Tracking Queer Athens:
Field of Ares Park
6th Gladstone Str.
Hammams, Cinemas & Cruising
Academy of Athens
Athens Pride: 2005 - 2016
Psyrri & Monastiraki
a vital space for the LGBT community
The Greek Homosexual Community
The upsurge in queer spaces
25th of April, 1977
The bill outlined punishments of imprisonment and exile not only for issues related to venereal diseases and sex work, but also explicitly targeted any “males” who were in “in streets, squares, public centres or other places for the apparent purpose of attracting males to engage in sexual intercourse with him.”
In effect, this bill would have had a huge impact on queer communities. Not only did the law criminalize so-called ‘abnormal’ sex, but it criminalized any conduct that could be interpreted as an action leading to or in search of “abnormal sex.” Therefore any gay or trans person simply existing in public space was potentially at risk of police persecution under this legislation. Trans women were especially vulnerable. Due to pervasive transphobia, they were completely shut out of the labor market and job opportunities, thus many used sex work as their only viable career. At that time, police raids, harassment, and arrests of trans people had already been intensifying.
The gay and trans night life was centered around the bars Tammy's and Zodiac in Plaka. It was in these bars that the key organizers, who were trans sex workers - notably Aloma as well as the infamous Betty Vakalidou, sought out and engaged the support of a few gay men who had recently began to organize against sexual repression under an organization they called AKOE (The Gay Liberation Movement of Greece-we’ll talk more about AKOE in our next stop).
It wasn’t an immediately obvious alliance - the two groups - trans sex workers on one hand, and the so-called more “conventional” gay liberationists saw themselves as having different needs and priorities. However it was clear that the proposed law would oppress and affect both of them, so the political collaboration proceeded and the AKOE members officially supported the planned rally at the Louzitania which had been rented by Betty and Aloma for the occasion. They printed and distributed pamphlets and flyers. Betty even hand delivered invitations to the police officers at Syngrou station. She spoke to journalists, and gave a speech on the big day criticizing and critiquing the proposed legislation. She drew on an article in 'Tachydromos' by the criminal lawyer Georgios Mavorgordatos who argued for the . The unconstitutionality of the bill. In her speech, Betty outed the Kostas Tachtsis as a cross dresser and homosexual who also frequented Syngrou avenue. Her speech was followed by statements from AKOE members, feminists, and a psychologist. The theater was full of supporters and a few vice squad officers. Attending supporters wore disguises to protect their identity and avoid the stigma of being publicly associated with sexual deviancy. Outside the theater, police were poised and ready to make arrests. Christian organizations had threatened to stage a counter-protest in advance of the event, and Aloma rented getaway buses for the organizers and supporters in case things got ugly. However, the counter-protestors never materialized.
The proposed legislation was defeated, but it was revised and made another appearance in 1981 and faced even more protest, which we will discuss when we make our stop later today at Propylaia.
Field of Ares Park
An early on Gay Spot
Another reason we decided to start today’s walk here is because we’re close to the site of the former Louzitania Theater.
Finally, Pedion tou Areos was also the site of some early pride celebrations in the 1990s. Later on today in Klafthmonos Square we’ll be talking about the origin of the contemporary Athens Pride, but more than a decade before, there were Gay Pride Day events and happenings here. These were organized and hosted by the inimitable trans activist Paola Revenioti who is known for all kinds of work in the queer community, including her Kraximo magazine which ran from 1981 until 1993. This From 1992 until 1996, she organized annual Pride Days that happened either in some years or on Strephi Hill in others. In 1993, Stereo Nova played at the Pride Day and it was also the band’s first public performance. By the way, it was also in 1993 that Thessaloniki had its first Gay Pride Day, organized by ΟΠΟΘ (Gay Initiative of Thessaloniki) & the magazine Ο πόθος (Lust).
The events enjoyed some success, but many LGBT people were still reluctant to attend a public event - so in 97 and 98 the Pride was held behind closed doors in a private venue, and the last event of this type was held in 1999.
