– “Transgender legislation & rights in Greece”

Athens, 27.5.2011 

Greek Transgendered Support Association




 “Transgender legislation & rights in Greece

          Dear friends,

    On behalf of the Greek Transgendered Support Association we thank you for the invitation to the ILGA Mediterranean Conference, to which we respond with great joy and hope by presenting our thoughts, in order to do our bit for the better understanding of the problems faced by the LGBT community, and especially the transgendered community, and the ways to deal with them, but also for the exchange of experience and the fostering of a climate of collaboration between us.

    In Greece, transgendered people face a broad spectrum of discrimination in the private and public sphere, from the moment they become aware of their identity.

    It all begins in the strict confines of the family, where it is not unusual for young trans teenagers to meet with hostility from their close relatives, even to the point, in extreme cases, of isolation or expelling of the teenager from the family home. This way, rejection comes often in the very first occasions where a transgendered individual shares his or her experience of his or her identity with familiar persons, the loved ones he or she expects the support of. The transgendered person’s internal experience of the understanding of his or her gender identity and its external expression as a visible identity, stigmatizes him or her at a very young age, often in adolescence or the first steps into adulthood. It is no wonder that in those young ages we have many cases of suicidal thoughts, drug abuse and, especially in trans women, the first forays into (in effect enforced) sex work.

    At the same time, the way our system of education is organized perpetuates and reproduces the pattern of prejudice in society at large, inside its microcosm. We cannot forget what happened seven years ago, when two trans women who had left their family home as adolescents (and so stopped their schooling earlier than usual), tried at the age of 20 to enrol into a nocturnal school (Greece’s public education institution for adults). Two principals of different schools refused to enrol them, producing ridiculous excuses, which made it obvious that the problem was that the two women were transgendered. Fortunately, when the issue gained publicity and was put to the consideration of the Ministry of Education, a solution was provided. However, our two friends, who had been denied their right to education, had already experienced rejection and the result was that, even though the Ministry intervened, they did not wish to continue their studies. For one more time, they had come face to face with prejudice, with exclusion. This example I give you, is only the tip of the iceberg, because in an educational system like the Greek one, where, in the year 2011, sexual education is still not part of the national curriculum, while a policy against sexual discrimination is completely absent, transgendered individuals feel isolated, experience rejection and often find themselves at a dead end. 

     In the workplace, transgendered individuals experience total exclusion. It is only a tiny minority of trans people who manage to have access to employment, once their identity is expressed outwardly.

    Especially for trans women, their majority, being excluded from the workplace, practices what is in effect enforced sex work. Trans men more often resort to hiding their identity, to be able to exert their fundamental and constitutional right to employment.

     This of course directly results in the fact that many transgendered individuals inGreece, are without insurance and have trouble, or even find it impossible to access medical services.

    Often trans people inGreecehave trouble in securing housing -when the proprietors realise that they are trans- or are forced, in order to find a place to stay, to enlist friends, partners or relatives to rent in their name the house which the trans person is going to occupy.

    In Greek public services, Greek citizens are most usually required to present the national Identity Card as proof of identity and this ID card lists the bearer’s gender. Here, we must note that Greek names are directly identifiable as male or female by their grammatical form. Changing one’s name is anything but a simple matter inGreeceand the responsible courts will not allow a citizen to take a name of a gender different than his or her registered gender. The above makes it impossible for a transgendered person to display his or her ID card without revealing his or her transgendered status in the process and so exposing him- or herself to potential transphobic prejudice.

     We will never forget the case of a friend, who recently went to the post office to receive a registered-delivery parcel, and, when she showed her identity card that lists her biological sex, the clerks passed it around between them, laughing and making derisive and derogatory remarks.

     Allow me to cut this story short, I could mention many more examples and experiences that show the wide spectrum of discrimination and exclusion that transgendered people have to face in Greece, but also the responsibility borne by the state, which does not legislate towards the eradication of such behaviours.

    The Greek State, dear friends, despite the fact thatGreeceis a member of the strict core of the European Union, finds it impossible to provide a legislative umbrella of protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.

     Beginning with the anti-discrimination legislation, the law 3304/2005 lists sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination, but it does not mention gender identity.

