publishes it. That would be embarrassing.

So, after that issue I said it’s over. I handed everything over to EOK, which was then run by Vangelis Giannelos. 

 And in EOK we tried, because I also tried up to a point to get people together, to have at least a couple of days of open house for gay people to gather. 

We had created a safe space again. We tried to revive the telephone Help Line. Well, it wasn’t that easy, because we had to publish a new number. We received some calls,but  it didn’t have the traffic it used to have. In terms of numbers, I can tell you that back in the days that the AKOE hotline was running, it was receiving a minimum of 20 calls per day. And they weren’t short, 5 minute calls. These calls were half an hour or more. We were trying to get people to wake up.  There were people who were on the verge of a nervous breakdown and they were calling in.  It was a lot of work. 

When the hotline relaunched under EOK we didn’t get as much traffic. It was 2 or 3 calls per day. When we got to 5, we’d open champagne. And already the world was starting to liberate itself. We didn’t have as much of an issue with the closeted ones. People were starting to come out. And the bars helped with that. The entertainment venues, that is. Cafes were already starting to spring up. People could get to know each other, they no longer needed the narrow confines of the AKOE headquarters, nor the narrow confines of the EOK to get together. 

When the EOK offices were on Dionysíou Areopagítou in a small space above the popular bars Kirkie and Lizard, that’s where we lucked out because if we wanted to have a General Meeting, a gathering to discuss some issue and we’d look at our watches and say,. “Hm, where is everybody?”  and I’d say, “Wait, I’ll go down to the bars and I’ll round everybody up.”  I told the people in the bars, pay up and let’s go upstairs for the meeting because we won’t wait for you until the sun comes up. We have personal lives. And that’s how people would gather. 

In terms of the working relationships between gay men and lesbians, in my opinion I don’t think there should be a substantial difference, because the basic demands of both the male community and the female community were for the most part common. The main difference was the role of feminism. However, there was no easy way to sustain a partnership between these two groups ,gay men and lesbians, who were in the same community fighting for the same things. They were fighting for liberation, they were fighting for equal rights. They were fighting for safety and security in their everyday lives. They wanted better health care, which meant that all doctors should know how to address the needs of patients with sexualities across the spectrum. 

Women  also had the gender equality issue to contend with.  That was the only difference between lesbians and gay men.  In the early days of AKOE, there was a lesbian contingent but I wasn’t there at the time.  From what I’ve heard,  there was no way the partnership was going to last long.  The fact that they were fighting over page quotas within the magazine was just the tip of the iceberg. The lesbians left AKOE because they couldn’t get the guys to agree to the 50/50 print space allocation that they wanted. The guys said, numerically, there aren’t that many of you here and you want to fill up half the magazine? And in fact even if the allocation was granted they still didn’t have enough writer or content to fill it, but anyway let’s not dwell on that because that’s my own opinion. 

They left and went to work with feminist organisations, thinking that they are closer to women’s needs there. It was the women’s house on Romanou Melodou. When that house closed down, they were always in some feminist organization or another. Wherever there was a feminist organization, there were lesbians in it.  Sometimes they would be an organized group, sometimes just individual members.  Either way, they were making a mark on the feminist movement. I tried later on.  The AKOE guys had said to me, “Why don’t you go to where they have their groups, to say, okay, we’re sorry, let’s work together.”  Because we have to work with lesbians on a lot of things. And I became the black sheep for the lesbian community because of my work with AKOE. They didn’t approve of me working for AKOE.  But I don’t regret it.  

I did try to create a lesbian group within AKOE.  I had a couple of trans women show up. I had no problem with the trans women joining us  but some of the other women objected. They said, “ if you’re trans, what are you doing here?”  

“But I’m a woman too. Like you,” one of the trans women said. 

I stepped in to calm things down. Anyway, that group was disbanded before it was even a semester old. 

Well, as I say, there was no way that lesbians and gays were going to work together for too long at AKOE. I tried by creating a lesbian group. It fell apart. Later,  I tried creating another lesbian group within EOK. Unfortunately, every time we had our own day all the other EOK staff would join in, first and foremost Vangelis Yiannellos, saying  girls, while you are gathered here, we want to do this and that.  We didn’t have time to discuss our own issues. Anytime we went to discuss, to do something, to organize anything, they came to us with their own demands, because we were numerous and they were not. And Vangelis Giannellos, because every time the women gathered he barged in with something,  we called him an honorary lesbian. 

And that’s how that group died. Because after one interruption, two interruptions, three interruptions, we got fed up and that was the end of that.  We said we won’t get together again unless you want to just have coffee and talk.


It took years but finally, the third time is the charm, and finally I got a request from the lesbians themselves to help form a group, which ended up turning into the Lesbian Group of Athens. They survived a long time,  because they were self-organized, self-managed. They had a dedicated meeting time and space in the feminist center on Eresós street, and no one bothered them. 

