Transgenders are the part of the LGBT community that has suffered the most. At least half of them have been kicked out of their homes, bullied in their schools, laughed at in hospitals and churches. People like Charlie Trueman and Tom Blake, characters from Tab Kimpton’s great webcomic Khaos Komix, have to fight and safeguard their identity all the time, so that one day they will earn universal respect.
a. God hates you
In 20th century Greece homosexuals and transgenders were usually considered the same group. I recall that, when I was a teenager, members of my family told me that being gay meant that one wished to belong to the opposite gender. Mainstream media’s depiction of homosexuals as sissies and dykes has had a great influence on strengthening such stereotypes. The same way that Tom’s mom thought that Tom was a lesbian, most Greek mothers probably have the same thought when they find out about their child being trans. Lack of knowledge make people search for some explanation to end the confusion in their minds. In Greece, the institution that provides the answer as to what being trans means is religion.
The official religion of Greece has always been Orthodox Christianity. In contrast to the rest of the Western World, church and state were never truly separated. Thus, church’s influence on people’s culture has been extraodinary. Let me give you an example: in a recent conversation my grandmother told me that, in her younger days, every family had to baptize their children, otherwise they would not be allowed to attent a public school. And up to this day, there’s morning prayer in the schoolyards before lessons start.
Orthodoxy’s message to anyone who did not fit traditional gender roles was very simple: you should change, or you shall not exist, since you are an abomination, a sinner. That forced almost every image of homosexuality and transgenderism out of society’s collective memory. If your body was female and you realized that your soul was that of a man’s or the other way around, there were no images of someone like yourself to help you understand what you feel, if it is normal to feel this way, to whom you should talk to.
Imagine what would have happened to Tom, if he had to live in such a society. He would have probably been forced to keep on doing something he hated, living as a woman, denying constantly his true self, just to get pregnant one day and have a life of making himself and others feel miserable. Even if he had the guts to stand up for himself, it would have been impossible to find someone to love, the way he did with Alex. Imagine how Charlie would have lost her mind, because in such a place she would not have the chance to find others like her, so she would have never shared her story. As horrible as it sounds, that kind of loneliness is not the only threat transgenders have to face.
b. The fire and the dead end
Under the circumstances of 20th-century Greece transgenders could not organize themselves to demand equal treatment -survival was never to be taken for granted, so people had to fight even for their basic needs. Whatever progress has been made ever since is the accomplishment of individual efforts and the influence of western culture -the latter has made younger generations change their attitude towards such issues. But is the West such a better place for transgenders?
In Khaos, the protagonists live in the UK, a country known worldwide for its tolerance and diversity. That did not stop those who were intolerant of Tom and Charlie’s identity from hurting them both. For Charlie especially it was extremely hard to face what happened to her. She preferred not to go after them, but rather to handle the situation by moving on and thinking of her life. Such silence is, in a way, like punishment for the innocent victim. Even though I am sure she did not wish for this, Charlie left her persecutors get away with their ill acts. But how could anyone really blame her? A recent case in Greece, troubles me.
A young transgender woman (who has not yet performed the surgery that will allow her to change her identity papers), wished to study in a night school but was threatened by the school principal that she would be denied that right, if she insisted on coming to class dressed as a woman. This way he humiliated her by forcing her to wear men’s clothes. The principal’s efforts against the student made most teachers too afraid to protect the girl and it encouraged most students to start bullying the girl to the point where they almost burned her alive. She was ready to kill herself to end her suffering, but somehow, someway, she managed to find the strength and demand justice.
Some of our friends told us that there are efforts to protect the principal, but besides some human rights organizations, almost no one has done anything to protect the girl. The fact that she was brave enough to actually come out and protest is admirable, for most victims are too afraid to do so. So, I have to ask again: how could one blame Charlie and most victims of bullying for not responding to violence, when even after a long struggle, there are little chances their efforts will succeed?
c. When one has no allies
Like I have already mentioned, in KhaosKomix Tom and Charlie come across a similar attack -one that thankfully ends with no dead victims. The two of them face this situation well, considering how harsh the attack was, but we should keep one thing in mind: they are very lucky to have found support in their families. They are also lucky that there are places where they can be themselves. A transgender college student is a rare occasion in Greece due to politics.
You see, in most universities students prefer to separate themselves into different political groups, based on what party or ideology each supports. What are their stance towards LGBTQ equality? The communists have shown their opposition many times -mostly because they consider homosexuality a part of capitalism’s way to degrade the working class and create new consumer groups and needs. Conservatives and far right wingers are also against LGBTQ rights, mostly due to religious reasons. The only ones to raise their voice against homo- and transphobia are members of the centre, the radical left and the liberals. But, the radicals have many extremists among them that make them appear as if they were crazy and the liberals have little influence on how society thinks.
A transgender’s life in Greece can truly be an adventure or, to put more accurately, a horror show. There are many obstacles to pass and little help to receive. You have to struggle to perceive yourself as you are and to make people understand your true nature. There is violence you may have to ignore, and many legs who will willingfully try to trickle you down, hoping that you will stand up on your own feet again.
Is it not then a miracle that the trans community has managed to survive? I think it is truly amazing that they keep on fighting and have started to defend themselves. That goes to show the rest of us that there are ways not to compromise, not to accept a place in life not chosen by yourself. As long as people keep on fighting, there will always be hope for a better tomorrow for any victim of discrimination.
1. Tom was born a woman but realized from an early age that he was male, thus he is a trans man. The complete opposite is the case for Charlie. I think you will understand better the references to the characters, if you read Khaos before trying this article.
2. All images used in this article are taken from KhaosKomix and designed by Tab Kimpton. The Beautiful World is a huge fan of this comic and highly suggests its readers to give it a good reading.
3. You can read more about the case of bullying mentioned in the article here.