30 December 2009

A gay look-back on the ‘00s (from the greek perspective)

The 70’s were the decade of liberation. The ‘80s were scarred by the ravages of AIDS. During the ‘90s everybody wanted to turn into a designer-clad gym bunny. But what would a gay Rip van Winkle have missed if he fell asleep in the year 2000 and woke up yesterday? A look-back on everything we will remember -and some things we’d rather forget- from the first decade of the 21st century.

Queer as Folk

queer as folk Not just another TV show, but a pink revolution on the small screen. The lives of five gay friends and a lesbian couple compressed in five seasons where nothing was beyond the pale: from Hiv, drugs and homophobic violence to parent-children relationships, sex, love and family. A whole generation of greek viewers had to stay up until 3am -the slot where greek networks had scheduled the series- to catch the show or had to programme the VCR instead – don’t forget that before we had even heard of downloads and DVDs we still had to rely on the VCR…


gkazi1 The charms of a run-down neighborhood that we had to spruce up just in time for the 2004 Olympics turned the former gasworks area to the south of the Acropolis from Gkazi to “Gay-zi”. A few yeas later any hope that Athens would turn into a magnet for the international gay crowds now seem utopically far-fetched. With the suburban crowds storming the brand new metro station, gay nightlife in the greek capital looks almost as predictable as its straight counterpart: small, overcrowded venues, limited music policy, an area that turned from  party capital to a weekend chore. Only the saunas seem to thrive…

Internet cruising

gaydar When a south-african couple launched Gaydar in August 1999, even they couldn’t imagine what was about to follow. Why would anyone freeze in the park or wait endless hours at the bar when you could find “what you want, when you want it” with just a click on the lap-top screen? Body stats and headless photos with or without underwear in front of the bathroom mirror became a pre-requisite and terms like “looking for real” and “top, bottom, vers” relegated traditional gay slang to the wasteland of TV comedy shows and gossip rags. Internet cruising familiarised homos with the world-wide web as nothing ever could and helped them take over everything from blogs and Twitter to YouTube and Facebook….

Marriage and having a family

gaywedding The Netherlands sent the ball rolling back in 2001 when they became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. Since then seven more nations, five U.S. states and the mayor of Tilos island have all followed in their lead. Marriage equality became a hot-button political issue in developed nations and an excuse to persecute homosexuals in under-developed ones. Let’s hope that in ten-years’ time all this will be a distant memory and everybody will be able to enjoy equal rights. Because time flies and the patience of second-class citizens is also running out fast.

Brokeback Mountain

brokeback mountain It took a taiwanese director to turn a 50-page novel about the forbidden love between two cow-boys into the biggest gay movie romance of all time. Ang Lee’s film may not have won the Academy award for Best Movie but it became the most successful gay-themed film of all time and made the word “Brokeback” a by-word for closeted Hollywood professionals. It gave the prematurely lost Heath Ledger his opportunity to shine on the big screen and to all of us moments –like the one with the two shirts, one carefully tucked inside the other- that we will never forget in decades to come…

Dimitris Papaioannou

2004 opening ceremony The man responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics is among the very rare out gay artists living and working in Greece and the only one who acquired the status of a national icon. It still remains to be seen whether he can manage the difficult transition from “avant-garde creator” to “national asset”. But in a bleak era where the optimism of 2004 seems like a far-away memory, his vision, awareness and sensibility now seem more urgent than ever.

Athens Pride

athens pride1 What started as a timid demonstration of a few hundred people back in 2005 has since turned into an annual institution that attracts thousands to the streets of Athens for one Saturday every June. What still eludes the Athens Pride however is turning into more than an once-a-year celebration and helping to spawn an efficient civil-rights movement all year round. Finding imitators in other greek cities or even in Cyprus would also help…


dieux du stade A term that was coined back in 2002 to describe men who take care of themselves and spend on their physical appearance without necessarily being gay. Metrosexuals became every marketing manager’s dream and created a fledging industry for young, athletic celebrities who could exploit their narcissism and cash in on avid gay consumers along the way. Celebrities like David Beckham, Christiano Ronaldo as well as the french Dieux du Stade rugby players who were endlessly imitated by other teams ever since posing for their first naked calendar in 2001.

Eurovision’s rising up from the dead

helena paparizou The mass entry of young nations eager for victory, the abolition of the “mother tongue” rule and the participation of the audience through telephone voting breathed new life into a song contest that during the previous decade was slowly getting choked from an overdose of irish ballads. At a time where TV screens are awash with talent shows, the “gay Champions’ League” has managed to retain its primal camp appeal and turn into a gigantic affair reminiscent of american award shows. For the greek audience one victory (in 2005) as well as a succession of top-10 finishes have turned the contest into the most-watched TV programme year after year.