It was a large group that included so many women, so many different personalities. There were many things they could do but also so many other ideas that were left on the table because there was no way they could implement everything. Hearing all those voices made me happy. I wish an organization like that would be built again, because what I’ve noticed is that nowadays, lesbians don’t have a dedicated space. And it’s not easy to exist within a mixed organization.We also need our own space for more specialized things. To give another example,  in ILGA World, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association,  and ILGA Europe, they have the Women’s Caucus, which is a dedicated space for lesbians. Here we need something similar. Now, will it be created within an existing organization or will it be created on its own and be independent? It will need more attention, and some organizational support to give it a legal status. Because we saw what happens without that status … 

The Lesbian Group of Athens was good, but at some point it ran its course. If it had a legal constitution it would have lasted longer. They  could have accomplished a lot more as a formal organization with a constitution. And even with a formal character, the founders would still have the flexibility to dismantle the organization  if that’s what they would have wanted to do. 

I insist on that and I will continue to insist on that, because it now matters a great deal in the way we act as a Community and form groups and alliances in our community.  With formal status, we can play a better game and gain more respect. 

So much for the lesbian groups that I helped to create,  or maybe I was a cause of their dissolution, as with the first one. But lesbians have always had a tendency to side with feminism and the feminist movement. They have a lot in common.  And in fact now feminists themselves have watered down their wine compared to what was going on in the 1980s. Back then, they were worried that if they had out and proud lesbians within their ranks, they would be accused of all being lesbians themselves or of creating a lesbian contagion. Now, that is no longer the case, the feminist movement is more accepting of lesbians. That’s why lesbians are working more with feminist organizations, with women’s organizations. Because that’s the nature of it. Lesbian women will go with the feminists. They have a lot in common to work and fight for. 

 From the mid 1980s onward, we had more than enough problems to face as an LGBT community.  We had the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was a stumbling block for the movement. 

It froze the universe. Back then, the gay men would say, you lesbians and the cockroaches will survive. But he virus showed that only cockroaches would survive because lesbians also had an HIV problem, it was just less severe than gay men. There was a strong push to include HIV/AIDS in our agenda but at the same time, there were   people who said if we explicitly addressed it, people would leave because they would think we were just an HIV positive organization and we left it at that. Because the stigma was so great, it was an issue that was rarely addressed directly and explicitly by the LGBT movement and community.  More specialized organizations were created that clearly knew and could handle it better than we who were completely frozen and didn’t know what to do. At that time, anyone known as gay was treated with so much suspicion, no one would even greet you or shake your hand out of fear that HIV could spread through any contact.  Later, when it was more clearly known how HIV could and couldn’t be transmitted, things softened.  But we were truly a movement in despair, a movement on the verge of a nervous breakdown until we saw what was going on. We lost people, not because they left, we lost people because of all those who got sick and died. That’s how it went. 

The 1990s have a reputation as being a sluggish time for the movement, but the truth is we were doing work that didn’t show that much outwardly. We were starting to make contacts with political parties. We started, every time there was an election period, to send the first tentative letters asking what is your position on the demands of the LGBT community, and putting our demands in concrete terms. We didn’t get a response from all the parties and we laughed about that. That is, the conservatives didn’t answer. The communists, forget about it. The socialists and the leftists, they answered.They answered, not that we were always pleased with their agenda and the way they wanted to handle things. It’s more likely that they didn’t know how to handle us because we were bringing them another dimension for the first time, the fact that they had LGBTQ voters, and we were asking, how are you going to serve these voters? 

So, the ’90s was the decade that had us running around chasing various politicians. We would go and make requests and deliver them to the parties in Parliament. We held meetings with various parties, and we received promises that still haven’t been fulfilled and we are talking about the 90s, we are talking about 30 years ago! And in all of this, we were dealing with the loneliness of being activists who work from morning till night and have to deal with issues like gay teenagers with  problems at home, with domestic violence, with HIV/AIDS. We were running around all the time helping friends.  We were trying to get further with visibility issues. We realized that we can’t just rely on parties to bring people together. We needed something more.  

And that’s when it became clear how useful a Pride demonstration would be for us. There had been a Pride previously, Paola Revenioti used to do it on Strefi Hill and it drew quite a few people from what I’ve heard. But now we needed something more. The issue of marriage equality was now starting to come up strongly.  As if prioritizing this marriage issue would be some kind of panacea and solve all our problems. We’d say, ok, imagine that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,  the socialist party would open civil marriage to gay couples, which would never happen, even in our wildest dreams. But imagine if it did,  Can the people back home handle it? On the street outside, are we safe? We’re going to get called dykes and dirty words and who knows what else and we don’t have an anti-discrimination law. In our jobs, will we be accepted as we are? At our schools, and elsewhere? I mean, it’s not like passing a bill would change society overnight. We had to fight from the bottom up. 

 Of course we prioritized the marriage equality issue, but we were also focusing on education issues.  And we worked to overturn the ban on gay men donating blood. Finally that ban was abolished although it took far too long. 

