When coming out reduces personal freedoms

Dimitris or Dimitra (he/she has no problem how they call him/her) lives in a village in the northeast of Lesvos island, Greece. Dimitris/a loves music and dance. This love caused the comments and the laughter by a group of teenagers who videotaped Dimitris/a dancing and shared the video online.

This incident increases our concerns regarding the restrictions of individual freedoms as a result of “coming out” and motivates our thoughts on students’ awareness on diversity issues, including sexual diversity. Coming out is almost never an easy process. The public presentation of the self as bisexual, homosexual or transsexual in societies that were and are still defending “normality”, excluding what seems to be beyond the borders of the known sexes, and categorizing this as unnatural —and consequently as socially not desirable and obviously not acceptable— is not a simple matter.

In a short film directed by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou (YouTube link) Dimitris/a talks about his parents’ reaction to his/her coming out as a transsexual; they locked up him/her in a psychiatric clinic while “hiding” pills in his/her food. He/she also talks about social alienation, although as a child he/she felt loved by his/her classmates. Dimitris/a’s individual freedoms were significantly restricted as a result of a “difficult” coming out. The denial of sexual diversity by “others” and its medicalization led Dimitris/a, who is now 63 years old, to live alone, with few social contacts and interactions in the village where he/she was born. He/she has no bad feelings for others, not even his/her siblings… He/she has chosen how he/she will live and with whom. And he/she keeps dreaming…

The reaction of the young children to Dimitris/a’s dance emphatically is a reminder of both the need to raise community awareness regarding sexual diversity and the role of the modern school in preparing students, the citizens of tomorrow, to show empathy and awareness on LGBT issues.

Sexual education is still a taboo in the Greek educational system. Previous attempts to integrate sexual education into the curriculum and the few intermittent educational interventions (e.g. week on gender issues and sexuality, health education programs) have been rather unsuccessful and show that there is still much to do…. What should be the role of a modern school in sexual education? Doubtless, the education and training of teachers on sexual diversity and the design of appropriate educational material within the formal curriculum should be one of the key priorities of a school free from stereotypes, a school that acknowledges and accepts diversity and is interested in promoting positive attitudes to strengthen social cohesion.

This post contributed by the Greek team of Vana & Maria — Ευχαριστώ, ομάδα!

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