Athens, October 23, 2013
Subject: «Greek Ombudsman issued positive recommendations for the respect of gender identity & gender expression of trans people in the school environment.»
The Greek Transgendered Support Association (G.T.S.A), ngo for the support for the rights of transgender people, and “Homophobia in Education”, a group of Teachers, Mental Health Professionals and Sociologists – Social Workers who fight against homophobia and transphobia in education, wish with the present press release to have a “follow-up” on the case of a trans schoolgirl that filed a complaint because of the serious discrimination problems she had to face in the school environment.
More specifically, both organizations had reported, in their joint press release dated December 3, 2012 (https://transgendersupportassociation.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/report-of-discrimination-intimidation-and-racist-violence-against-a-trans-woman-in-education/), that the trans schoolgirl had filed a complaint to the Greek Ombudsman due to the serious discrimination issues on the ground of gender identity that she was facing not only from her peers, but also from the school’s administration and faculty members, and which was supported by G.T.S.A. and Group “Homophobia in Education”. The Greek Ombudsman made in its conclusions, that were forwarded to the Director of the Office of the Minister of Education, Religious Affairs and Life-Long Education, explicit reference to the entire background of the complaint and the course of the Ombudsman’s negotiations.
Meetings were held with both the school administration, as well as the organizations that supported the schoolgirl’s complaint, there were discussions and clarifications on the issue and the climate in the school in relation to the schoolgirl’s situation, with particular focus on the lack of stable structures that could help schools to cope with this and other similar issues. The Authority’s executives attempted an open discussion about gender identity, its connection with prejudices and stereotypes, and its protection in the context of respect of human dignity. The discussions focused on proposals on how to cope with the situation and restore the peaceful environment in the school.
The Greek Ombudsman then issued a new recommendation, dated March 7, 2013, to the School Headmaster with a reference to the concept of gender identity and its protections within the constitutional and international legal system. Furthermore, the Greek Ombudsman even attempted a tangible connection of the case within the scope of human rights protection in its concluding recommendations urging the School’s Administration and the Teachers’ Association, as an act of recognition of the schoolgirl’s human rights based on the grounds of gender identity and restore her confidence to the school’s administration, to accept that: a) she can use the name she desires in her relations with her peers and teachers, b) to dress according to her gender identity, as long as she keeps within the limits of decency that apply to the other girls as well, and c) to use the women’s resting room.
In the meeting that followed, held at the school’s premises, the Ombudsman’s recommendations were unanimously accepted by the Teacher’s Association and the Office of Health Education of the local Secondary Education Office. Then the Office of Health Education in collaboration with “Homophobia in Education” group and a psychologist organized an educational seminar for the students and teachers at the school. In total, there were five meetings held with the high-school and lyceum students and two with the teachers.
Besides the positive outcome of the complaint, that was made possible due to the Greek Ombudsman’s negotiations in cooperation with both organizations, it is, however, worth mentioning that, the state showed for one more time its indifference and negativity. More specifically:
a) The Greek Transgendered Support Association and “Homophobia in Education” repeatedly asked for a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Education in order to discuss the serious issue of discrimination that trans people have to face (and LGBT’s in general) during their school years, this meeting never took place,
b) The Minister of Education, Religious Affairs and Life-Long Education never answered to two – relevant to the case – questions filed in the Parliament,
c) There was no climate of cooperation during the meeting between the representatives of LGBT organizations with the Observatory Against School Violence, as proposed by the Greek Ombudsman. On the contrary, the representative of the Observatory showed transphobic behavior by refusing to meet with the LGBT organizations because there was a trans woman among their representatives (https://transgendersupportassociation.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/p-r-13-3-2013.pdf).
The Greek Transgendered Support Association (G.T.S.A) and “Homophobia in Education” urge, on this occasion, the Ministry of Education to fully adopt the recommendations of the Greek Ombudsman, namely:
a) It is necessary, based on the good practice of the trans schoolgirl case, to directly implement other relevant pilot projects in schools,
b) it is of high priority to use this experience as well as to engage in this process civil society organizations that are working on issues of protection of target-groups,
c) to emphasize the need to issue instructions in all schools about the diversity acceptance (among other things) on the ground of gender identity, that will explicitly remind and encourage teachers and students to ask for awareness programs that will be organized in their schools,
d) to support the rapid development and efficient operation of the Observatory Against School Violence and to develop a cooperation with civil society and LGBT organizations, and finally,
e) the General Youth Secretariat must continue and maintain the operations of 1528 Help-Line which is directly dealing and filing such incidents, which seized operations with no apparent reason this summer.
Greek Transgendered Support Association (G.T.S.A.)
17 Jean Moreas Street, Koukaki, Athens GR 11741
“Homophobia in Education”.