So, in the climate of the 1990s, the issue of greater visibility was seriously raised because those of us who were involved in the organizations saw that things were going well, and we were getting some promises. We’d send out letters. We’ll send five, we’ll get a reply to two. So we thought, in order to further pressure the politicians we first needed to target our biggest audience. That’s to say, reach all those people who had stayed out of the organizations thus far. And I don’t think that even nowadays we can gather all the people who come out once a year for a Pride event. Do you realize what would happen at the political level if all of those people were out there, organizing, working towards our political goals? There would be no way Prime Minister Mitsotakis could say the things he says now, like his answer to marriage equality: “Everything in its own time.”  If all of us were united and working,  they would have already done it without so much as a debate.

But anyways, I’m supposed to be telling you the story of how we organized  the first Athens Pride. We asked each other, How did Paola do her old Pride on Strefi Hill, you guys? 

We had a number of talks, and we also had a Colorful Forum that we hosted once a month at the Polytechnic University in Gkíni Hall, where all the organizations were gathered, all the activists and anyone who wanted to attend, where we started to discuss more seriously the issues of how to manage the community’s political agenda. 

There were of course the first hints from Synaspismos, the leftist party, and to a lesser extent from PASOK, the socialist party, about approaching gay activists to run on their ballots.  So they started to make offers, to accept us a little bit. Now we’re getting sucked into the business of unfulfilled promises. 

There was so much focus on visibility, because what we were told was that priority is determined by how many people you have. So we had to prove to them that we were numerous. In Gkini Hall, this once a month gathering of all the people in our movement started to function as proof of our   visibility. And it was good that we were discussing things among ourselves, communicating. There were some attempts in the 1990s to do something like a public Pride…a couple of attempts, not many. There were also Pride parties that Maria Cyber organized for us – she really knew how to organize – and we would go and have fun. But after a while, the private parties were not enough. We wanted something in a public space. 

There was an attempt once or twice to do a Pride in Pedio tou Areos.  It brought in some people but it  was just a little bigger than what Paola had done on Strefi Hill. Again, thank god that  Paola had thought to do those events because they gathered people and contributed to visibility.But we needed something more organized. 

In 2004, OLKE was created, The Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece.  For lack of other organizations, we ended up running a lot of things. One goal we set was to have an Athens Pride. Only, we couldn’t manage the whole operation alone. The other group who decided to coordinate it and actively put it on the agenda and get us all together was the Lesbian Group of Athens. Their members started to get the ball rolling. 

We started to gather in houses and in cafes.  The immigrant shelter helped us by lending their tents, tables and chairs.  And thus in 2005 we managed to fill up Klafthmonos square. That first Pride was in Klafthmonos, and it continued to be there every year until a few years ago.  Now they are finally taking place in Syntagma Square.  We wanted to host Pride in Syntagma from the beginning, but at first they wouldn’t let us use that location.  But finally, Klathmonos became way too crowded for the numbers of people who were showing up. We also had booths from political parties. At some point the city was finally convinced that we needed a larger space. The Athens Pride Organization was formed, which would run this thing once a year.  I remember the first time, in 2005. We really went to the ends of the earth to get the thing all set up, and we managed to do it, all while working in fear of being harassed. 

We were a little late in planning all of the logistics that first year. We didn’t know about the procedures for asking the municipality to grant you a square.  Dora Bakoyannis was mayor at the time. She gave us the platform, she gave us a basic microphone and electricity. But she told us through her deputy mayor: “You thought about all this a little late, you need to make your requests earlier so that we can support you.”  We didn’t know and we couldn’t possibly know everything at that time. 

And that’s how Athens Pride started. By the next year, it had taken on legal status, because there was no way such an event was going to hang by a thread. 

What can I say about the challenges of the LGBT community today? Well, no issue and no demand is easy, but at least we are slowly seeing some things come into perspective. I can’t say that I am completely satisfied with the wording in the anti-discrimination law, even though I worked closely with the political parties on it, and I can’t say that I am completely satisfied with what kind of civil partnership pact SYRIZA served us. 

And then, the law that was passed on legal recognition of gender identity, I can’t say that it is ironclad. It  has gaps. So right there I’m talking about three pieces of legislation that need improvement and updating because times change quickly. 

Now the issue of marriage equality is going to take a long time, I don’t see it coming from this government, that’s for sure. Possibly, we’ll see it from the next government but again, I don’t know what the exact legislation will be, because judging by what happened with anti-discrimination, civil partnership, and legal recognition of gender identity laws, they will give half of what we are asking for and shame on them. Because they should be obligated to give everything in full. This is 2022. 

Things have come a long way both at the Council of Europe level and at the European Union level. Either we keep up with Europe and call ourselves European, or we try to appease the religious people to avoid losing their votes. But who cares about them!  They have their religious marriage. Let them do whatever they want with it. But most of Greek society will say they are conservatives. Do we know what goes on in every conservative home? We’ve seen plainly now what those so-called respectable, God-fearing, family men are capable of.  Let us now begin to see things in perspective. To think that the world is changing.  And either Greece will change with it or we will remain fossils in some dustbin of history.