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  • "Gender Is the First Terrorist"Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in Greece
  • Anna Carastathis (bio)

In the summer and autumn of 2015 I met with activists in Athens and Thessaloniki, with the aim of collaboratively producing a conceptual mapping of LGBTQ social movement discourses. My point of entry was the use and signification of "racism" in LGBTQ discourses (and more generally in common parlance in Greek) as a superordinate or "umbrella" concept that includes "homophobic" and "transphobic" but also "misogynist," "ageist," "ableist," and class- or status-based prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, in addition, of course, to that based on "race" or "ethnicity."1 As a political theorist over the past decade who has focused on the concept of intersectionality, its origins in US Black feminist thought, and its transnational travel beyond the Anglo-American context in which it originated, I wanted to examine how this use of "racism" relates to the concept of "intersectionality."2 Intersectionality is now emergent in the Greek social movement context, in particular in LGBTQ and feminist discourses, yet it has not been engaged by academics, neither in the nascent and struggling field of gender studies nor in legal theory.3

But what moved me to initiate the conversations I had with LGBTQ activists was not merely a narrowly "academic" interest in intersectionality and its adoption—or lack thereof—in institutional and activist discourses. Driving me were multiple and, perhaps, contradictory desires: the desire of diasporic return; homoerotic desire; the desire for social justice and embodied liberation; the desire for community. These desires are intertwined with my own "circular" migratory trajectory—as a person of mixed roots who was born in and spent the first decade of her life in Athens, before emigrating to Canada, and then the United States, and returning twenty-five years later to live in Greece. On the one hand, this trajectory locates my research in the ambiguous category of "anthropology at home" to the extent it that its field [End Page 265] is my birthplace, where one of my two mother tongues, interspersed with loans from the other, is spoken.4 On the other hand, in the Greek context, my body is often perceived as foreign; not only because of my emigration and living abroad for two and a half decades, but also because of my "mixed" ethnicity, my difficult-to-place accent, and my non-normative sexuality. My ambivalent position as an insider/outsider (a "half-Greek" citizen, a migrant, a diasporic subject, and a queer person) whose political allegiances have been formed through my engagement with women of color feminisms, shaped my encounter with the concepts of racism and intersectionality.

Intersectionality constitutes a framework for theorizing relations between various systems of oppression (which produce privileges), systems that are experienced simultaneously but are falsely separated from one another by means of complex hegemonic and counterhegemonic discursive processes.5 To the extent that intersectionality—as it is generally understood, as a multi-axial theory of oppression—seems to presuppose the irreducibility of multiple "axes" of oppression to each other, it seemed to me that the deployment of this concept was in tension with the more commonplace use of "racism" as a superordinate concept.6 I wondered whether the invocation of "racism" to describe homophobia and transphobia could be explained in any other way other than invoking the general "ignorance" attributed to Greek society about phenomena of oppression. To the extent that LGBTQ movements generate discourses based on experiential knowledge of what they call "racism," the appeal to "ignorance" or "error" to explain their linguistic choices seemed premature and even offensive.7 At the same time, I had reservations about the possible appropriation of the word racism and the specific experiences it describes. The etymology of the word seems to legitimize the narrow use of the term to refer to oppressions that target groups on the basis of "race"—or, more correctly, that racialize their targets in order to legitimize racism. Therefore the use of racism to refer to oppressions targeting LGBTQ people who are part of the dominant "ethnoracial" group (in this case, Greek Orthodox Christians with the privilege of citizenship) could be seen as appropriative.8 We return, then, to explain...


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