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Greece's only LGBTQI helpline has just reopened after 8 months

'Transphobia and homophobia in Greek society isn’t to be underestimated'

Greece's only LGBTQI helpline has just reopened after 8 months
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Acropolis, Athens

Greece’s only LGBTQI psychological support service was closed for almost a year because it ran out of money.

11528-By Your Side is a critical and unique helpline for Greece’s LGBTQI people with people from all over the country accessing its service.

But earlier this year it was forced to close due to an unexpected interruption of funding. It’s closure left many of Greece’s LGBTQI community vulnerable.

‘Transphobia and homophobia of Greek society isn’t to be underestimated,’ 11528-By Your Side’s project manager Cleopatra Economidou told Gay Star News.

Economidou said most people who called 11528-By Your Side were young people up to the age of 29. They often had no one else to speak to about their sexuality or gender identity. But straight people often call their service for advice on how to help family members.

‘The most disturbing finding though, is the percentage of bullying in school and/or abuse by family members, which reaches the amount of 20% to 25%,’ she said.

Helping people on the brink

Economidou recalled the story of a 65-year-old man who called to ask about his son who had just come out. He asked if his son’s ‘homosexual orientation could be changed’.

‘Initially, the way he expressed about his son and the LGBQTI community in general was at least derogatory,’ Economidoou said.

‘After, a long conversation, active hearing and counselling he found the answer on his request whether his son can be changed or not: ‘It isn’t something unnatural, so no need to change’.

‘The father thanked the consultant saying that they did great good to his family and that he already feels closer to his child.’

Institutional homophobia and transphobia, along with entrenched cultural stereotypes can make life very hard for LGBTQI people in Greece. Even when 11528-By Your Side tried to advertise their services, they were knocked back.

‘There is great fear and anxiety regarding the stereotypes of the public opinion and, especially, by those of some institutional structures, who withhold great power and express quite conservative opinions,’ Economidou said.

‘The challenges and difficulties we’d faced when we approached mainstream media were often insurmountable. Even paid advertisements were discouraged.’

But thanks to the unrelenting commitment from the organization’s Steering Committee, it found new funding. A donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation saved the day.

The donation has allowed 11528-By Your Side to ‘reopen and expand our services for now’, according to Economidou.

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