As we leave here we’ll pass by Strephi Hill. It’s interesting to consider that even as much as the purpose of the Gay Pride Day was to manifest a public showing of proud and brave queer people, the biggest obstacle to its success was fear of public exposure and being seen. And even when the Pride Day was held publicly, it was necessary to host it in places that were somewhat more safe, secluded, and tucked away..
Strephi Hill, Exarchia
1992 - 1995
The struggle for LGBT liberation has always been linked to the multiple oppressions experienced by vulnerable social groups, especially class and gender issues which are central to the political character of the Exarchia. So, it’s no coincidence that the first Gay Pride Days took place on Strefi Hill and Areos Field. Both the left and the anarchist movement were among the first allies of the LGBTI community. After all, members of the anarchist space had helped and supported the first Gay Pride Day on Strefi Hill, just as leftists supported the event in Lusitania and later also defended the presence of AKOE in celebrations of the Polytechnic anniversary when members of the EFEE (National Student Union of Greece) had tried to remove them.
Moreover, over the years many LGBTI organizations have been based in Exarchia and its immediate surroundings. Later today, we’ll visit the offices of AKOE on Zaloggou Street. The Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women was based in the Women's House on Romanou Melodos, and the Lesbian Group of Athens held their meetings first at the Migrant Steki on Tsamadou Street and then, for many years, in the Feminist Center on Eresou Street. In the early 2000s, monthly Colorful Forum events were held in the Polytechnic University's Gkini Hall and these discussions eventually led to the formation of the Athens pride movement in 2005. And in nearby Kaningos Square at one time one could buy the queer periodicals Amfi and Kraximo.
Feminist Centre - LOA
2000 - 2017
Before we go into depth talking about LOA, the longest-standing lesbian organization in Greece, we’ll briefly touch on some key movements in the history of Greek feminist and lesbian activism.
First wave feminism in Greece is marked by the arrival of the “Ladies Journal” in 1887. The first women’s magazine in Greece, it published over 1,000 issues until 1917 when its editor, Callirroi Parren, was exiled to Hydra during the National Schism because of pro-monarchist and anti-Venizelist views. The periodical advocated for the intellectual and economic emancipation of Greek women. The all-female editorial team, which consisted of wealthy, formally-educated women, wrote articles claiming the right to education and work. Careful in its liberalism, the “Ladies Journal” claimed civil, social and family rights for women, while remaining safely distanced from the more radical international feminist movement focused on voting rights for women.
The issue of women's political rights was formally broached in the second period of first wave feminism. In 1920, The League for Women’s Rights made demands for women’s suffrage in Greece. Much earlier, in 1895, Callirroe Parren addressed Prime Minister Charílaos Trikoúpis in an initial plea for women’s political rights. In 1921, she managed to persuade conservative Prime Minister Demetrios Goúnaris to take a pro-choice stance. It took another decade to gain voting rights, but only women over age 30 who had completed at least primary school. The first time Greek women exercised their right to vote was in the municipal elections of 11 February 1934. 2,655 women were registered on the electoral rolls of Athens, of which only 439 actually voted. Indicative of the spirit of the time, actress Marika Kotopouli stated that she wouldn’t vote because, "Only those who are ugly and those who avoid having children want a vote!" Universal female suffrage was finally attained many years later, in 1952, but it was not exercised in the elections of that year, because the electoral rolls had failed to be updated.
Second wave feminism emerged in the 1960s, founded on ideals of women’s solidarity and focused on issues of reproductive freedom, economic equality, equality at work, and the elimination of intimate partner violence. In this second wave, feminist critique became more nuanced and incisive, leading to the proliferation of multiple affinities, such as liberal feminism, marxist feminist, radical feminist, women’s separatism. It was in this context that lesbianism was finally addressed explicitly in feminist communities and discourse which proved divisive. Initially, lesbians were not welcomed in feminist spaces due to the fear that the lesbians would taint the image of the feminist movement in the eyes of mainstream society. This hostility eventually subsided in later decades at which point more collaboration between lesbian feminists and non-lesbian feminists took root.
Relative to feminist movements elsewhere in Europe and North America, Greek feminism had a somewhat “late start” due to the overall political and cultural oppression at the hands of the Junta government until 1974. However, many women’s organizations emerged after its fall.
