However, it isn’t easy to get a job in Greece now. According to Eurostat, in 2012, more than half of young Greeks aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, which has increased 24% compared to late 2009 when austerity kicked in.
Karathanasis knows many graduates who are waiting tables. One of his friends with a Bachelor degree from the University of Athens is now delivering fast food. Some waiters used to be paid €1,500, whilst nowadays they don’t even get half of that.
Half of all young Greek adults live with their parents, suffering from the guilt of being a burden on their parents, which, as Karathanasis told me, is a commonly shared mindset.
But although the house prices continue to fall due to the weaker property demand, young people still cannot afford one of their own.
For Karathanasis, there is something more that he needs to sort out before he can find a job in this already difficult situation. He needs to have a piece of paper that shows he has served in the army in order to get a proper job. But in Greece, it used to be the case that a gay man could not join the army. This put him in a Catch-22 situation.
Karathanasis postponed enlisting when he was 18 and went to university, thanks to a rule that students who wish to attend further education can apply for a deferment for 5-6 years. Now that he is graduating soon, Karathanasis has to face the same situation again, but this time for a different reason.
“I think this eight-month service is a total waste of time, especially for those who just graduated,” says Karathanasis.
But not all gay people think the same way. After years of against discrimination based on sexuality, gay people can finally join the army.
However, a progressive policy toward gay and lesbian soldiers does not invariably guarantee its gay citizens freedom from discrimination. Especially in Greece, where the financial turmoil and a rise in national fervour has resulted in a spike in hate crimes against homosexuals.
Since the financial crisis took place in Greece in 2009, hate crimes against the gay community has been started by the so-called “last hope of Greece” – the Golden Dawn party. The extreme far-right party has found its chance in the turmoil and climbed up onto the political stage. They’ve sold people the idea of “pure Greeks”, those proud, able-bodied, ‘full-bloodied’ men that keep women in their place. People who don’t fit this standard are labeled as “faggots”, “scum”, “whores” and “invaders”.
Golden Dawn does not accept homosexuality, because for them it is “un-Christian”, even though they follow Pagan religions instead of Greek Orthodoxy. In the name of religion, Golden Dawn members advocate violence by committing crimes and making provocative speeches, claiming they are “defending Greece against ‘un-Greek’ influences.”
Among their unfriendly gestures towards homosexual people, dropping leaflets that say “after the immigrants you are next” in the Gazi district of Athens – the famous area where many gay people convene – was one of Golden Dawn’s most ridiculous deeds.
Karathanasis was upset when he saw the leaflet: “It only makes me sad. Pity is the only thing I can feel about them. But I am not afraid of Golden Dawn. When they are ‘done’ with us, who else are they going to hate next?”
In the meantime, Karathanasis is always under pressure from society. He observed that Greek people nowadays like to label themselves using their appearance, gender and nationality. He thinks Greeks have forgotten that they are human beings, constantly feeling the need to prove themselves “pure Greeks.”
“You see, when you meet someone, automatically you make a profile of him in your head in order to be able to identify him and interact with him.” As a student who studies communication and media studies, Karathanasis is able to analyse his personal experience in a professional manner, “however, I don’t want people to immediately categorise me as ‘gay’ when they just meet me. Sexuality is only one part of myself.”
“They forget that sooner or later we’re all going to end up in the same place,” said Karathanasis, his voice gentle and sincere, “life is too short to hate and discriminate against each other. We all smile, laugh and cry in the same way.”
Having said that, Karathanasis laughs shyly: “Look how stupidly romantic I am. This is why I think my sexuality is only one aspect of myself.”
The last time I saw Karathanasis, I asked him what he was going to do when asked the a question relating to his sexuality whilst in the army. He shrugged and laughed with relief: “If they ask, I will tell. After all, I am not the only gay soldier here.”
Madeline Weng, 23, is a journalist from China and a graduate of the University of Sussex. She is a keen museum-goer, a bookworm and a couchsurfer. Her work has previously appeared in the Argus newspaper, A Younger Theatre Review, and New Economy Magazine.