Greece: Accepting, or merely tolerant?

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    Apr 26, 2008 4:40 AM GMT
    I had a recent experience that’s left me a little confused.

    I sometimes post to the forums on the Lonely Planet website (it’s about travel, not dating). People write in with questions about places they’re planning to visit and those of us who have been there try to answer. Recently a 30-year-old woman said she was heading to the Greek Isles in late May. Since she was traveling on her own, she asked what islands might be best for meeting people, and presumably out of concern for safety she also asked if there was anyplace a lone woman should avoid. Since May is a bit off season I suggested she stick to the classics – Santorini, Paros, Mykonos, all beautiful places that would have a good crowd in May but wouldn’t be overrun. A woman who works as a travel agent in Athens quickly wrote to say a single woman would be advised to avoid Mykonos. Genuinely mystified, I asked her why. She said it’s because Mykonos is a “notorious” gay hangout.

    I was fairly pissed off. I pointed out (a little testily I’ll admit) that while there is a visible gay presence in Mykonos, the gay community is still in the minority, and intentionally separates themselves from the larger straight population – separate beach, separate bars, etc. Moreover I couldn’t fathom why a travel agent would advise the woman to skip a place as beautiful as Mykonos, and the archaeological wonders of adjacent Delos, simply because there’s a visible gay population. A few others jumped in on my side, but thankfully it never turned into an RJ-style flame party. The travel agent accused me of willfully stirring up trouble. In her mind, young straight partiers should go to Ios; honeymooners should go to Santorini; gays should go to Mykonos.

    I found her “straights belong here; gays belong there” attitude to be offensive. I felt like asking her which island they keep the Jews on.

    Well, in any event I was ready to dismiss her as a random crazy; after all, I’ve been to Greece four times over the last 23 years and always considered it to be among the world’s most accepting places. But then I remembered something that happened in 2004 when I was searching for a place to stay in Athens during the Olympics. A Greek travel agent, not knowing anything about my sexual preference, suggested there might be vacancies in the gay guest houses, because “gays aren’t interested in sports”.

    What’s most disturbing is that both of these people work in the travel industry, where presumably they’d have much greater than average contact with the gay community.

    So that started me wondering. Is Greece really as accepting as I thought, or are they merely tolerant – as long as we fork over the dollars and stay in our place? Can anyone with real knowledge shed some light on this?

    “Pleasures, too, of all sorts the Persians are quick to indulge in once they get to know about them – a notable instance is pederasty, which they learned from the Greeks.” – Herodotus, circa 430 BC
  • Laurence

    Posts: 942

    Apr 26, 2008 5:32 AM GMT
    I think Greece is a fabulous place, but like practically anywhere in the world, you are going to find some bigotry and ignorance, so I feel it's a bit unfair to generalise about an entire country because of a couple of ignorant remarks.

    However, you were right to challenge the woman travel agent's remarks and hopefully she'll think twice next time before generalising herself.

    Loz
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:49 AM GMT
    The islands are nice but i did them well most of them in the 80's when the crowds were at home thank god! Off season may/sept/oct they are great still and as for a lone woman well a lone woman anywhere can be dangerous even in NYC or London? Mykonos ok Gay yeh but most of the time mixed except some of the Gay Beaches? l live opposite Kos lsland and l can get there by ferry in one hour! l have been a Travel Agt etc etc for many years and travelled a lot in europe and also worked at Hethrow Airport for many years and l see many women travelling alone!
  • Hunter9

    Posts: 1039

    Apr 26, 2008 6:57 AM GMT
    i find travel agents to be arrogant, obnoxious pricks.
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    Apr 26, 2008 7:35 AM GMT
    riptjock said
    Since she was traveling on her own, she asked what islands might be best for meeting people, and presumably out of concern for safety she also asked if there was anyplace a lone woman should avoid.


    What place could be safer for a lone woman and a better place to meet people than a place where gay people hang out?
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    Apr 26, 2008 11:02 AM GMT
    Are you serious?! Im Cypriot, which is a greek island, and I am afraid to tell my family I'm gay because they might throw me out! Ok maybe not that but greek people are just do what they do for the money! There are a lot of gay people in Greece i have to say but they have always been mistreaded and laughed at. Greek people still think like they would a few decades ago, where it would not cross anyones mind that someone could be gay or be with someone of the same sex! Also in Greece they are very strong religious believers (Christian Orthtodox). The church plays the biggest role into putting anti-gay ideas into peoples minds! They are still saying that being gay is a choice and that if you repent for that, God will forgive you...
    It it true about Mykonos. I have heard from straight friends that it is a wonderful place but there are always things said about gay people there. This is because Mykonos is the biggest gathering of gay people in Greece and should be avoided because straights might catch this notorious disease!
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    Apr 26, 2008 11:41 AM GMT
    Ript, like you I love Greece and have been to Mykonos many times (as well as many other places). The garrulous Greeks aren't about to openly taunt paying customers, especially those who tend to stick to themselves in places that most people consider "avant garde" (even though they certainly aren't) like Mykonos.

    This isn't tolerance and it certainly isn't acceptance. Your and my experience as cash paying foreigners is different than that which a local-lad would discover from his own family right in the middle of Mykonos.

    The Greeks are lovely people and Greece belongs to them.