Towards the end of the 1970s, there was an urgent need to revise the Greek Family Law in order to harmonize with the new 1975 Constitution, which formally guaranteed gender equality, and to comply with European standards as Greece prepared for its planned accession to the European Economic Community in 1981. This context provided an opportunity for a number of women's groups to make institutional demands. Simultaneously, the formation of the Autonomous Women's Space contributed to the visibility of feminist issues through the establishment of grassroots groups.
The formation of the Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women in 1979 was one of the first women's collectives of the post-communist era. The feminist space emerged as more welcoming to lesbians than the gay liberation movement, as evidenced by the group's split away from homosexual activists in AKOE. Male privilege and male dominance within AKOE prevent gay women from establishing and pursuing their own needs. There were further conflicts between lesbians and gay men in AKOE concerning the content of Amphi and the page allocation of each issue. Many lesbians left AKOE when their demand for an 50/50 division of pages in Amphi was rejected. Lesbian organizing found a new homebase alongside other feminist groups at the Women’s House on Romanos Melodou Street, established at the end of 1980.
From 1982 to 1983 the Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women published the short-lived but important magazine "Labrys," named after the Amazon double-headed ax, a symbol of matriarchy and female power l that has been reclaimed by lesbians internationally. The Labrys publication sought to explore the issues of female sexuality, heterosexuality and homosexuality and to highlight the alliances and rivalries of the female homosexual movement with both feminism and the male-dominated homosexual movement. Labrys served a medium for contemporary and international debates on gender, sexuality and politics, featuring highly theoretical and political texts and publishing translations of relevant foreign work.
The Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women was also the organizer of the first public and political appearance of lesbians in Athens, raising placards with lesbian symbols at a feminist rally on 14 March 1980. The group also participated in the "Sexualities and Politics" conference organized by AKOE at the French Institute on November 7, 1982.
In 1985 another lesbian group was registered under the name "Autonomous Lesbian Feminists/Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women/Lesbians", but as the 1980s continued, the actions of women's collectives gradually diminished. This dwindling of political activity was not exclusive to lesbian organizations but was also a trend in many other progressive social movements internationally as the current of depoliticized individualization and lifestyle overshadowed collective political activity. However, the organizations of the 1970s and 80s left a lasting mark by shifting the concept of sexuality from one of individual concern to an issue of shared political interest.
In 1995, a group of seven women without editorial experience or organizational affiliation decided to fill lesbian cultural and editorial void by launching “Madame Gu," a title which combined a satirical take on mainstream women’s mags like “Madame Figaro” with the Kalliarda term “gu,” meaning lesbian. They were a closed group, nonetheless open to the exchange of ideas, texts and contacts. Over the next two years, they published 5 issues covering theoretical texts, translations, correspondence, news, and comics. It seems the political climate of the late 90s was not able to sustain a vibrant exchange of ideas and reader engagement.
By 2000, the mood had shifted and we saw the formation of LOA, the Lesbian Group of Athens. This organization was formed by about 20 women who had gathered in a 3-day “closed-Pride” symposium that was hosted and organized by EOK (the Greek Homosexual Community), which was at that time led by EIrini Petropoulou, Maria Katsikádakou (Cyber) and Vangelis Giannelos.
This gathering highlighted the need for a dynamic organization with a strong foundation in lesbian experience and identity that would focus on supporting and strengthening the Athens lesbian community. Drawing on the lesbian-feminist practice of consciousness raising discussion groups, for over 17 years, LOA held weekly meetings with discussions on lesbian awareness, love, sexuality, coming out, politics, patriarchy, domestic violence, friendship, professional concerns, tensions within lesbianism and feminism, social roles and expectations, alliances with other social movements, and more.
Once or twice a year, LOA organized women’s only parties in order to counter the male dominance of the status quo. LOA members subtitled over 30 lesbian films in Greek, and organized several film and documentary screenings. For many years, LOA worked with the Movement for Civil and Social Rights and with the Migrants' Steki. LOA ended it’s affiliate with the Steki in 2016 after conflicts arose involving a complaint of sexual harassment lodged by a LOA member against a member of the Steki. Before that point, LOA ran the bar at the Steki every other Thursday for 10 years, hosting a social space in which gay women could gather and make connections with one another and with activists from other progressive social movements.
