LGBT plus History Month Italia with Dr Alessio Ponzio
To celebrate LGBT plus History Month Italia we talk to Alessio Ponzio, a professor in the History department at University of Saskatchewan and one of the organisers of Italy’s first ever LGBT plus History Month.
Alessio offers an historical insight that puts today’s queer culture into perspective.
The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia LGBT+ History Month Italia Episode
As Italy's first ever LGBT+ History Month draws to an end we speak to one of its co-founders and organisers, Alessio Ponzio.
Alessio talks about Italy's fascinating queer history.
From the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the late 19th century that led to Italy becoming a destination for same sex tourism to the reshaping of men and Italian masculinity in the second half of the 1930s under Mussolini's fascist regime.
We also consider the darker side to Puglia's queer history. In 1939 gay men were sent to an internment camp on the beautiful Island of San Domino in the Tremiti Islands, where they suffered harsh conditions. Mussolini unwittingly created Italy's first openly gay community.
Alessio gives a fascinating insight into Italy’s 20th century queer history.
The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Italy happened in the late 19th century. It remained unlawful in many other countries. In consequence Italy became a destination for same sex tourism.
We may think that the phenomenon of “gay for pay” is a new one born out the internet 2.0 and facilitated by today’s social media. But in reality that has only provided a new platform for men who do not identify as gay but offer sexual services to other men for something in return.
Since the late 19th century Italy has had a “gay for pay” culture. Men who did not identify as queer but who had sex with other men for something in return were not stigmatised.
However Italy during the 2nd half of the 1930s was reconceptualising itself, with a series of laws introduced by the state to guarantee racial purity.
Law and action against homosexuals were part of the fascists project of reshaping men and Italian masculinity. In Italy, it was said, “there are only men”. Fascists perceived that homosexuals could contaminate others, children, youth. Gender non-conformity was worse.
Does that sound depressingly familiar?
All of this is fascinating background understanding the perception of homosexuality today, and the varying attitudes across generations.
We loved Alessio’s insight. For those who would like to read more, Alessio has kindly provided the following further reading:
“Ragazzi squillo”, “Ballerini” e “Battoni”. La prostituzione maschile nell’Italia post-Merlin, Alessio Ponzio, Giornale di Storia, 28 December 2020 (in Italian).
Unspeakable Practices Under the Capri Sun, Alessio Ponzio, Notches, 25 May 2021 (in English).
More | In Italia Sono Tutti Maschi - In Italy there are only men, the story of Puglia’s internment camps for gay men under Mussolini’s fascist regime.