Nicola Simonetti, our Culture Editor, comments on the same-sex marriage bill which is being discussed in Italy these days, sharing his own experience of life. 


 

I am Italian and I am angry at my own country.

I have spent twenty years of my life fighting the prejudice and judgment before taking off for Scotland and experiencing what having a chance to live your own sexuality actually means. My passport says I am an Italian citizen, yet I have never felt like I belonged to the country I was born in. Italy is an amazing place to live in if you are: 1) Catholic, 2) White, 3) Possibly a man. Over the centuries Italy has housed some of the greatest dynasties of all time, conquered the entirety of Europe with the Romans, cultivated and expanded the culture of the Greeks, given birth to some brilliant geniuses, and yet, my country is still shaped after a strict social model that you cannot help but follow. I have been constrained to adapt myself to standards I did not share for far too long until I could not take it anymore. I was born Italian, but my country never gave me the chance to feel like one of my own people. Nobody ever said to me that being gay was a crime, yet you could feel the tension whenever someone brought it up. I lived my first love story in the closet for a year and a half and needed the support of my parents and friends to learn how to deal with my own sexuality because I was too afraid of my own peers’ judgement.

If you know me, then you know how I usually keep my own experiences to myself, therefore I hope you understand how urgent I feel it is to make my voice heard this time. The Italian Senate has been discussing the Cirinnà bill, a draft law designed to give legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples. Politicians, Catholics and quite a majority of the people have been protesting in defence of the traditional family; rallies in support of heterosexual marriage are annually organised and involve an average of one million Italians a year. In my time in Italy I have contributed to the well-being of my country in the best way possible, respecting other people’s ideologies even when they were morally questionable and humanly unacceptable, but nobody supported my idea of happiness. It has only been since 1986 that politicians even started to discuss the union between same-sex couples, yet they found time to edit the constitution and pass useless decretals.

I spent my teens without the comfort of a happy future in the place I was born in, but I was lucky enough to leave.

I am ashamed of being Italian and I am not afraid to say it out loud. It took our politicians thirty years to discuss whether or not to approve same-sex unions, and today they are not yet decent enough to admit that it is marriage we are talking about. The Senate has been discussing what they like to call ‘social formation’ between same-sex people, as if twisting a word could hide the truth behind it. Italian politicians are lamenting that the approval of the Cirinnà bill would be anti-constitutional in that it violates a constitution that was written in 1948. In 1948 gays were called faggots and kicked out of their own homes. Since those dark days, people have grown up and learnt to accept other kinds of love that had to live beneath the surface in past times, but that always existed. You people should grow up too.

This is not just a Church problem, because the Vatican did not say a word about the divorce referendum back in 1974. This is a problem of minorities, and everyone is smart enough to know that political powers deal with minorities only when they are forced to. The divorce law passed in a blink of an eye because of the massive number of people interested in it, with our politicians and their scandalous sex lives on the front line. As one comedian recently said, the only solution would seem to be that the entire Italian Senate must become gay for such a law to be brought to the senators’ attention. It is nauseating to even think that the happiness of a part of the population should depend on their numbers, and should not be considered as important as that of straight couples.

I am embarrassed to say that Italy is one of only eight countries in Europe where gay unions are not yet approved. It is time for people to realise that family is a concept which goes beyond the idea of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. Family is a place where you can feel safe and loved, no matter the number of partners or their gender or their skin colour. We are in 2016; it is time to get rid of dusty ideals that nobody believes in any longer. It is time to pass a bill which will allow the union between people who love each other, and who want to see their love respected the same way they respect the love of other people.

It is time to be civil.

Wake up Italy. I have spent twenty years being ashamed of my own country. Isn’t it time to make a change?

 

Nicola Simonetti