     In the same way, the recent law 3896/2010 which aims at the equal treatment with respect to gender, does not list gender identity as an area of discrimination in the workplace and employment. There is of course, reverence in one paragraph to people who have had a gender reassignment operation, this however is not enough since the law should also cover those individuals who do not wish to have an operation. The exclusion from the workplace, because of the lack of legislation against discrimination but also the general prejudice that are not dealt with creates additional problems for transgendered people to secure insurance but also to access health services and medical coverage.

     In addition to the above, the equal opportunities programmes of the Ministry for Employment, lack policies to the purpose of facilitating the integration of and the provision of equal opportunities for transgendered people.

     In the field of Health and Social Security, the responsible ministries, with the exception of isolated cases, fail to grant transgendered individuals coverage for the needs of their transition towards the desired gender- a fundamental need for transgendered individuals.

     Recently, legislation was put up for public consultation, with the purpose of dealing with discriminatory speech, which, besides its other weaknesses, although it lists sexual orientation as an area where expressions of discriminatory hatred are prohibited, does not list gender identity as such an area.

    Additionally, the Greek State does not recognize gender identity with any legislative intervention, the possibility of changing their documents for transgendered people as in other countries is nonexistent, and even those trans individuals who have had gender reassignment operations are forced to resort to take recourse with the courts, using obsolete legislation that allows them to change their papers.

     Further, changing one’s name to a name of the gender opposite to the registered gender is not allowed by the Greek courts and this brings transgendered people to the dire position of having to use in their everyday life what is in effect of law, a false name, even though it is one that reflects the person’s lived reality. In addition to the obvious problems this causes, it is also easily exploited by employers looking for an excuse to reject applications by the transgendered person.

     The Greek State, in short, does not offer any provision for transgendered people, there is a complete lack of legislation for the protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.

    In that environment, our Association, from March of 2010 when it was established, aims to bring to the fore and promote the understanding of the problems and prejudice faced by transgendered people in their everyday life, but also, to our constructive intervention in the proposal of solutions for the elimination of discrimination and for the recognition of gender identity.

     Those are the directions towards which the Greek Transgendered Support Association has been active in this year or so of its existence. With the decision 7646 of the Athens District Court, gender identity was recognised as an area where the state has a responsibility to protect from discrimination by application of the article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (despite the fact that the Convention does not explicitly refer to gender identity). We submitted our proposals to the Ministry of Justice for the addition of gender identity as an area where hate speech is prohibited, during our meeting with the Secretary General of the Ministry, as well as our proposals for the possibility for transgendered individuals to change their identification documents. We have submitted a Report of Observations for the change of the law 3896/2010 for the Equal Treatment in the Workplace, as well as our proposals for the recognition of gender identity towards the National Human Rights Committee. In collaboration with the MP of the political party Syriza, ms Dioti, a question was addressed to the Greek Parliament, to which unfortunately the answers where not satisfactory, however that was a start for bringing our problems to the fore. We have organised, inthe 20th of November 2010, the Transgendered Day of Remembrance, with many speakers representing organisations and academia, where we presented a translation in Greek of the particularly useful report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, mr Hammarberg, “Human Rights and Gender Identity”.

     Beyond our intervention at this level, however, the role of a trans collectivity like our Association, aiming at the removal of prejudice and discrimination against our community, is the re-inscription of our visibility: a visibility beyond and above the stereotypes of Greek society where, for trans women the role of the prostitute is a given and for trans men the refuge to non-visibility and concealment is the majority tendency.

     The road towards a re-inscription of trans visibility in Greek society passes of course from the legislative interventions of the State for the removal of discrimination and exclusion, but it also passes from our own work that will aim to bring to the fore the creative character of the trans community and its possibilities, its own culture and its own wants and needs.

     For this reason, dear friends, we are called here to find our common objectives, to exchange our experience, and to discuss a context for tearing down the walls of discrimination, because discrimination – and we are all well aware of this- does not know borders.

     For this reason, our meeting today is particularly important for the promotion of collaboration on the level of collectivities under the umbrella of ILGA and the identification of the problems that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people face, but also to the ways we can confront them inside our common European family.

      We still have a long road to travel to deal with the existing inequalities and this road we can all travel together.

 We thank you

For the Greek Transgendered Support Assocation

Marina Galanou, Chair

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