Sex and the City

sex and the city Men, shoes and cosmopolitan cocktails. In other words the most successful american show and the biggest Gay Icons of the decade. Four big-city ladies who could have very well been gay men (that way perhaps the show would have made more sense). Except that if they were men we wouldn’t get the chance to gawk at all those designer outfits…

François Sagat

francois sagat3 The decade’s ultimate gay sex-symbol: just like Joe D’Alessandro in the ‘70s, Jeff Stryker in the ‘80s and the Bel-Ami boys in the ‘90s, François became the decade’s hottest star in porn and a source of inspiration for gay artists from Pierre & Gilles to Bruce La Bruce. No matter what your type is, this frenchman has it all and that’s the secret of his appeal: boyish man and manly boy, hairy hunk and submissive toy, a wild tatooed skull crowning over dreamy eyes and dazzling smile…


bareback In a decade when thanks to new drug cocktails nobody died of Aids anymore, the message of safe sex was lost on a younger generation. Campaigns of information became more and more rare. Party drugs that turn off sexual inhibitions became all the rage in gay clubs. In “amateur” porn-sites all over the internet bareback went from forbidden to banal. And the number of new infections keeps rising. Let’s hope this is just a passing fad – the faster it passes, the better…


image image
Cheap airfare from no-frills airlines and the tendency of greek gays to shed their inhibitions faster when they are abroad has meant that Europe’s twin B’s became the favourite destination of greek travellers for 5-day or even 3-day escapes leaving cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam in the dust. I wonder if we go there to find what we don't have at home or we don’t even find it necessary to reach up to their level since it’s so easy to drop in for a visit anyway…

Allan Hollinghurst

the-line-of-beauty The man who won the 2004 Booker Prize (the highest accolade for an english-speaking writer) proved with “The Line of Beauty” that gay life and culture could provide the material for great literature and that he is one of the greatest writers alive today. Not only did he visit Greece on his book tour but we have the fortune of having access to all his works through greek translations.


gay brazil It was the decade that macho brazilians replaced eastern-european twinks as the hottest collective gay fantasy. Even if you don’t take a brazilian boyfriend (like Madonna did), men from Brazil became the hottest properties in international modelling with neighboring countries like Argentina and Cuba providing the only competition. Brazilian beauties, brazilian films, brazilian vacations, even brazilian flip-flops (the “havajanas”): it was the decade nobody could escape the cariocas’ sex-appeal.

Blood in the Middle East

sexy arabs Gays and lesbians in middle-eastern countries would rather forget the decade just past. Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq provided a grim list of countries where gays could be trapped, arrested, tortured, judged in cangaroo-courts, murdered by death-squads or executed. Fundamentalists have decided to pick on the most vulnerable social group to punish what they see as “western decadence”. No matter that homosexuality is not a western import but has been part of middle-eastern cultures for centuries. Or that europeans used to travel in those parts to taste the freedoms they couldn’t enjoy at home. What would C.P Cavafy say if he were alive today?

Well, since we can’t be ten years younger, maybe we have to settle with being ten years wiser :-)

And what about you? What would you remember from the ‘00s?

2009: A gay & lesbian review

January 7 What do you know. Tin Tin is gay, according to the Times of London!


January 28 Colombia’s constitutional court rules that same-sex couples should have the same rights as married heterosexuals.


February 1 Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir becomes the world’s first openly homosexual prime-minister.


February 14
On Valentine’s Day, gay and lesbian couples stage mock weddings for the television crews in downtown Beijing.


February 20
Oscar-winning comedian Roberto Benini makes a heartfelt plea against homophobia during the televised San Remo festival in Italy. The song “Luca was gay” about a “cured” homosexual takes second place at the contest.


February 22 At the Academy Awards Sean Penn wins Best Actor for “Milk” but the kudos go to the movie’s scriptwriter Dustin Lance Black for his memorable acceptance speech.

dustin black

February 25 In Paris 374 million euros are raised for AIDS research during the auction of Yves-Saint Laurent’ and his partner Pierre Bergé’s famous art collection.

yves saint laurent - pierre bergé

March 7
Clad in the national colours, Australia’s out olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham leads the Mardi Gras gay parade in Sydney.


March 7 Activists storm the Athens Opera House protesting an attempt to censor a gay kiss during the staging of Dvořák's “Rusalka”.


March 8
The U.S. Showtime network screens the last episode of lesbian tv show “The L Word”.


March 17 Denmark lets same-sex couples adopt children.


March 18 The U.S. signs a U.N declaration calling for the international de-criminalisation of homosexuality.


March 18
Greece’s highest court rules in favour of a company that fired an HIV-positive man at the behest of his colleagues…


March 21 The storming of a gay-friendly bar in Athens’ unruly Exarchia district by a group of punkish thugs leads to widespread damage and injuries…


March 23
The Pet Shop Boys return to center stage with their latest album “Yes”.

pet shop boys1

April 1
Not an April’s Fool joke! Sweden becomes the seventh country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

gay wedding2

April 2
The Homo-caust in Iraq charts its grimly course: six presumed homosexuals are found murdered in Baghdad in little less than a week.


April 11
Neighboring Turkey is also hit by a wave of homophobic violence as three transexual women and a gay man are murdered in a single month.

Turkey flag

May 2 Zurich’s lesbian mayor Corine Mauch opens the celebrations for Europride.


May 5 A court in Rhodes rules that the weddings of two same-sex couples on the island of Tilos were null and void.

rhodes harbour

May 8
World premiere of the film “Little Ashes” about the passionate affair between celebrated spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and surrealist painter Salvador Dali.


