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Italy: “Every Kiss is a Revolution” as Gays Await Legal Rights

Violent assaults on homosexuals have occurred with frequency in Italy over the past year, but to the disappointment of many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists, it does not seem to have increased the likelihood of anti-homophobia legislation being passed any time soon.

Online, there is much discussion of the flimsy legal protections, and what can be done politically to create change.

On the website Gay.Tv a special report [it] lists the numerous cases occurred during 2009 (note: all links are in Italian except where indicated). Already, the high numbers seem far from suggesting an improvement in 2010.

One victim of a homophobic assault was heavily injured in Rome on May 26. He was kicked and punched repeatedly and almost lost an eye. After the assault, the young man made an anonymous spoken appeal to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the media as a reminder that Italy still lacks legislation against homophobia.

Center-left politician and blogger, Cristina Alicata, writes on his blog Non si possono fermare le nuvole (Nobody can stop the clouds):

Questi attacchi avvengono a ridosso dei luoghi più noti di aggregazione omosessuale, appena fuori, a dimostrazione che non serviranno telecamere, non serviranno gli stuart o i vigilantes invocati spesso da alcuni. (…) Dobbiamo prendere in mano questo problema e dimostrare la nostra capacità di elaborazione politica profonda, la nostra idea di città, la nostra idea di sicurezza, di integrazione, di rispetto delle diversità. Subito.

The attacks occur near the most popular homosexual gathering places, just outside them, which shows that the use of cameras will not be enough, nor the caretakers or ‘vigilantes’ called for by some. (…) We have to take up this issue and demonstrate our capacity for deep policy making, our idea of town, our idea of security, integration, respect for diversity. Now.

Legal setbacks in Italy

There have been several recent defeats in the legislative field. In October of last year, the House rejected a bill against homophobia. And this year, on March 23, an appeal for the extension of marriage rights to homosexual couples made by citizens and members of civil society was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Tomblog, “the first Italian gayblog”, says:

Sono convinto di una cosa: che il nostro prestigioso Parlamento, prima di varare una qualsiasi legge contro l’omofobia, stia aspettando che ci scappi il morto.

I am convinced of one thing: our prestigious Parliament, before embarking on any law against homophobia, will keep postponing until someone ends up dead.
Rainbow Country Europe Index 2010

Rainbow Country Europe Index 2010

The blog Queerblog reports on the results of the Rainbow Country Europe Index 2010 [en], a study released in May by the ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) that shows that Italy is among the countries with the worst record for homosexual legal rights in Europe.

According to the Rainbow index, Sweden is the most gay-friendly country in Europe, with 10 points. Russia and Ukraine are the least gay-friendly with -2 points, while Italy is almost at the bottom with 1 point. Download the full document (PDF) [en].

A fragmented movement

However, not everyone puts the responsibility for the failure to pass protective laws squarely on the shoulders of the judicial and legislative powers.

Francesca Tognetti, who writes on Gay.Tv, is convinced that the movement has made a mistake in putting the legal battle for gay marriage before securing a decision on the anti-homophobia law:

Di chi è la colpa? Del Parlamento, certo. Dell'agenda politica, ovvio. Ma in fondo è anche colpa nostra. Perché abbiamo scordato non il problema, bensì la lotta per la soluzione. Abbiamo inseguito una nuova battaglia, quella dei matrimoni gay, tralasciando di continuare a combattere quelle rimaste in sospeso, smettendo di parlare, per esempio, di una legge anti-omofobia.

Ora sta arrivando l'estate: i locali tirano fuori i tavolini, si fanno gli aperitivi all'aperto, la notte si cammina per le vie affollate, si cazzeggia davanti alle discoteche. Arriva l'estate con tutti i suoi flagelli: caldo, tormentoni dance, zanzare. E omofobia.Non è del tutto casuale infatti il fatto che l'anno scorso si sia assistito a un picco di aggressioni a carattere discriminatorio; a tale impennata ha senz'altro contribuito una buona dose di imbecillità e spirito d'emulazione, ma questo non basta a spiegare il boom del fenomeno. E’ probabile che, ad aggravare il bilancio, sia stata anche la variabile “stagionale”. D'estate si vive fuori, i locali aprono, le discoteche scoperchiano i tetti, i gay, come tutti, camminano mano nella mano, si incontrano, si baciano. Sono visibili, sono un bersaglio.

Who is at fault? The Parliament, of course. The political agenda, obviously. But ultimately it’s our fault as well. Because even if we have not forgotten the issue, we have dismissed the struggle for its resolution. We have pursued a new battle for gay marriage, while neglecting the battles that are still up in the air, for example, putting an end to the discussion about the anti-homophobia law.

Summer is now coming up: bars bring out the tables, drinks are served outdoors, during the night people walk along the crowded streets, or mess around in front of discotheques. Summer arrives with all its plagues: hot weather, tormentoni dances [big hits], mosquitoes. And homophobia. It’s not entirely by chance, indeed, that last year there has been a peak in attacks of a discriminatory kind; a great deal of stupidity and spirit of emulation has certainly contributed to the spike, but this is not enough to explain the boom. It's likely that the balance was worsened by a ‘seasonal’ variable as well. During the summer, people live outside, all the haunts are open, discos uncover their roofs, gays, like everyone, walk hand in hand, meet each other, kiss each other. They are visible, they are a target.

Within the Italian LGBT community, some also people attribute the lack of political victories to the fragmentation of the movement.

