Where Lies The Limit Of Press Freedom?
For a non-binary transgender person, the limit is not just when there is incitement to violence.
Photos: Gerasimos Domenikos / FOS PHOTOS
On October 11, 2017, two pictures of Jason-Antigone Dane were front page on the daily Greek newspaper “Eleftheri Ora,” accompanied by the title “SMASH THE FAGGOTS”.
Α day before, the Greek parliament had voted to give transgender people the right to change the gender that has been attributed to them since birth, in their legal documents, after the age of 15.
While the new regulation is not as open and progressive as the Greek LGBTQI+ community and human rights advocates hoped, it still is a remarkable step forward considering Greece’s traditionally more conservative ethics.
Jason-Antigone was present in the Parliament both the days that the bill was discussed. They watched the procedures from the Parliament’s balconies and celebrated passionately when the regulation was passed.
The night before, they couldn’t find sleep easily. Although their own case had not been resolved by the new legislation, they felt joyous for this victory of the LGBTQI+ community. Jason-Antigone is not a man nor a woman. They are a non-binary transgender person -and more specifically an agender one.
On October 11th, Jason-Antigone was informed that their face appeared on a newspaper that urged violence against members of the LGBTQI+ community. That day “Eleftheri Ora” sold 2700 issues, a bit higher than its usual rates.
While the newspaper is well known for its far-right and conspiratorial rhetoric and often anti-LGBTQI+ propaganda, this was the first time that it showed Jason-Antigone’s face and didn’t seem to fear any sanctions from calling readers to violence so openly.
Even though Jason-Antigone is a proud and brave activist for human and animal rights, being exposed and targeted in such a way was “one of the worst things” that ever happened to them.
“I am actively involved in activism,” Jason-Antigone says. “I expose myself on television and radio; I expose my naked body to several demonstrations, or I am proudly dressed in dresses. This means I don’t just live an ordinary routine. I am aware of what I do, and I have received threatening messages from neo-Nazis for a long time now. However, being exposed in that newspaper, is the second worst thing, after a picture of me in a pink dress next to a member of Evzones during Athens Pride parade went viral. Even more ‘Christian Taliban’ and fanatics attacked me then. Sometimes I fear them, but activism is a ‘river that cannot go backwards.’ I could have stopped, but I know how [activism] inspires people and educates them. Even straight people. A mother once told me, ‘You make the world a better place.’ They have told me that [I have provoked] conversations from brothels to meeting rooms of big multinational companies. These things are being discussed everywhere. Along with my case as the first person who applied to erase my identity from my documents, I help to open the debate for the freedom to self-identification and whether gender attribution is oppressive.”
Reproduction can be equally racist
The newspaper “Eleftheri Ora” receives no appreciation among people of non-racist values. As was fitting, the journalists’ Union (ESIEA) and most of the media condemned the front page and violent intentions of the far-right newspaper. However, they accompanied their expression of disapproval with the reproduction of the unacceptable cover.
According to Jason-Antigone, the media showed the front page, concealing the phrase “SMASH THE FAGGOTS,” but for some reason no one thought of hiding the face of the person in the pictures. We asked Jason-Antigone why they believe the media continued to show their face.
“I cannot guarantee,” says to Athens Live. “I wish this is not the case, but I think that an image that doesn’t belong to regularities of the gender binary issue, an image that combines characteristics, namely beard and long hair, flowers on the head, and colorful dresses creates a….. I can’t even find the words to describe [my thoughts], and that means I cannot even reproduce this way of thinking. Maybe, this [use of my image] is a way to make people laugh. It deals with the internalized transphobia of the society.”
And they conclude: “If they wanted to protect me, they did very well by not mentioning my name, but they should also hide my pictures. People cannot claim that they care and want to protect the [LGBTQI+] community of people and then not protect a specific person of that community when given the chance.”
In 2013, some days after the assassination of the rapper Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn, the highly circulated daily newspaper “Proto Thema” published a candid picture of the young rapper dead in his girlfriend’s arms a few moments after he passed. This dreadful image sparked controversy among Greek society and highlighted an important question: does society or democracy become stronger and better when the press publishes images of death or extreme violence?
Or does it normalize disregarding the privacy of a person that belongs to a vulnerable social minority?
Jason-Antigone Dane is an activist that uses their unique appearance to bring attention to LGBTQI+ demands. “A little dress, along with a combination of beard and flowers on the hair, is enough to make people think about basic freedom issues,” they say.
However, Jason-Antigone Dane has the same concerns, fears, and -most importantly- rights as anyone else who dresses less creatively.
 Members of the Presidential Guard, dressed in the traditional Greek uniform.
This publication has been produced within the partnership with Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), co-funded by the European Commission. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of media partner AthensLive and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.