Thursday, December 17, 2009

An email about homophobia in Italy

A couple of days ago, I received the following email from a reader who's emailed me before:

Dear GB,

You may remember that you gave me much advice a month or two ago about a few relationship tangles I was having. As it happens my ex and the boy I liked really got together, and now I won't see them for a long time. But apart from that, things are solved!

I have now decided to escape to Italy, and work in Rome as a teacher (before doing a philosophy PhD in England). I plan to be there for 1 year, if not several years. But I'm worried. I don't know whether you've been following the news in Italy over the past years, but their LGBT human rights record is one of the most terrible in Western Europe. There is more hate crime there (than in the UK). And, most recently, there have been a spate of violent attacks against gay people in Rome. Added to this, a friend of mine in Italy says that he has to be very private about his life, and found the transition from living in London to living in Italy quite difficult.

Now, I fully realise that Italy is, at least to some extent, a liberal democracy(!). I realise that the situation of LGBT people in Italy may be a whole lot better than that of lots of other Eastern European Countries, and perhaps some Western European countries, too (Portugal comes to mind). You might, therefore, feel that I am over-reacting.

But I just thought some who read your blog might be able to share their experiences of life in Italy, specifically Rome, and perhaps give me advice. Or perhaps you may be able to help in some way?

It would be great to hear from you,

Best wishes,

It was good to hear from him too, so I sent him a quick email to say that I was sorry to hear that his ex had got together with the boy that he liked. I imagine that that's quite painful for him, but at least the good thing is that he's moved on. Apart from possible gay issues, I'm sure that he'll enjoy the experience of working in Rome for a year or more.

I don't have much experiences of homophobia in Italy. I've visited Italy many times to visit Italian clients of the banks that I've worked for, and many times for holidays with friends, boyfriends and family. I personally haven't experienced any homophobia. I've been into gay bars there, one gay night club in Rome in the 1990's, and several gay saunas in Rome too on various occasions. However, it's true that the number of gay venues in Rome is vastly fewer than the number in London. Perhaps that statistic alone tells the story that LGBT people are less accepted than they are in the UK.

Anyway, if any readers have any experience of gay life in Italy, please leave a comment.


Sir Wobin said...

Italy is the Vatican's back yard. Catholic family members and personal religious conflict are a major influence on whether Italians are out. Being foreign, the neighbours won't know your family and won't be able to look down on them, criticise or cast shame on them regarding who you are. This makes you much more free than the locals might choose to be.

zarrat said...

I am from Rome, and while what Sir Wobin said is true, I would be careful with how out you want to appear, most italians won't hate you for being gay, but they definately don't want to know, or see it...also there aren't many venues/much of a scene, except a few bars scattered/hidden, and a big night called mucca assassina...summer can be quite good with the "gay village" calendar of events, at a venue which is large, and outdoor, but again quite hidden/secluded.
If you manage to find some good gay or gay friendly friends (maybe in the expat community)and can afford the place then Rome is a beautiful city to live in with an amazing lifestyle... and i do miss it a lot