Little Prince(ss), a writer on the collective blog Noirpink, which has gathered several interviews with activists and scholars on the subject of gay marriage, told us in a conversation:

Per fare il punto sulla situazione del movimento… beh, è messo malissimo: una grande associazione con migliaia di iscritti (Arcigay) e pochissimi volontari (il paradosso si spiega con il fatto che in Italia per entrare in un sex bar gay devi avere la tessera dell'associazione politica Arcigay… fatto sconosciuto al pubblico non gay, ma che crea da decenni incredibili polemiche e guerre fratricide) e tantissime associazioni locali, spesso minuscole, che passano il tempo a insultarsi a vicenda.
Credo che questo spiega almeno in parte il fallimento delle politiche intraprese da quasi tutte le associazioni e i successi clamorosi di Rete Lenford e Certi Diritti [promotrice del ricorso alla Corte Costituzionale], che con pochissime forze hanno ottenuto molto… semplicemente evitando di perdere tempo nel polemizzare con gli altri!”

To take stock of the movement's condition… Well, it’s in a very bad state: a big organization with thousands of members (Arcigay) and very few volunteers (the paradox is explained by the fact that if you want to get into a gay sex bar in Italy, you have to own the card of the political organisation Arcigay…. a fact unknown to the hetero public but that has been creating unbelievable controversy and fratricidal wars for decades) and many local organisations, often tiny, that spend most of their time insulting each other.
I believe this explains at least in part the failure of the policies undertaken by almost all the organizations and the resounding success of Rete Lendord and Certi Diritti [the organizations who appealed to the Constitutional Court], who were able to achieve a lot with very little effort… simply by not wasting time arguing with the others!

A moment to come together

Roma Pride 2010: Every kiss a revolution

Currently, efforts are focused on protesting the newly unleashed wave of homophobia and asserting LGBT rights.

The city of Rome will celebrate Roma Pride 2010 on July 3, while a national Gay Pride event will take place in Naples.

The official Facebook page of Roma Pride lists some comments related to the public appeal for a new legislation made by the victim of the homophobic assault in Rome.

One commenter, Fabio Rossi, believes in the appeal:

io spero che si riesca a risolvere qualcosa. sicuramente non sara’ una legge a fare cambiare testa alle persone ma sicuramente funzionera’ da deterrente. finche’ non sara’ pensiero comune che le minoranze (qualsiasi esse siano) si possono non condividere ma vanno rispettate sempre e comunque andra’ sempre male. bisogna stare attenti perche’ la storia si ripete

i hope we can resolve something. of course a law by itself cannot change people’s minds but it certainly will work as a deterrent. until it becomes conventional wisdom that minorities (whatever they are) must always be respected, things will always go wrong. We have to be careful because history repeats itself

Laura Venturini holds the opposite view:

vedi Fabio, sarebbe bello, se domattina Berlusconi si alzasse e dicesse: “oggi facciamo un decreto legge contro l'omofobia” ma è come dire che credi a Babbo Natale, superati i 10 anni, sei fuori tempo massimo. Le leggi servono a poco o niente, siamo in Italia. Se ci fosse sarebbe meglio, la violenza personale e le percosse sono reato comunque e non mi sembra che a Roma stiano facendo a gara per risolvere gli atti di omofobia degli ultimi 2 anni. Serve una capillare “alfabetizzazione”, bisogna educare i giovani (e i meno giovani) al rispetto dell'altro da sé.

you know, Fabio, it would be nice if tomorrow Berlusconi stood up and said: “Today we'll make a law against homophobia” but it's like saying you believe in Santa Claus, after the age of 10 you’re out of time. Laws do little or nothing, we are in Italy. What would be better, physical violence and beatings are a crime anyway and it doesn’t seem to me that Rome is struggling to solve the cases of homophobic violence in the last two years. What we need is a widespread “alphabetization”, we have to educate youth (but also older people) to respect all of that is different from ourselves.

In Italy, the path towards legal recognition of rights for the LGBT community is still long and will take years. In the meantime there is much to be done in pushing for acceptance and social change in the country.

The manifesto of Roma Pride 2010, entitled “Every kiss a revolution” (Ogni bacio una rivoluzione) says it best:

Alla crisi della politica e delle sue formule, dei suoi luoghi e dei suoi contenuti rispondiamo che ci prenderemo quel che è nostro e che ci spetta come cittadine e cittadini di questo Paese e dell'Unione Europea, che lotteremo e incalzeremo le istituzioni senza curarci del loro colore e delle loro logiche di governo, nella convinzione che chiunque sia il governante di turno i diritti di parità e di libertà non sono materia negoziabile e si affermeranno nella loro pienezza solo attraverso il riconoscimento delle persone LGBTIQ e delle loro specificità

With respect to the crisis of politics and its formulas, of its places and its contents, we respond that we will take what is ours and belongs to us as women and men of this country and of the European Union, that we will fight and put pressure on institutions, without caring about their color or their political leanings, in the belief that whoever may be the ruler on duty, the rights of equality and freedom are not a negotiable matter and they will be fully affirmed only through the recognition of LGBTIQ people and their specificity.
Thanks to Little Prince(ss) from the blog Noirpink for invaluable support in the writing of this article.

4 comments

  • Thanks for this post Davide. We need to talk more about the problems the LGBT community face everyday in Italy, and one day we will break the barriers.

  • I agree with Beatrice, thank you Davide.

  • Great post!

    There is very interesting Italian documentary about this subject called “Suddenly Last Winter” or “Improvvisamente l’inverno scorso” made in 2008. I had the chance to watch it (and translate it :P) here at Rio International Film Festival and I can say it’s a movie that everyone interested in this subject should see. =D
    Here is the link to the official website: http://www.suddenlylastwinter.com/

  • Thank you everybody…Hi Debora, I had forgotten this movie (which I haven’t seen yet, I will catch up!), and also that horrible period…DICOs…in Italy we often live backward-looking, high-hierarchies-of-Vatican-leaded campaigns :(
    Happy to hear about your good work!
    D.

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