“Colour Youth sees daily what a key role education can play and how education on LGBTQ issues can prevent misinformation and embarrassment.”

In 2011, safe places for young people of the LGTBQ community in Greece were few and far between. Youth were not encouraged to openly discuss issues related to sexual orientation, identity and gender expression. In June of that year, Athens Pride volunteers began to discuss the need for an organisation where young people could come together and feel supported.

This initiative led to the establishment of Colour Youth, a charitable organisation based in Athens,  whose mission is to support the LGBTQ community against violence and discrimination–and empower LGBTQ youth while strengthening their identities.

Five years later, the organisation is an integral part of the LGBTQ activist scene in Athens.

Identifying problems through Colour Youth

Chrisoula Iliopoulos, psychologist and coordinator of the Colour Youth’s Support Group, told the IPF:

“The messages we receive daily indicate how much young people want to talk about issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in a safe space, away from taboos and stereotypes.”

These messages’ subjects include children and young adults asking for advice on how to come out to friends and family and, in severe cases, include young people seeking help after a homophobic attack.

Chrisoula added: “Often, people just want someone to talk to. It goes to show just how important it is for a platform like this to exist.”

Last year, over 100 attacks against the LGBTQ community were recorded for the first time. Most of the attacks happened in public

Colour Youth’s “Pes To Se Mas” (“Say it to Us”) campaign aims to identify and record incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Greece. It also aims to provide victims and witnesses with free counselling and legal support.

Start with education

Another growing concern of the organisation and the community as a whole is how LGBTQ issues are handled in schools.

Teachers are not trained to deal with issues of gender nonconformity and sex education is practically non-existent in Greek schools.

The strict educational system in Greece does not even allow for organisations to provide information or offer support for victims of homophobic or transphobic bullying.

Chrisoula said: “Our ultimate goal is to be able to access schools. We see daily what a key role education can play and how education on LGBTQ issues can prevent misinformation and embarrassment, for the students themselves, as well as their teachers and guardians.”

Next up: challenging society

In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights contributed to the recognition of civil partnership for same-sex couples. Their court ruling in Valianatos and others v. Greece and the European Council continued recommendations have contributed significantly to a proposal for Legal Recognition of Gender Identity law, which would be a landmark in Greek legislation and the rights of transgender people.

There is still much to be done and Colour Youth is determined to be there providing a backdrop to the discussion of discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Greece, especially transgender people who are still not wholly protected under Greek law.

Chrisoula said:

“Things are improving. Our society is becoming more open to the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identify expression and legislation is slowly establishing our rights. Certainly there is still work to be done over the coming years.”

To find out more about Colour Youth, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.