Colour Youth – Athens LGBTQ Youth Community is a non governmental organisation for and by LGBTQ youth. It was founded by volunteers of Athens Pride who felt that one day a year is not enough and that there is no one to represent them and express the needs of the LGBTQ+ youth in Greece. Moreover there was a lack of safe spaces where young LGBTQ people could socialize and develop their personality, accept and talk about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and be themselves. The first Colour Youth meetings took place in 2011, and the group became a legal entity in 2012. Weekly open meetings and support groups were established and the organisation grew really fast after that, and it’s been a wild ride ever since.
In 2013 we created our internal procedures and strategic plan and managed to get our first externally funded project. After that we started one of our most important projects, “Tell us”, whose main goal is the reporting of violence and/or discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We also became members of the RVRN (Racist Violence Recording Network) which was founded by the National Commission for Human Rights and the UNHCR.
In the following years we put a lot of effort in advocacy. We lobbied and launched awareness raising campaigns. We organised street actions and participated in countless demonstrations. Some fights we won and some we lost. We used the reports and statistics from the Tell Us-project to pressure for a decent hate crime law. We also spoke in the Greek parliament and advocated for the importance of trans rights and a legal gender recognition law. Last year, we became members of the National Commission for Human Rights.
Colour Youth has a very unique structure. It consist of only volunteers (with the exception of the EU funded projects that have some employees) and it’s rules are so strict and made in such a way that the decisions are only made after it is entirely clear what the opinion is of the majority of its members. Color Youth’s board has little room for deviations from the member’s desires. In addition, Color Youth has implemented procedures that allows for its members to be well informed on what is happening at any time.
Colour Youth is the first and only registered LGBTQ youth organisation in Greece, therefore it is a unique place for LGBTQ young people to meet each other, be empowered and volunteer to make Greece a friendlier country for our community in the future. In our minds, Colour Youth means friendship, a safe space, lots of fun, an opportunity to practice our skills and share our ideas. For some of us, it even means family.
Through the years our membership has grown to more than 100 people and our work has expanded immensely. All in all, it has been a difficult but also incredible 9 years.
What are your most memorable moments in Colour Youth LGBT’s recent history?
One project we are really proud of, apart from “Tell Us”, is the “National School Climate Survey” which we launched in 2017 and published in 2018. It’s the first survey that has been done in Greece concerning LGBTQ+ students in secondary school and their experiences. You can consult the Survey Report here.
We had almost 3000 responses on our survey and the results are used for advocacy purposes and to showcase the problems that exist in the Greek school system for LGBTQ+ kids.
At first, Colour Youth had it’s meetings at cafes in Athens or at spaces other organisations kindly offered us. In 2016, we finally managed to have our own space. As you can imagine, that was a really important step for us. For weeks members came together and we cleaned, painted the walls and decorated while speakers blasted Lady Gaga and Britney. It was a really nice bonding experience for the group and people got emotional the first time we used the space for a meeting.
Our history taught us how difficult it is to find funding to support a space (we still struggle with that. That is why we offer our space to other groups that need it for their meetings, just like people did for us in the beginning.
We should not forget to mention all the times we participated in demonstrations outside the Greek Parliament when laws that affect our lives were being discussed, our Saturday meetings where we learnt about LGBTQ history, health issues, useful skills or just came closer as a community of LGBTQ young people.
Can you tell us about your priorities, projects, topics, etc. you’ll be working on for the remainder of 2020?
This year we plan on focusing a little bit more on our internal procedures and maybe do some restructuring and also update our policies. We realised that with with the workload constantly increasing some things do not work anymore, so some housekeeping is in order. But there are of course some projects that will be running this year that have to do with training professionals (teachers, public servants) on LGBTQ+ issues. Furthermore, we can not ignore the refugee crisis that is happening and the dire circumstances that especially LGBTQ+ refugees face, thus part of our focus this year will be on finding ways to be helpful and on planning a project that will give us the ability to help on a bigger scale.
IGLYO has been empowering young people for 35 years. What is for you the potential of youth activism in the LGBTQI movement?
In today’s world, young people are more informed about social and political issues than ever and LGBTQ youth are no exception. They are less afraid to express themselves and put pressure on governments to change their legislation, they demand their fair share of public space and make their voice heard. They are extremely vocal on social media and are really good at online campaigning. Today’s young people have the tools to become great activists and achieve amazing things without having to experience the level of hardships previous generations have faced, if only they keep in touch with our history and don’t forget that the rights we have now (in some cases) can be taken away at any moment.