Hellenism and homosexuality

Ethnic Hellenes in Greece and the diaspora have met people on the internet and in real life who ask us about our position on homosexuality, while others even asked us to condemn homosexuality and seemed highly offended by our answers. Specifically, they were interested to hear the position of Greek religion on homosexuality. Although it is impossible to separate Greek religion from Greek culture, since the former is an organic part of the latter, I will try to deal with this topic from a religious angle,” even though, as I mentioned, in Hellenism—just like in many other indigenous cultures—religion and culture form a unit. So what is the position of the Hellenic religion on homosexuality? Does it even have a position regarding this matter? 

In general, we can say that Greek religion has no such position, because it simply does not deal with people’s sexual preferences or sexual orientation. This does not mean that there are no ethnic Hellenes or Hellenists who have an opinion on homosexuality or bisexuality, but any position or point of view about homosexuality reflects only a personal opinion and not that of Hellenic religion. If someone has a problem with homosexuality, it can only be his (or her) problem and not something that concerns Hellenic religion as a whole. 

If you want to be a Hellenist, it is not enough to study Hellenic culture. You also must try to understand Hellenism and adopt its language and way of life. And this can only work if you look at this particular tradition through Hellenic eyes, without projecting your own stereotypes, clichés or ideologies that have been implanted in you by the current dominant culture onto the Hellenes. We Hellenes respect humans existence, sexuality and self-determination. We do not discriminate against social minorities or people with a different sexual orientation, way of life or thinking. We do not reduce humans to their sexuality. Homosexuals can freely honor the gods, represent the community and have the right to vote. (Besides, people are not the sum of their sexual practices.) They are equal members of our community and their alterity is respected. And yet there seem to be outsiders or irrelevant third parties who are trying to enforce, if not to impose, their mindset on our tradition from the outside. These people are essentially turning against the natural order. Their views are not based on nor shaped by reality or science, but by an ideologized moralism whose adherents ignore nature and decide arbitrarily whats “healthy” or “sick,” “right” or “wrong,” how man should and should not be according to their respective ideology. That is why they are indifferent to the findings of biology, anthropology, or psychology, that is, the tools to measure reality, with which ideologists are at war. The theories they use, on the other hand, are too simplistic to explain the causes of homosexual orientation. Thanks to science, we know that homosexuality is a complex phenomenon. It is not that easy to explain.

Nature, however, does not care about the sensitivities and moralisms of mortals; we are simply called upon to respect her. Nature exists, and we have to comply with her laws and not project our view of point onto her. Otherwise, we do not see reality, but only our obsessions. Many homophobes, usually people with conservative views, are not so much hostile towards homosexuals but more to the unconscious homosexual tendencies in their own souls that scare their conscious “ego.” These are the tendencies, which they feel the need to suppress. They project these tendencies, their discomfort or fear of their own sexuality onto homosexual people; they try to get rid of it, fight against these tendencies by fighting homosexuals, as psychotherapist Udo Rauchfleisch pointed out. They are probably dealing with their own internalized homophobia. In any case, the homophobic problem is a source of misery for homosexuals, as it isolates and stigmatizes them. If we look at things closely, however, we realize that homosexuality is ultimately about homosexuals, all about their sexuality. Therefore, it should not concern others. But this is hard to be understood by those who disprize what is different to themselves, manly because they are unable to see things from a different perspective.

From a biological point of view, we can say that homosexuality is a normal form of human sexuality that can be found all over the biosphere, in a number of mammals, not only in human societies. The psychoanalyst Eugene Monick explains from a psychological point of view why homosexuality is not a behaviour disorder or an infantile adaptation pattern: “How a man [respective woman] deals with his sexuality, is where pathology enters the picture … Sexuality, in itself, including the omnipresent homosexual radical in men, is not, and never has been, pathological.” (Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine, Toronto 1987, p. 116). Abraham Brill, Fritz Morgenthaler and Udo Rauchfleisch express similar conclusions or observations (U. Rauchfleisch: Schwule, Lesben, Bisexuelle: Lebensweisen, Vorurteile, Einsichten, 4th ed., Göttingen 2011, p. 52). Most modern scientists agree that homosexuality itself is not a mental disorder. It seems, it is not homosexuality itself that is abnormal or wrong, but peoples understanding or view of it. Homophobia, hatred of homosexuals, is an irrational hatred and therefore harmful to reason. Consequently, the conclusions drawn from it are equally irrational, especially when they are based on very subjective criteria.