    I don't wish to generalize but the much vaunted Continental European indifference to sexual orientation is an urban myth. In Italy, where I live, one R A R E L Y sees any openly gay person. If you do it is like staring into a time machine or a Doctor Who episode where cruising hospital parking lots is the norm and not the exception.

    London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris are full of Italian, Greek, Spanish, and French gay men and women who aren't in the own countries (sometimes that is economic more often it is social reality).

    Another aspect is this. More than once I have written in these forums about a major theft I suffered at the hands of a "closet case". One thing that really shocked me was an attitude that more than a few people displayed that went something like it is better that this happened to me than to someone who had a family. Or, I got, well maybe this guy did it to you because he was trying to get ahead for his family.

    Talk about picking your jaw up off the floor. These are people, Europeans, who have eaten with "their feet under my table" (as the Italians say) countless times and yet when the rubber meets the road they don't regard my partner, our little doggies, and I as any kind of a family at all. We are N O T H I N G because we are not a man, a woman, and two kids.

    Enjoy Europe (I do). There is a wonderful standard of living, unpasteurized cheese (isn't that ironic since Louis Pasteur was not from Illinois and yet we are stuck with his invention), beautiful architecture, charming people (as long as you don't look too closely).

    If you do decide to look more closely (as it sounds like you have) then I would strongly recommend doing so on an empty stomach and being prepared to have your love and enjoyment of European culture tempered with a cold dose of reality.

    Hope that isn't too negative.

    Peace
    Terry


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    Apr 26, 2008 2:11 PM GMT
    Hunter9 saidi find travel agents to be arrogant, obnoxious pricks.

    Well l was not ok! Mybe in the USA where most are ?
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    Apr 26, 2008 2:29 PM GMT
    The travel agent lady may play it safe for her business and send people to where she thinks there is the least chance of getting a complaint back. ....like, Mykonos was full of gays, we were disgusted!
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    Apr 26, 2008 3:12 PM GMT
    There are some professions that are just accustomed to pigeonholing people and selling what they're programmed to sell. Among these are bankers, insurance agents, and yes, travel agents.

    I would take these things with a grain of salt. Some people are just ignorant of how ignorant they are. You can't educate the whole world.
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    Apr 26, 2008 3:18 PM GMT
    I'm Greek. In my experience, if you're part of their culture, being gay is unacceptable, and much worse than in the U.S. However, if you're a tourist, they don't seem to care.

    Of course that's only my personal experience.
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    Apr 26, 2008 3:57 PM GMT
    I'm 1/2 Greek, and even though it is frowned upon inside the Greek culture, even my very Orthodox grandmother has opened up enough to bake cookies for my boyfriend.

    I think you will find the same amount of tolerance and intolerance in the Greek community as you would in any other. It all depends on the individual.

    In my direct family i think 30% frown upon my homosexuality, but are still tolerant towards it. The other 70% really do not care. But i have to admit we live in Belgium now (i was born in Belgium), and this is one of the most tolerant countries in the world so it kinda rubs off (before you start to flame, yes, even Belgium has intolerant people/groups).
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:04 PM GMT
    Guys, thanks for some good responses, especially from those of you who have some insight into Greek culture. I'm certainly not going to let anyone's attitude spoil my party, and will probably be back in the Greek Isles within the next couple of years. I was mainly curious about whether the much-publicized accepting atmosphere is genuine or just another Greek myth. I think I got my answer.
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    Apr 26, 2008 8:10 PM GMT
    TroubledMind saidAre you serious?! Im Cypriot, which is a greek island, and I am afraid to tell my family I'm gay because they might throw me out! Ok maybe not that but greek people are just do what they do for the money! There are a lot of gay people in Greece i have to say but they have always been mistreaded and laughed at. Greek people still think like they would a few decades ago, where it would not cross anyones mind that someone could be gay or be with someone of the same sex! Also in Greece they are very strong religious believers (Christian Orthtodox). The church plays the biggest role into putting anti-gay ideas into peoples minds! They are still saying that being gay is a choice and that if you repent for that, God will forgive you...
    It it true about Mykonos. I have heard from straight friends that it is a wonderful place but there are always things said about gay people there. This is because Mykonos is the biggest gathering of gay people in Greece and should be avoided because straights might catch this notorious disease!
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^cyprus is not just a greek island. there are 2 seperate nation on it. greeks and turks
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 26, 2008 9:26 PM GMT
    Yes I am aware its not just an island!! I have lived there my whole life!! But I guess u r just saying that because you are Turkish.
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    Apr 26, 2008 11:49 PM GMT
    May probably isnt as bad in Mykonos but come on in the height of the season its a total slagpit and you wouldnt want a straigh innocent friend wandering mistakenly onto the nudist beach at Elia. Or to walk around the corner from Bar Porta in the centre of the town and stumble across to butt fugly guys shagging in the middle of the bath! Or the cruising that so blatantly and funnily happens around the old church.

    I mean call a spade a spade at the end of the day. Not everyone goes to Mykonos for a gay sex fest but its pretty rampant.

    But thats no different to a gay couple not to go to Benidorm in the height of the season for fear o muffin tops and snatch everywhere icon_lol.gif

    Is Greece tolerant? Well in my experience it tolerates anything if the money is right and would never turn away a customer.