For many years, LOA participated in anti-racist festivals, workshops, and events, circulated flyers, posters and stickers highlighting lesbian visibility, participated in coordinated marches, organized book exchanges, hosted activists from abroad, and played a key role in the realization of the first Athens Pride in 2005. Perhaps her greatest legacy is the magazine "Dalika".
From 2009 to 2016, "Dallíka" magazine proudly reclaimed the homophobic slur, weakening the insult with upbeat awareness and cunning critique. "Dallíka" gave a platform to lesbian presence, sharing a breadth of lesbian issues including political, artistic, erotic, and humorous matters.
The torch of lesbian visibility is now being carried by the recently-formed group "Lesbians on the Verge" who organized a lesbian feminist festival in Athens in 2022 and several other lesbian-feminist events and actions around town.
1976 - 1987
October 26, 1968 - Kalogreza - house party. Police sting operation resulted in the arrest of 30 so-called “abnormals,” including the writer/poet Lukas Theodorakopoulos. The vice squad had supposedly received an anonymous complaint in advance of the party, and arrived at the house before the party started, sure that there would be some kind of depraved sexual happenings featured. On the following Sunday, most major Greek newspapers published a lurid description of the party and a list of the names, ages, and occupations of all those who had been arrested. Theodorakopoulos wrote a detailed account of the arrest and the following events, which was later published under the title Ο Καίαδας: Χρονικό μιας Πολιορκίας (the chronicle of a siege) after the fall of the Junta, in 1976.
Andreas Velissaropoulos read the book soon after it was published and approached Theodorakopoulos asking if he wanted to join in founding an organization for homosexual liberation, to which LTh agreed. Velissaropoulos had previously approached Kostas Tachstis with a request for guidance and collaboration, but Tachstis - despite being known as a “sexual deviant” – vehemently refused to join the effort, and even went out of his way to make his opposition to the political project of homosexual liberation aggressively and publicly known.
Unlike Tachtsis, Theodorakopoulos was eager to collaborate and organize with Velissaropoulos. Both men had spent time studying abroad, and they were influenced by the homosexual political movements that had started emerging in the late 60s in other European and North American cities.
As we discussed when we were at Pedion tou Areos, the action in 1977 at the Louzitania Theater against the proposed sexual morality legislations was the first major public action that AKOE participated in, and served as an early catalyzing point for AKOE as an organization.
Today, many people know of AKOE as the organization that published Amphi - For the Liberation of Homosexual Desire. This queer magazine was printed from 78 until 1990, and at its peak sold 7,000 copies per issue. Amphi faced two obscenity lawsuits - once under the leadership of Theodorakopoulos and again in 1989 against then-editor Petropoulou, a lawsuit which was a significant contributing factor to the end of the magazine’s run.
However, the publication of Amphi was just one facet of AKOE’s work. The headquarters of AKOE, here on Zaloggou street, also served as a physical meeting space where politically-oriented sexual minorities could meet each other, hang out, and organize.
AKOE also operated a telephone support line out of these offices, with established training, protocols, and record keeping practices. At its peak, this hotline received up to 25 calls per day from people struggling with homosexual identity and living in a homophobic society.
In November 1982, AKOE hosted a conference at the French Institute in Athens called "Sexualities and Politics," gathering scholars and activists from Greece and abroad, including big names like Felix Guattari who became well known in homosexual spaces for his work on experimental psychiatric care in France and his fruitful collaborations with theorist Gilles Deleuze. In 1982 it would have been impossible to predict the emergence of queer theory as an academic discipline in the early 2000s and the enormous influence Deleuze and Guattari would have on contemporary feminist and queer writings still today.
In December of 1983, AKOE organized a concert in Sporting Field in collaboration with Kraximo magazine. The concert included musicians: Sidiropoulos, Asimos, Kilaidonis, Aphrodite Manou, Arleta, Fatme, D. Moutsis, G.Zouganelis among others.