Homosexuality is neither “good” nor “bad.” It simply is. And it is not the task or duty of Hellenismos to “defend,” “justify,” “challenge” or “condemn” homosexuality. It simply is not an issue. Period. So when people ask us about our position on homosexuality, we can only answer with the Supreme Council of ethnic Hellenes (YSEE): “As mentioned earlier, all decent religions accept people who turn to them, regardless of their individual political, nutritional, sexual, aesthetic or other personal choices. No decent religion can be concerned with how adults express their sexuality with other consenting adults.” (YSEE: What is your stance vis-a-vis homosexuality?, in: YSEE English, Frequently Asked Questions about the Hellenic ethnic religion and tradition, No. 37.) In one of his speeches, the General Secretary of the YSEE Vlassis G. Rassias said that Hellenismos affirms life, human happiness and sexual joy. “Hellenes are affirming life. We want people to be happy and joyful, because only thereby” can they find the way “to completion. Through destruction and sorrow and misery” they can achieve no completion. Therefore, Hellenic religion stands “decisively against any ideology, system or doctrine, monomania, obsession or anything else that attacks mans happiness,” against anything that makes man feel guilty “for simply being happy. We are enemies of anything that attacks erotic joy, attacks the enjoyment of the goods that the gods provide us,” for joy is “part of the worship of the gods.” Hellenic religion “is a religion of joy” (“The religion of the Greeks affirms life, it does not deny it,“ excerpt from his speech at YSEEs premises in Athens, January 23, “2018”). In a post on his Facebook page, he expressed his personal opinion on homosexuality: “… finally, my PERSONAL opinion: EVERYTHING IS OK when it comes to sex, as long as both sides agree (i.e. minors and mentally retarded people are excluded from this). Furthermore, homosexuals are born and not made, as claimed by world-correctors, whether they are fascists or bolsheviks. Their FIXED percentage in societies ‘grows’ only seemingly as freedom grows and they don’t get persecuted … I am OPENLY in favor of freedom, the affirmation of life and joy exuded by sexually relaxed people. To put it differently: whoever attacks human sexuality is an enemy of man.”

ανθρώπινη σεξουαλικότητα

With these words, he expresses his respect for reality, which some people want to replace with their ideology, degrading nature to a disease and “upgrading” their ideology to the status of a law of nature. They require nature, and now Hellenismos, to submit to their ideas, indifferent to the functioning of the human body (the rectum is an erogenous zone), homosexuality in nature (other animals can be homosexual just as well as humans), its importance regarding overpopulation etc., and, finally, indifferent to man itself. It is not nature that has to be in line with human phantasies or ideologies. It is man who has to get in line with nature. So, when ideologies replace nature by some kind of fake-nature, when they degrade real nature or think of her as a disease that has to be cured, then they become very dangerous. You can not cure what is not ill. But you can make it ill.

Greek religion, therefore, does not “condemn” nor “reward” homosexuality and homoerotic relations. It takes note of its existence and its place in nature, but it does not “support” or “reject” it. Of course, things could not have been different in Hellenismos, since it aims at human perfection. And this can be achieved only in “agreement with nature.” The Stoics said: “Nature leads the willing.” She sends out a clear message and we Hellenes respect this message as we respect the natural diversity of the bio- and ethnosphere and the pluralism of worldviews, cultures, ethnicities and lifestyles. We obay to natures laws. But modern political and ideological “camps” who position themselves, either positively or negatively, in relation to homosexuality, often involve ancient Greece and its religion in their (impregnated with modern views) arguments for or against homosexuality. One group presents ancient Greece as the Elysian Fields of homosexuality, the other group as deadly hostile to homosexuals. They ideologize a vague “Ancient Greece” to legitimize their inadequately differentiated positions and intentions. They always remember a saying, a story, or an event that took place in ancient Greece to give “weight” to their beliefs and claims.

2000 years after the start of the Christian era, some people try to project their attitudes and positions onto ancient Greece, i.e. on a different culture with another religion, another ethos, other values, turning the ancients into modern or Neo-Greeks. What we call homosexuality today or our understanding of sexual orientations did not exist in ancient Greece. The Greeks did not identify themselves as homosexual or heterosexual. They, or many of them, just fell in love with beauty regardless of gender. Now, the Greek states or cities distinguished between natural law and human law, nature and convention, with the latter restricting or even prohibiting sometimes sexual intercourse between men. They desperately needed and wanted children for several reasons, especially Sparta, where women had children from different men. Men were expected to marry and have children, to start a family. The motives behind the legislation and laws were embedded in the social policy, had specific social conditions, very specific reasons and they were not the waste products of any kind of moralism. Therefore, modern and ideological battles about human sexuality do not concern nor bother Hellenismos.

Timothy Jay Alexander: Homophobia and Hellenismos and Final: Homophobia and Hellenismos (as consulted online on May 23,2021). H
Psychological Association: Understanding sexual orientation and homosexuality
American Psychiatric Association: Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating LGBTQ in a Changing Political and Social Environment
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: Sexuality and sexual orientation
Antonio Ventriglio, João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia, Julio Torales, Domenico De Berardis and Dinesh Bhugra: Homophobia and mental health: a scourge of modern era (Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Volume 30, Cambridge 2021)
Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. and Wesley C. Davidson: Don’t Ask, They’ll Tell: Don’t know your child’s sexual orientation? It doesn’t matter (Psychology Today, December 30, 2017)
Jack Drescher, MD: The Closet: Psychological Issues of Being In and Coming Out (Psychiatric Times, October 1, 2004)