I just got back from spending a couple of weeks in Greece. It was my first trip in 13 years, and only my second time there. This trip, however, I took Gus with me. As a matter of fact, as I write this, he’s still there staying with my cousin’s family.
For me it’s important for my son to see where his dad’s family comes from and how the country influenced everything from the foods we eat to our religion. But it was also a chance for him to see how different life can be in another country.
Part of that difference is the attitude toward gay parents. Although it decriminalized gay male sexual activity 65 years ago (nothing was ever on the books about lesbians, of course), for a country in the European Union, Greece was a late comer to recognizing same gender relationships. It was only last year that a law extending civil unions to LGBT couples was passed. Marriage, however, is not yet an option.
According to Equaladex, which aims to provide a comprehensive global view of LGBT rights, Greeks are pretty evenly split when it comes to accepting LGBT people, with 53 percent saying that society should “accept homosexuality.” Yet television still only portrays gay men in a negative, stereotypical manner. When my nephew learned I’m gay, he told his mom he was surprised because I don’t “look it.”
Gay parents are unheard of in Greece. Since adoption by LGBT people is illegal, kids raised by gay parents is the result of a previous heterosexual marriage. And no one seems to talk about “nontraditional” families. There’s no Pios Eeneh O Babas Sou (Who’s Your Daddy) in Greece. In fact, one morning my uncle and I were visiting with a neighbor when the man asked me if my wife is Greek. Before I had a chance to respond, my uncle answered “no” and changed the subject.
No, my uncle isn’t homophobic, or ashamed of me. I think he chose not to have to spend future conversations defending me and my parenting skills to his friend – time that could be spent talking about football or the crazy lady next door.
Widespread lack of understanding about gay people as parents is part of the problem. Like a lot of Americans, many people assume that children raised by gay or lesbian parents will grow up to be gay themselves.
Far worse than ignorance is the rise of the radical right on the political stage. Thuggish supporters of Golden Dawn – a neo-Nazi party holding 6 percent of the seats in parliament – have assaulted gay men. They are egged on by ultraconservative leaders within the Greek Orthodox Church, who declare homosexuality a great sin, and compare it to bestiality and pedophilia.
Not long prior to my arrival, a gay couple was accused of sexually abusing the disabled son of one of the men. Horrific incidences like that, a complete lack of positive gay images on television, and bombastic bigotry espoused by right wing politicians and clergy combine to create an inaccurate and dangerous perception of gay dads in Greece.
But I have hope for Greece. That’s why Gus is there now. For reasons I cannot quite fathom, I feel at home when I’m there, like I belong. I miss her when I’m in America.
So my hope lies in change; hope that ignorance will give way to understanding. If seeing is believing, I cannot think of a better example than my son Gus to show Greece – to make Greece slowly believe – just what great, normal kids gay parents can raise.