According to Article 3 of the Italian constitution “All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinions, personal and social conditions.” And yet to love who you love if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual in Italy is still largely socially unacceptable and a taboo for many people.
The Italian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) movement (their own definition) has grown and matured against this background, celebrating 20 years of Pride this year with 13 parades throughout the peninsula. Starting in Rome on June 7th 2014 and finishing on July 19th in Reggio Calabria Italians across the land took to the streets. And on June 28, International Gay Pride Day, parades took place simultaneously in Alghero, Bologna, Catania, Lecce, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Perugia, Turin and Venice to highlight the issues which still exist and to assert the right for all to love whomever they choose without discrimination or persecution.
For Venice and Venetians the Pride Parade was an opportunity to celebrate, campaign and call for equality as LGBTQI groups and their supporters gathered together from around the city, Veneto region and beyond in front of Santa Lucia Station.
Parading this year were numerous LGBTQI groups, support organisations for their families, secular groups, student groups and human rights campaigner Amnesty International.
Venice could be argued to be one of the more progressive cities with its Comune, or Town Hall, publicly standing against homophobia and transphobia and flying a prominent banner in support of International Day on May 17th. The banner was up in the run up to Venice Pride in June too, but there is still work to do.
Despite what the Italian constitution says and progress by several of its European neighbours recently, marriage, or even civil partnership, between same-sex partners is not yet legal in Italy and neither is the adoption of children. Even registering a same-sex civil partnership or marriage that took place legally in another country proves problematic although a few Italian mayors have recently agreed to recognize and register foreign marriages unilaterally.
The problem isn’t just a political one though. The Catholic Church has long denounced LGBTQI individuals, refusing to accept them into congregations or the clergy. Recently Pope Francesco has been a little more conciliatory speaking out for love rather than hatred but he has stopped short of saying that LGBTQI people should be welcomed into the church. It is a start.
As the afternoon cooled gently in Venice, the parade began to take shape on the concourse in front of the station. Tourists & locals mingled, curious about what was going on. And the media were out in force too interviewing and photographing campaigners.
The local police were also out in number, but not force, and largely kept their distance.
Finally around 5pm the parade set off through the Canareggio streets to Campo San Polo, north of the Rialto bridge.
The event was an opportunity to express difference and claim equal rights, visibility, secularism in education and the right to self-determination. And it was clear that the media and social media was being used to create positive perceptions of LGBTQI people, their needs and requests in order to stimulate a culture that values differences, relationships and discussion.
As the parade wound its way through the narrow streets and alleys it struck me how political it felt as opposed to other Pride marches that I’ve watched, especially over the last 20 years in my hometown of Manchester in the UK.
Overall, the Venetian parade felt much more like a demonstration, albeit it a good natured one, calling for rather than celebrating diversity and the provision of equal rights. It served as a reminder that Italy still has a way to go before all its citizens have equal human rights in practice not just in principle. It was another bold step towards the equality that everyone deserves. And who knows, with Pope Francesco in an inclusive mood and some of Italy’s political parties siddling up to the LGBTQI community in an effort to garner votes in the next general election, maybe next year there might be more to celebrate. Speriamo! Lets hope eh!
Venice pride website – www.veneziapride.it
Stonewall website – www.stonewall.org.uk
Gay hotels & bars in Venice – www.gayvenice.com
Italian Police – Call 112 in the event of abuse
More photos at www.facebook.com/dreamdiscoveritalia
*Note : frocessione = a play on words, from the Italian slang word “froccio”, meaning gay.