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Growing up, I’d heard all about the stories of the Stonewall Riots and Harvey Milk. I’d hear about Pride marches in the US and the LGBTQ+ friendliness of places like San Francisco. But, as a child growing up in Italy, that left little hope of imagining that this ‘Queer American Dream’ could ever be accessible to me.

I was convinced that Italy simply had no LGBTQ+ history to be told, no legendary moments and no iconic role models I could look up to. It was a lonely feeling and weighed on me. It was too much to handle, so I just opted for staying in the closet. I was also an immigrant and figured my queer identity was easier to hide than my foreign one.

Fast forward to my twenties and spending hours online, trying to find if there was anything at all LGBTQ+ in Italy’s recorded history. And gosh, was I surprised! I found floods of activists, artists, authors, poets, none of which I’d ever heard of. I even discovered that we had our own correspondent of the ‘Stonewall Riots’ in Sanremo back in 1972!

I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. Where had these stories been all my life? And why was I only discovering them now? From Mariasilvia Spolato, a high school math teacher who was the first lesbian to ever come out publicly, to Angelo Pezzana, a gay bookshop owner turned LGBTQ+ rights politician, and Mario Mieli, a radical activist and author who had lived as his truest self unapologetically.

I also discovered ‘F.U.O.R.I!’, the very first magazine about LGBTQ+ liberation, published between 1971 and 1982, alongside numerous books that are growing my never-ending to-read list. Managing to get my hands on copies of these magazines and books that shaped LGBTQ+ Italian movements of the past, however, has been so difficult. I even travelled to Turin last year to find copies at an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ‘F.U.O.R.I!’ magazine. And I’m still struggling to find copies of all the books that have been so fundamental to our history, which means that Italy’s LGBTQ+ history still feels under-celebrated.

Overall, there are simply so many stories I wish I’d heard sooner. There’s a history that belongs to  my community, yet it’s been hidden in plain sight. We’ve lacked inclusive education in schools growing up and celebrations in mainstream media to the point that we don’t know our own community’s struggles, wins and nuanced histories.

Much to my relief and joy – in a victorious, historical first – Italy will be celebrating its first ever LGBTQ+ History Month this April in honour of the ‘Demonstration of Sanremo’ that took place in April 1972. Founder of the project, Chiara Beccalossi, along with a team of academics and activists have already confirmed over a hundred participants, amongst which are individual teachers, schools, charities, libraries and so on. While LGBTQ+ History Month – set up by Schools Out – is well established in the UK, this is a huge first for Italy.

All across Italy, for the entirety of the month, activities and talks about our history will be organised and made accessible to Italian youth. All will be documented and shared by the team on social media, in hopes of encouraging even more people to take part in celebrating the month in upcoming years. It’s such an incredible event to witness first hand, and I know already the amazing the impact it will have for future generations of LGBTQ+ Italians.

My long journey to discovering Italy’s rich and fascinating LGBTQ+ history only reminds me how important it is that we learn about LGBTQ+ topics in school. That’s one of the main reasons I volunteer with Just Like Us, the LGBTQ+ young people’s charity that’s working with schools to make education more inclusive.

I’m proud to speak in schools about growing up LGBTQ+ and why allyship matters – not only because it’s helped me embrace my identity but also because it’s a powerful way to ensure we continue making history and ensure it’s never again hidden in plain sight.

Lili is a volunteer with Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity.


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