September 21, 2018
The incident was originally reported as a self defense case of a robbery, but there are some inconsistencies that made it clear quite quickly that there were nastier motivations behind the attack. For example, the main perpetrator of Zak’s beating cleaned the scene thoroughly after the incident, and the police were slow and reluctant to intervene, failing to collect timely witness statements or evidence. During the beating, Zak attempted to escape from the shop through a broken window but he was stopped and beaten by men standing outside the shop. Police handcuffed Zak while he bled out on the pavement.
Early reports of the event depicted Zak as an armed, violent drug user actively committing a robbery. These facts were later shown to be false, but they created a persistent stigma and tarnished the character of the victim in a pattern that is all too typical in anti-queer crimes. The video footage of the incident which circulated on the internet after the event shows Zak panicking and trying to exit the shop while two men kick him and bystanders watch. The footage shows several police officers arrive and instead of stopping the violence, they simply handcuff Zak who was still being kicked. Zak died in an ambulance shortly thereafter.
Zak’s murder was the third of three very high profile murders fueled by right wing extremism. In a way, one could say that Zak’s was also the most shocking of these three tragedies. While 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was murdered by the police, and Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by organized NAZIs, Zak was murdered by so-called ordinary people. His murdered demonstrated to Greek society the effects that hate-filled rhetoric of Golden Dawn extremists can have in normalizing violence in all parts of society, leading somewhat ordinary people to commit horrific crimes motivated by petty discrimination.
The injustices against Zak did not end on the day of the murder. It took over three years for the case to come to trial, and prosecutors refused to sentence the perpetrators for murder, instead implementing a lesser crime: “inflicting fatal bodily harm.” None of the people involved in the beating were detained in jail while awaiting trial.
Once the trial finally got started, the defense relentlessly attempted to discredit the victim, suggesting that it was not the beating that killed Zak but his own behavior – drinking too much, taking too much ibuprofen, being HIV positive. All of this was rejected by the medical examiner and disproved by the autopsy, which showed that Zak died as a direct result from being beaten. The Kostopoulos family also requested that the court examine the possibility of a homophobic motivation behind the attack, but the court refused.
Ultimately, the four police officers charged with inflicting fatal bodily harm were acquitted of all charges. The two principal perpetrators of the beating–a 60 year old real estate agent and the 77 year old shop owner – were each sentenced to ten years. They were not charged with murder, but the lesser fatal bodily harm. The elder man was granted the right to serve his sentence at home on claims of his advanced age, and the younger perpetrator has been released from prison on parole after serving only 2 months of his sentence. It is beyond obvious that the courts have failed to serve justice.
The only silver lining of this horrific tragedy and crime is that it has led to a re-awakening of queer communities in Athens. A younger generation of activists has mobilized, showing their numbers and making political demands in the name of LGBT lives under the banner of the “Justice for Zackie” movement.
The glamour of Omonia
Hammams, cinemas & public bathrooms
"Omonia is frequented by suspicious players. Those who either with their minds or bodies have captured something of the real mystery and torment. They do not talk much. They have a thousand ways and a thousand gestures to show what they need. There are many varieties of people there, and I know how they’re called, how they’re scrutinized, how they’re treated, how they are followed, and how they are hunted..."
Omonia square has long held a privileged position in the constellation of Athen’s more fringe, countercultural, or downright dangerous happenings. And what would Omonoia be without a gay presence? Since the 1960s, when Tsarouchis painted the diptych of Neon Café and the Parthenon Café, alongside his naked sailors, pushing the boundaries of an entire society's tolerance for the unspoken love, the homosexual undertones of this space have become increasingly more explicit. For many decades, bathhouses like Hera on Zenonos (perhaps even the oldest sauna in Athens), cinemas such as SINEAK in the basement of the REX building and Roséclair, and of course the infamous public urinals of Omonia, have become reference points for gay Athenians, who often discovered their community in the square and its surroundings areas.
The protests and demonstrations
1980 - 2020
On March 14 of 1980, feminists hosted a protest against proposed family law reforms. Members of the Autonomous Group of Homosexual Women participated in the action with explicitly lesbian signs and slogans, marking the first official public appearance of lesbians in a political action in Athens.
