Being trans in Greece: 'Coming out would destroy my family’s lives'

For Ronia, life is a daily battle to avoid being bullied, punished, pushed away, silenced, beaten or even killed right in the centre of the city. Angela Christofilou hears her story

Friday 01 March 2019 15:29
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Trans people face social isolation
Trans people face social isolation

The trans experience in Greece is tough, for Ronia*, who has been living on a small Greek island most of her life. She has no choice but to hide her gender and sexual identity on a daily basis. Her community lacks basic understanding of LGBT+ issues and there are also a large number of people who do not agree that gender identity assigned at birth can be changed.

This is a common story of most trans people in Greece, but it’s particularly difficult for those living outside of the main cities. "There is much more fear and hatred than is visible," she explains. ''In such a small community, coming out as Ronia would definitely destroy my family’s lives. We would be stigmatised and isolated by 99 per cent of the people here, with no right to a normal social life. Plus, finding a job would be almost impossible.

"It would be an everyday struggle not to be humiliated, degraded, and treated as less than human. Not only that but my own family would struggle to accept me. I hide from them too.

"We are not free to express ourselves. We are bullied, punished, pushed away, silenced, beaten or even killed right in the centre of the city, in the middle of the day, in front of citizens and policemen, while many people stand by watching.

"This happened, for example, with gay activist and drag queen Zak Kostopoulos, who was killed a while back. There are also lots of moments in my life I could give as examples, but the strongest shock was when doctors of a national hospital in Athens, in the emergency department, turned me away and refused to treat me because I was dressed in women’s clothes. There have also been times in my life where I had to turn to sex working and I experienced a lot of abuse when I did that."

She continues: "The alienation and the feeling that I can’t be myself hurts me daily. The fact that my own inner-world does not deserve to communicate with my surroundings freely.

"However, I am thankful that I have a few close friends, mainly women, who I can speak to and they accept me for who I am. I also spend a lot of time searching for harmony in fine arts, yoga, Ayurveda, aromatherapy, and some other ways of natural healing, but even in such a class, I have to pretend to be male. My garden is the only place where I can, for a while, be free from the stressful discomfort regarding my gender. Plants don’t judge. So I’ve discovered a new passion, herbal healing!"

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Ronia hasn't made any plans to move from the island yet. "A friend I confided in asked me once why I don’t consider moving to another country. It is because I still have hope for my town. I would like to stay here, fight and witness the change when it comes. I hope it comes; as I would like to be part of it."

*The name has been changed to protect her identity

For more of Angela Christofilou’s work you can visit her website here

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