Italy Marches With Pride in Defense of LGBTI Rights

Kathmandu (Pahichan) July 22 – All over Italy, people are marching to improve visibility, acceptance, legal protections and rights for LGBTI people. The annual Italian Pride Month is taking place in 28 cities across the country, where thousands of people have already marched to improve visibility, acceptance, and legal protections and rights for LGBTI.

Those who are taking part are keenly aware of the importance of this movement, both as a symbol of continued mobilization that is rooted in events many decades ago, and as form of protest for greater rights and awareness for LGBTI people in Italy – and across the world – today.

“We feel we are representing a battle that started on June 28 1969 with the Stonewall revolts against all forms of oppression, abuse, cultural homogenisation, and normalisation of our identities, of our affective and sexual orientations,” the president of Circolo Mieli and spokesperson for Roma Pride, Sebastiano Secci, said.

The origin of Pride: the Stonewall Inn uprising

But why does a revolt that took place in the United States decades ago still impact on the LGBTI community worldwide?

In the United States, the 1960s were marked by strong tensions between the police and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community.

Police intolerance towards the gay community was exacerbated and facilitated by laws that openly discriminated against LGBTI people.

In New York, for example, state law punished bar owners who served gay people for “abetting” homosexuality, which was seen as a “crime against nature.”

On the night of 28 June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn bar in New York. As homosexuality was still illegal in most American states at that time, raids occurred frequently.

On that evening, however, many people stood up to unfair imprisonment, escalating into a movement that mobilized thousands of people.

Screams would soon turn into physical confrontations; among many other participants, Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman who supposedly threw a red high-heeled shoe at the police, became the symbol of the Stonewall Inn revolts.

This encouraged many people to speak up about the injustice faced by the LGBTI community, marking the beginning of a new consciousness.

According to Richard Joseph Leitsch, president of the first organization for gay rights in the US, the Mattachine Society, this was the first time thousands of LGBT people marched together to voice their rights.

The meaning and value of the Stonewall Inn event to the LGBTI community lies in the long-lasting political invisibility and lack of social and governmental protections generated by a vacuum in the legal system.

Because of this, the community decided to fight for the recognition of their rights, giving life to the Gay Pride.

LGBTI rights in Italy: when discrimination is institutionalized

ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool reveals that Italy is 32nd in Europe for LGBTI equality laws and policies. With the introduction of the reform on civil unions in Italy in 2016, Italy’s position in Europe as regards same rights is still relatively low.

Opportunities for improvement are undermined by the ruling Lega-Movimento 5 Stelle coalition, which is hostile to current freedoms and rights.

One indication of this has been given by the minister of family and disability, Lorenzo Fontana, who voiced his support for the traditional family and called civil unions between people of the same sex “filthy” (“schifezze”).

He also stated, in the publication Corriere della sera, that a “normal family” is made of a mother, a father, and children, denying the existence of same-sex parents, and all families that do not correspond with his definition of nuclear family.

Following Fontana’s statement, many LGBTI organizations voiced their concerns for fundamental human rights in the new government.

“How could a minister of a country publicly say that our children and us do not exist, when our children are perfectly integrated into the society, school, among their peers, and also when the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Cassation, and many municipalities register our children at birth, and legally recognize our rights as a family, before the Italian state?” Marilena Grassadonia, the president of Famiglie Arcobaleno, said.

To date, Italy is still a place where being LGBTI strongly impacts on one’s equality (which Liberties member the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights examines in its guide to the 2018 Italian elections).

While considerable efforts have been made to improve the situation, the need to reform rules on what constitutes a family – and generally speaking, to stop any form of homo-bi-transphobia – is not on the government’s agenda.

Mobilizing for the protection of LGBTI rights

Pride Month 2018 is particularly important for enhancing LGBTI rights in Italy. Pride Month started in Bergamo on 19 May and will end in September with Gay Pride Palermo (here are the official dates of all events).

On 9 June, Gay Pride Rome brought together thousands of people marching under the slogan “Rainbow Brigades, the liberation continues.” Prominent figures, such as Tina Costa – a key member of the Brigate Garibaldi – took part.

Intersectionality stresses the importance of considering an individual’s combination of group memberships and identities to more thoroughly understand the individual’s unique social experiences and worldview, paving the way for opportunities of individual integration and acceptance.

Pride Month pushes people against the backdrop of diversity to champion equal rights. This is the spirit of Magen David Keshet Italy, an independent organisation that unites LGBTI Jews, which participated in Gay Pride Rome to promote and support the LGBTI community in its fight for rights.

Pride Month should also not be seen as an event for minorities only. According to a young activist, Irene: “I’m straight, but I think it’s important to be here. [I’m here] to fight for freedom, to fight for the right to be who you want to be, to fight for happiness.”

Although the mayor of Rome did not take part in the event, Chiara Appendino, the mayor of Turin, marched with many locals and tourists who participated in Gay Pride Turin. Gay Pride Parades will take place in many other Italian cities, including in Milan on 30 June, in Bologna on 7 July, and in Naples on 14 July.

Forty-nine years following the Stonewall revolts, Gay Pride will once again be an opportunity for people to march for their rights and overcome the idea of heteronormativity.

Opposing discrimination and championing equality should not be limited to a specific date, and only through working on these values daily can truly contribute to create a more inclusive society and politics.