May 16 40 protesters who try to stage a gay rights parade to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest are arrested in Moscow.

alexander rybak 3

May 2 Two of gay porn’s most recognizable stars, Francesco Di Macho and Damien Crosse, get married in Madrid.

d_macho crosse

June 3 New Hampshire becomes the 5th U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage – and the third to do so since the beginning of the year

gay wedding3

June 4 Harvard University inaugurates a department of LGBT studies.


June 13 The organizers of Athens Pride spread a 31-meter-long rainbow flag in front of the House of Parliament.

athens pride flag

June 23 Openly gay writer and filmaker Frederic Mitterand becomes France’s minister of Culture.


July 1 A court in India rules that banning gay sex is uncostitutional.


July 14
Michael Jackson was gay according to an unauthorised biography.


July 15
Sponsored by the socialist opposition, a domestic partnership bill that includes same-sex couples is rejected by a greek parliamentary commitee.

July 24 “A Monstrous Masterpiece”, the homoerotic work of leftist greek poet Yannis Ritsos is presented at the Epidavros theatre.


July 27 The OutGames in Copenhagen are marred by two incidents of homophobic violence.


July 27 Modern dance revolutionary Merce Cunningham dies at the age of 90.

merce cunningham

August 1 A masked man shoots and kils two people and injures a dozen at an lgbt youth center in Tel Aviv.

israel gay rally4

August 6 Researchers at the University of North Carolina announce they have mapped the genome of the HIV virus.


August 7
The American Psychological Association rejects “reparative therapy” for homosexuals.

gay therapy 2

August 8 The israeli president talks at a 25.000-strong rally protesting Tel Aviv’s gay massacre.

israel gay rally

August 14 In a northern greek town domestic violence leads a 19-year-old gay man to take his own life.

gay suicide

August 16 President Obama awards posthumously the Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk.


September 5 New hopes for the development of an AIDS vaccine after researchers in California discover two antibodies that can fight the virus.

gay medical

September 9 Uruguay becomes the first country in Latin America to let same-sex couples adopt children.

lesbian family

September 11
The UK government posthumously apologises to Alan Turing. The father of computer science took his own life in 1954 after being convicted for same-sex relations.

Alan Turing 2

September 12 Colin Firth wins the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for his potrayal of a gay professor in Tom Ford’s “A Single Man”.

Single Man2

September 20 Serbia’s Pride parade is called off after extremist groups threaten participants with violence.


September 22
The Vatican’s UN envoy claims that homosexuals are to blame for pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church.


September 23 In an interview for a dutch gay magazine pop star Mika reveals he is bisexual.


September 24 10 thousand people take to the streets of Rome to protest a wave of homophobic violence in the Eternal City.


October 11 Thousands of protesters -Lady Gaga among them- take to the streets of Washington, D.C. callling on president Obama not to renege on his promises for lgbt rights.

lady gaga4

October 13 Athens’ renovated National Theatre opens the new theatre season with the works of openly gay choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou and legendary gay writer Kostas Tachtsis.


October 14
A muslim team is banned from France’s amateur soccer league after refusing a match with a gay team.

carton rouge

October 16 French president Nicola Sarkozy defends Frederic Mitterand from charges of sex tourism in Thailand insisting that “homosexuality cannot be mixed up with pedophilia”.


October 22 The Lutheran Church of Sweden votes to allow church weddings for same-sex couples.


October 24
Guido Westerwelle, the openly gay leader of the Free Democrat party, becomes the new foreign minister of Germany.


October 28 Barack Obama signs a bill named after murdered gay student Matthew Shepard that qualifies homophobic attacks as federal hate crimes.

matthew shepard

October 30 Londoners protest homophobic violence after the murder of a 60-year-old man at Trafalgar Square.


November 2 Authorities in the US lift the HIV travel ban.

statue of liberty

November 10 The man who killed TV star Nikos Sergianopoulos during an apparent sex transaction gets 20 years in prison.


December 1
Sweden lifts the ban on blood donations for gay men provided they have abstained from sex for at least one year.

true blood

December 2 France becomes the first country in the world that officially calls on iranian authorities to stop the executions of homosexuals.


December 4 Spain compensates a gay man who was imprisoned by the Franco regime.

gay prison1

December 10
The austrian parliament approves a domestic partnership scheme that offers limited rights to same-sex couples.

men in the alps

December 10 The depiction of sex and erotic love in ancient greek art is the subject of a landmark exhibition at Athens’ Museum of Cycladic Art.

greek phallus

December 17 After making its mark representing Greece on the gay festival circuit “Strella”, the story of a transexual girl facing some tough choices, starts its succesful run in Athens cinemas.


December 17 The homoerotic works of legendary painter Yannis Tsarouchis are at the epicenter of a massive retrospective in the Benaki museum.

naftis ston ilio -  tsarouxis

December 21 Mexico’s capital becomes the first city in Latin America to recognize same-sex marriage….

lesbian wedding6

December 28
…but a couple in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego makes it past the mexicans to become the first same-sex couple in the continent to actually tie the knot!

alejandro-jose maria