[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit nbcnews.com/pride30.]
Nicholas Yatromanolakis became the first openly gay person to serve as a Greek government minister this year. Until a few years ago, Yatromanolakis never imagined he could one day be both out and a politician
“I wish there was someone before me,” Yatromanolakis, Greece’s deputy minister of culture, said about openly LGBTQ people in the Greek government. “I think that the open-mindedness that maybe exists on a private level is finally starting to seep to the public sphere.”
In January, the Greek government promoted Yatromanolakis, then the general secretary at the Ministry of Culture, to deputy minister during a Cabinet reshuffle. In his current role, he works to support the Greek creative sector, creates educational initiatives to help artists with their fine art skills and ensures intellectual property is protected. Yatromanolakis’ work is focused on Greek theater, literature, movies and dance.
Yatromanolakis, 46, said he always wanted to work in politics, but after receiving a graduate degree in public policy from Harvard, he pursued a career in communications. He said he was initially discouraged from pursuing his dream after consulting people in the industry who communicated to him that he would not be able to get far in politics as an out gay man. So, thinking he had to choose one or the other, he chose to live openly.
“Why would I want to pretend to be someone else?” Yatromanolakis said. “It would also mean that I am ashamed of who I am, and I’m not.”
In 2014, after just starting to dip his toes into politics as a campaign manager, Yatromanolakis was approached by advisers of a newly established liberal political party in Greece. He said they encouraged him to come out in his professional life. On a political panel about LGBTQ rights shortly after, Yatromanolakis did just that. He said he didn’t fully appreciate the impact of his public coming out much later.
To LGBTQ people that are the first in their respective fields, Yatromanolakis said talent and hard work speaks for itself, and to not take negative comments personally. He said LGBTQ people should not second-guess themselves when pursuing their professional goals.
“We owe it to ourselves to be able to dream about doing what we want to do and trying to actually achieve it,” Yatromanolakis said. “Our sexual orientation or identity, no matter what it is, should not be an issue.”
While he acknowledged that being “the first” is a big responsibility, one that causes him to put pressure on himself, he said being visible is important for equality.
“It’s important that there is visibility so people in their teens or early 20s feel that there’s nothing they cannot achieve because of who they are,” he said.