On January 26 of the following year, 1981, another protest was held. This was a sequel of the 1977 action at the Louzitania theater and it was led by the same prominent trans women and AKOE members, who were protesting against the re-introduction of the prior bill aimed at controlling and criminalizing public sex, sex work, and sexually transmitted infections. The pushback from within trans and gay communities against this bill was profound and effective, and they managed to garner international support in showing the unconstitutionality of the bill, which was withdrawn by the government for “reprocessing” and never reintroduced.
On October 3, 1983 the Gathering of 100 Trans began here at Propylaia. Fed up with continued police harassment and brutality as well as widespread persecution, trans organizers held a rally here before traveling by bus to the Prime Minister’s residence in order to demand change from Papandreou. This event was a large culmination of a series of sit-ins and civil disobedience actions.
In 1984, a group of “colorful” gay anarchists staged a particularly campy and provocative protest against right wing French President Le Pen’s visit to Athens. And in 1987, Propylaia was again the site of a large gay demonstration, this time in solidarity with the hunger strike of the imprisoned Christos Roussos, a gay man who had been given a life sentence in 1976 after killing his lover – an act that Roussos claimed performed for self-preservation in the face of his mistreatment and manipulation by the deceased. Roussos’s story inspired the film Aggelos by Giorgos Katakouzinos, the first mainstream Greek film to address gay themes. Support from the LGBT community served to be key; and ultimately Roussos was freed and pardoned by President Karamanlis in 1990.
On November 28, 2009 the World Trans Day of Remembrance was officially observed in Greece for the first time, with a silent vigil held here hosted by the Greek Transgender Support Association (SYD). Since 2009, SYD has organized annual marches, workshops, and vigils in observation of the Trans Day of Remembrance, which is an international initiative aimed at raising awareness about the drastically disproportionate rates of murder and other violence experienced by trans people.
Athens Pride History
The History of Athens Pride: 1980 -2023
Nowadays, Pride Marches and celebrations are held in major (and even some minor) cities all over the world. The movement began as a memorialization of the police raid and subsequent riot that happened at the Stonewall Bar in New York City on June 28, 1968. At that time, it was common practice in New York City for police to habitually enter known gay bars and detain so-called “sexual deviants” for identity checks and often, an overnight lock up. On this particular night, more than 200 patrons were intercepted by the police. Most were allowed to leave, but three drag queens, two trans women, and the staff of the bar were arrested. When they were loaded into the police van outside, the crowd of patrons began throwing stones and bottles in order to protest the police harassment. The gathering of gay and trans people grew overnight and the next day. In the following weeks, activists communicated, gathered, and formed a group calling themselves the Gay Liberation Front. Other protests and rallies followed, and similar groups formed in other American cities. The following year, a march was held to memorialize the Stonewall riot and that tradition has come to be called Pride, with the official designation of World Pride Day on June 28. This movement was also taken up internationally. In 1982, AKOE staged a Gay Pride Day celebration in Zappeion park which drew “a few dozen” people, but it seems to have been an isolated event.
As we discussed earlier, there were Pride gatherings in Athens on Strephi Hill organized by Paola Revenioti in the 1990s. These were organized more as fixed location parties instead of parades/marches for the safety and comfort of the participants, and they fizzled out at the end of the 1990s.
By 2004, LGBT activists in Athens were feeling the need for a large, public demonstration to proudly show Greek society at large just how numerous LGBT people are. In the 90s, activists had begun working more directly with political parties and politicians in order to advocate for LGBT rights, and the message they received was clear: Your political value depends on your numbers. The more LGBT people there are, the more seriously we will take you. LGBT activists thus had to demonstrate that LGBT people were numerous ready to vote in accordance with their needs.
In the early 2000s, there were very few active LGBT organizations in Athens. In 2004, OLKE - The Gay and Lesbian Group of Greece- was created. One of their priorities was to organize and host a public Pride, and they ended up working directly with LOA, the lesbian group of Athens, to make it happen in 2005. Starting with a few hundred attendees in 2005, the event drew larger and larger crowds until finally the city was forced to grant the request to host Pride in Syntagma. We can also look to the exponential growth of Athens Prides across these past 18 years as evidence of just how much public opinion about and acceptance of LGBT people has shifted in Greece during these past 20 years.
