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Τρίτη, 22 Μαρτίου 2016

THE COORDINATORS OF THE LGBTQI+ PRIDE OF CRETE DENOUNCE THE CITY COUNCIL OF RETHYMNO

On Wednesday the 16th of March 2016, members of the coordination team of the LGBTQI+ Pride of Crete: Visibility and Claims for the Liberation of Gender, Body, and Sexuality Festival, were called to attend a plenary session of the City Council of Rethymno in order to examine our request for the concession of the Public Garden of Rethymno for the realization of the Festival on the 9th and 10th of July. Besides our attempts and the positive opinion that was initially given to us by the Municipal Community of Rethymno, whose assembly we attended a week earlier (9/3), the Civilian Council refused to grant us the permission.
It is not the first time that we face a negative stance by Municipal Authorities. Last year the Municipality of Heraklion, after a lot of meetings and discussions, appeared to have a positive response, giving us a reassuring informal answer on the admission of Georgiadis Park. Even so, a few days before the conduct of the Festival, in a formal announcement, they renounced any responsibility and involvement with the Festival under pressure from religious and extreme right wing elements. Things got to a point where just a few hours before the opening of the Festival they denied us a written authorization for the Park.
Taking a look at the Greek legislation, by the decision of the State Council and article 11 of the Constitution (right of assembly), acceptance of our request should have been a given. In a report of the public advocate for the management of public spaces from local authorities, the respective municipality undertakes the management and utilization of public spaces in a manner that does not detract communal use (article 970 Civil Code) and promote the public benefit (article 969 Civil Code). Every citizen has the power to freely use common areas, that power comes from the right of personality (article 57 Civil Code). Finally, the European Convention on human rights in article 10 (freedom of expression) literally states “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
What the municipalities deny us every time is not just the use of a site or a legal convenience, but our right to public space. For every one of us that carries identities outside the norm [cis, white, well-off, healthy, heterosexual, heteronormative person] the Public Space is toxic. It is a battlefield and our existence in it is constantly questioned, if not fought.
The decision of the Civil Council is against our constant struggle for visibility, self-determination and freedom. With the Council members’ ignorance towards the shape, the content and the demands of the Festival being obvious, and despite our defending our request during the council, it was rejected without a logical or practical argument. Instead, their argumentation ran in reproducing homophobic, sexist, transphobic, patriarchal speech.
Since we were given no space or time to answer during the council, we will comment on some of the basic arguments heard bellow:
For the presence of children and mothers in the Park during the hours of the Festival and the danger they will be in, due to their “exposure” to it: the Civilian Council calls the mothers that they claim to care about “hysterical”, betraying its misogynist and sexist beliefs. We are aware that all these children grow up with their first and primary concern being to perform the sex that was assigned to them at birth. Many of them are or will be victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying. Gender and sexuality issues raised by the Festival don’t exclusively concern the LGBTQI+ community, but all the people who grow up in a patriarchal society and are oppressed by the dominant standards. We will continue to fight until people can openly talk about them in every school, café or playground.
How many incidents like Vangelis Yakoumakis murder case or how many rapes do they need to notice gender-based violence? The alleged shock and sensitivity expressed by the authorities can be regarded as no more than hypocritical since they are trying to muzzle and ostracize a Festival that speaks about the body, gender, and sexuality. It should be noted that a member of the Board threatened to withdraw from the process if the Βody continued to converse with us.
None of the council’s counterproposals (M. Merkouri indoor basketball court, Spiti tou Politismou - cultural center) can be a realistic alternative for accommodating the agenda of a Festival of this type. What they are actually doing is degrading the event and its attendants. A festival that aims for Visibility cannot be held in an indoor space. The next counterproposal that the Garden will be given only during the night hours (21:00-00:00) is degrading us to second class citizens since it is known that the garden is available during the entire day for any other similar activity.
About the argument that refers to gender and sexual identities as an abnormality and a private matter that should remain in our bedrooms: To us, it is not a matter of nature, personal choice or even a private matter. It is a part of our sociopolitical substance; We bear these identities, we fight for them every day and we structure our struggles on them.
The fact that in his argument one the counselors reported false news about a public masturbation event in Prague, equating it with our Festival is indicative of the Council’s attitude towards it. In addition to indicating the Counselor’s ignorance towards the Festival’s content, this statement also reproduces body-incriminating stereotypes.
It is not surprising to us that earlier in the procedure there had been racist, islamophobic and nationalistic statements on a pre-agenda Resolution regarding the refugee crisis. The refugees, the LGBTQI+ community, and every other oppressed group have always been the easy target of social cannibalism. It is no wonder that very often the “preachers” of hate, homophobic, transphobic and sexist views happen to be institutional representatives of racism and fascism.
Another one of the main arguments of the Council was their fear that people opposed to the LGBTQI+ Pride Crete’s content may cause commotions during the Festival, making it impossible for the authorities to safeguard our space. Ηοwever, we have already grown familiar with ways to preserve our safe space, since, for us it is a matter of survival on a daily basis. Their argument is nothing but absurd, considering that with their attitude they stand against us. At the end of the meeting the members of the Council were not only verbally abusive, but they almost got physical when we were exiting the room.
It transpires once more with this incident, that such authoritative views are well maintained, not only in provincial areas like Crete but in Greek society in general. Thus, the necessity of a Festival which sheds light on matters that we are too afraid or avoid to talk about becomes obvious. Being self-organized and self-funded, we create safe spaces for ourselves and we struggle for visibility, self-determination, life, and freedom.
We continue to fight for the public space that we rightfully deserve and for our bodies and desires to be free. Oppressive institutions such as gender, race, and class all blend on our bodies. Therefore, we can only relate and reach out to any other fair social fight against any form of exploitation and oppression.

We call for individuals and collectives to declare their solidarity, co-sign our denunciation, bring the incident to public light and comment on it.
We collectively claim the Public garden of Rethymno on the 9th and 10th of July for the 2nd LGBTQI+ Pride of Crete: Visibility and Claims for the Liberation of Gender, Body, and Sexuality Festival.

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