It is easy to think of Pride simply as an annual celebration, a one-time event that comes and goes with all the firework theatricality you’d expect of a carnival atmosphere. With London’s parade having been postponed for the second year running, the event has been even further relegated from society’s collective consciousness. The existence of queer identities however serves as a constant reminder that Pride is not just an extravagant party, but instead something tangible that plays a part in the everyday lives of millions of people.
Here at Pasta Evangelists, we’re sharing the stories of 3 major influences in Italian LGBTQ+ culture and the legacy that they continue to leave behind.
All Roads Lead to Rome
When we think of LGBTQ+ icons, we often think in the present tense; perhaps a misconception when you consider that the conversation (or rather, lack of conversation) around sexuality is firmly embedded into the pantheon of Ancient Rome. In fact, Latin, - the basis of Italian today - had no words specifically denoting heterosexuality or homosexuality, despite the culture’s exceedingly queer reputation. You might say that the Eternal City was one of the first to view the connection between love and gender with a degree of moral indifference... linguistically, at the very least.
One of the republic’s most fabled relationships existed between Emperor Hadrian (yes, the Hadrian who built that famous wall) and the Greek boy, Antinous. As classical antiquity would have it, the two were inseparable and sailed the world together, but their nautical adventures came to a tragic end when Antinous later drowned in the Nile. So distraught was Hadrian that he brought the body of his lover back to Italy, whereupon he was deified across the farthest reaches of the empire.
The story that this tale has to tell, however, is one that transcends beyond historical boundaries and into the present day. Their love is proof that queer identities have always existed, despite often being relegated to the periphery of history. And, in modern Italian culture, this is a legacy that continues to burn bright.
In 2006, Vladimir Luxuria etched her name into Italian LGBTQ+ history by becoming the first openly transgender woman in European Parliament. During her career, she advocated for civil unions for gay couples and lobbied the Italian government to provide political asylum to those who live in countries where homosexuality is punishable by law. On the back of this, she also fought for full marriage and cohabitation rights, winning the majority support of Italy’s left-wing faction. Although same-sex marriage is not currently recognised in the country, her work has doubtlessly influenced the adoption of same-sex civil unions and unregistered cohabitation, both of which have been in place since 2016.
Of course, we couldn’t go on without an honourable mention of food, and there is one LGBTQ+ chef - Gabriele Bertaccini - taking the culinary world by storm. Born in Florence, he has fond childhood memories of helping around the kitchen, enraptured by the aromas of Italian home cooking. After moving to the US over 10 years ago, he founded his first catering company il TOCCO FOOD and has since become a highly successful writer and TV personality. Working with Thai Nguyen and Jeremiah Brent, he is also the resident food expert on Netflix’s Say I Do, a show which helps participants to plan their dream weddings. Bertaccini has equally been outspoken about living with HIV, helping to counter the stigma which often clouds conversations about the condition.
Celebrate with us!
Pride is a time to recognise those who have helped pave the way for everyone to live authentically within themselves, without guilt or fear. The existence of Italian LGBTQ+ identities in history, politics, and on our television screens cannot be underestimated; this existence exemplifies the reciprocal relationship between visibility and acceptance within society. In celebrating the lives of these individuals, we, by extension, celebrate the community as a whole. If there is anything to be learned from Gabriele Bertaccini, Vladimir Luxuria, and even Ancient Rome, it is that being queer does not mean you have to be alone.