Uno diverso in Toscana, che crede, in questa nostra madreterra, in questa fugace vita, in qualcosa di diverso.

giovedì 19 aprile 2012

How Far Have We Come?

The New York University in Florence, located at Villa La Pietra, invited me for a panel tonight, April 18th 2011. The meeting was part of the Ally Week program.

The theme of the panel:
How Far Have We Come; What's Next?
LGBTQ Life and Rights in Italy, the Balkan Peninsula and the US

Brian DeGrazia coordinated the meeting. Dean Vuletic, a historian from the European University of Fiesole, and Eleonora Pinzuti, a scholar of queer studies, were at the panel with me. It was an honor for me to talk together with those two thoughtful scholars, along with a public of American students.

I was there to give my contribution as a Christian queer activist, a Tuscan intellectual.

I spoke as a social operator, a civic sherpa, personally involved in changing my family, my church, my local community, my university, along with the cities where I have been living: Pisa, Prato, Firenze.

I told the students about my commitment in improving the self-government of my motherland, Tuscany, the law of my Italian Republic and European Union.

I reminded also our duty of solidarity with all the queer people, all over the world, who are "condamnes".

I spoke of hope: we are part of a history of freeing of slaves, women's equality, the emancipation of the Jews, full citizenship to Catholics in Protestant countries, and to Protestants in Catholic countries. The condition of the queer people, their full inclusion is hinged in this historical process of liberation, which represents the good face of modernity, among so many other that are much darker and worrying.

I told my story. Storytelling is important, when we come out from repression, while so many queer people are still living in the closet, or in danger. I gave a few notes about my personal life on the backdrop of social and political evolution of the Republic of Italy, of our life in Tuscany.

We discussed together some main difficulties we are facing:

1) the opportunism and cynicism, if not worse, of the so-called bio-politics of some politicians, who wants to control the family, the birth, the death, our bodies, our personal and intimate life;

2) a very bad science, for istance the old positivism and its phallacy, the errors of Adolphe Quetelet, Cesare Lombroso, Thomas Maltus, Arthur de Gobineau, Halford John Mackinder - the contradictions of our modernity!

3) the degeneration of puritanism in bigotry

4) the bad reading of the Bible... By those who have power...

* * *


In the Sixties, at the time of Stonewall (1969) and the first debuts of Hair, the hippie musical, celebrating the sexual liberation, I was a child living in the suburbs of an industrial town, Prato, not far from Florence. I grow up in a honest, decent, puritan working class family, with rural ancestry. The only school in the suburb was the Catholic school. The main political and moral authority was the local Communist Party. Heterosexuality was the only possible sexual and emotional paradigm. Everything else was unconceivable or, if conceived, it was considered- illness or at least a serious mental disease, from the point of view of social conformity spread by the media and the society
- a moral disorder, from a Catholic perspective
- bourgeois decadence according the ortodoxy of the leftist establishment


Along the years things started changing. But many of my friends left the family and the motherland and moved into bigger and farer cities, many of them abroad, to live freely their homosexuality.


Around us, of course, the world was changing dramatically, the walls were literaly come tumbling down, from Berlin to Bejing, from South Africa to South America. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexual people were liberating, along with the rest of the humanity, from many different oppressions.


In the Nineties, finally, when I was in my full thirties, I started to have my first sexual experiences, I fall in love with a man, I started to welcome my homosexuality. I started also a kind of gradual coming out, with some of my friends, some of my neighbours, some of my fellows. The gay movement was growing also in Tuscany, in Italy. In some cities, in Pisa in 1996, the local council institued a register for the same-sex de-facto couples.

In 2000, during the Catholic Millennium Holy Year, the World Gay Pride was celebrated in Rome. That Pride, like any other else, provoked strong discussions, many pros and cons, a bitter debate, but it was also a watershed. It encouraged many young people, from the suburbs, the rural areas, the small towns, the traditional families, to seize their day, to welcome this extraordinary opportunity: to live freely their homosexual and transexual condition.


I completed my coming out, with my family, my relatives, my collegues, in my local community, in my church, only in the 2004. I was forty years old. I was a public servant, protected by the law, with the certainty of a long-term job. I was a social and civic activist. I was already a writer and an intellectual. I am not a kind of hero. I did it because I could, not only because I ought to. And still I pay a price. My family paid a price!

Since then, till today, still today, I receive many mails and emails - many of these messages are anonymous - from persons of any generations, belonging to different social backgrounds, from Tuscany and nearby. These are fellow gay men, who thanks me because I gave them a kind of example of being gay in the sunlight, or because they read some of my articles and found in them a kind of inspiration.

Well, these are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of a gay man of my age, in my land, in this short, fragile, precious life. What can we do for improving, for more inclusion, for more comprehension of our queer condition? I know only one answer: hard work, cultural and scientific deepenings, civic duty, personal commitment.


* * *

Some possibile insights:

1) The idea of Nature. Nature is a Janus-faced political thought: it contains the cornerstone of our freedom, human rights, of our self-evident right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; but Nature is also invoked to justify a very bad science, a dangerous and rude positivism, a cruel heteronormativity.  To understand this duplicity is a duty. Not only the intellectual, but also the ordinary citizen, must be able to understand the difference between the natural right of people, as individuals and couples, and families, to pursue their happiness, and a law of nature, proposed or emposed by the State, by the Party, by the Leader, by the Pope, by the Preacher-in-chief, asking everybody to be normal, in a modality of equality, that would probably means that everybody is reduced to slavery.

2) The Puritanism. The puritan imagination is not only bigotry: it is identity, dignity, a source of inspiration, mainly for the lower classes. We must dialog with our families, churches, communities of origin; we must dialog, in the moral clarity, in the firmness of principles, with historical, juridical, historical rigor, with the reborn or the old Christians, Jews, Muslims, the native and the immigrate. We must pay attention to understand the difference between those are really puritan and those who are prisoner of bigotry; those who are rigid and those who are extremist.

3) Things can change. But can even get worse. A reading from the terrible 2004, a statement from  Patrick Guerriero.

4) The Bible. In the Internet it's quite easy to find comments about the misreading of the Bible. You can also find the necessary irony: if a protestant pastor eat shrimps, I can have sex with my man...

5) Pragmatism: equality is more important than abstract egalite. Concrete equality for the poor, is more important than reifying and freezing identities... I suggest the reading of a good book, which is much more leftist than me, but it is very inspirational, anticonformist, trying to contain the political corretness: The Trouble with Diversity - How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality - Walter Benn Michaels.

6) The healing? Against those who want to heal the gay: the recent work from Paolo Rigliano.

7) Life is too short. Homage to Wicky Hassan.

* * *

So, what homosexuality can be? Choice or fancy, disease or sin, social problem or criminal offense. It cannot be everything and its opposite! Please, don't cheat us!

Look at a swimming pool, where people are used to swim. Most of them may swim in front crawl. Some of them, very few of them indeed, may swim in back crawl. Some of them, not so few as one may imagine, can swim both front crawl and back crawl. You can see all these people from above, from below, from the edge, from the stands. More you see, more you understand that all of them are pretty equal and each of them very different from the other.

Imagine also an external power, able to oblige everybody to swim one way or another...

Well, the moment that this external authority fails, if they are let back free, they will naturally turn back to their preference, no matter how much this preference is innate or coltivated.

This is a good imagine of sex orientation, in my modest opinion. Most people are front crawl swimmers, but some are not. This is true. This is the Providence's creativity. This is the real intelligent design. So, let's get over it.

* * *

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