The Queer Side of Athens Historical Centre
Politics, Nightlife & Gay Culture
In the 1960s and 70s, Plaka’s Tholou Street featured at least 4 bars frequented by gay and trans Athenians. In Psirri, gay bathhouses and bars thrived from the 70s until the 90s. The lesbian bar "Odyssey" was located on Ermou avenue on the right, down towards Thiseio.
The presence of gay entertainment began to take off in the late 1990s and continued through the 2000s and 2010s. From big nightclubs like Factory in the late 90s and +Soda later on, which highlighted the foreign electronic music scene and marked the gay culture of the time, to smaller cafes and bars like Magaze and later Rooster in Agia Irini Square, but also Booze in Kolokotroni, which for some years operated its upper floor almost exclusively as a lesbian-women's space, and Inoteca and Taf in Abyssinia Square, the center of Athens is dominated by the queer culture.
From the mid 1990s and onwards, more and more businesses catering to LGBT clients have opened. Not only nightclubs, where the social life of LGBTI people has historically evolved under the anonymous cover of the night, but also daytime spots like gay cafes and other institutions. For example, the first and only LGBTQ+ publishing house and bookstore in Greece, Polychromos Planitis, was founded by Marina Galanou and her partner Thanos Vessis in 2004.
Across the 00s and 2010s, we have seen that the proliferation of LGBT visibility and the trend towards general public acceptance is now an undeniable fact.
GHC (Greek Homosexual Community)
Politics, Nightlife & Gay Culture
The pattern of the gentrification of Athens
This pattern, of course, isn’t accidental or random. It correlates directly with gentrification, and rising real estate prices and the transformation of neighborhoods into luxury tourist destinations. This connection between LGBT culture and patterns of gentrification is not limited to Athens. This is a well-documented phenomenon in many metropolitan cities in Europe and North America with substantial queer populations and vibrant queer nightlife. Queer spaces typically take hold in lower cost neighborhoods with less scrutiny and therefore more acceptance of antinormativity. Then, precisely the vibrancy of such queer spaces causes the neighborhood to gain mainstream popularity as well, becoming too expensive and too buttoned-up to sustain a diverse queer scene.
LGBTQ Movement & the Extreme Right
In October of 2012, it was to host the run of a play called Corpus Christi. This play was written 1997 by an American playwright Terrence McNally. The work reimagines Jesus and his apostles as 13 gay men living in modern day Texas. As you can imagine, this play has been controversial in all of its stagings and attempted stages. However, the Athens production provoked an unparalleled response.
Offended by the juxtaposition of Jesus and homosexuality, the Golden Dawn called for a demonstration and protest to be held at the play’s opening night in front of the theater. Golden Dawn parliamentarians, members, clergy members, and other Christian groups contributed to a significant manifestation that turned violent. The cast was threatened, and hopeful spectators were heckled, harassed, and prevented from entering the theater. Journalist Manolis Vamvounis was harassed and beaten by the protestors while police looked on idly. When four protesters were finally arrested, the Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas boarded the police bus in which they were held and released one of the prisoners. Video footage shows that the police didn’t even try to stop him, making their allegiances and complicity more than obvious. Ultimately,
The premier was canceled. Five days later, a rally of support was held in front of the theater, but ultimately the plan’s run ended prematurely.
The protest of Corpus Christi was not an isolated incident of homophobic violence and harassment. During its peak, the right wing, explicitly Nazi group Golden Dawn bred and fostered a climate of rampant, organized and relentless homophobic, racist, and anti-immigrant violence. The effects of this phenomenon were exacerbated by the complicity of the police, some of whom were members or supporters of Golden Dawn. The trend of violence continued as GD gained clout and prominence, acting with impunity and spreading hatred. Statistics collected by United Nations High Commission's Racist Violence Incident Reporting Network show that the occurance of reported anti-LGBT violence in Greece climbed from 2013 and until 2017 before dropping slightly again after 2019, demonstrating a correlation between such violence and Golden Dawn’s acute rise in power and finally condemnation as a criminal organization after a five year trial.