Under fascism Italy experienced one of the darkest moments in its LGBT+ history. Hundreds of homosexuals (almost exclusively men) were arrested, put on a register by the Ministry of the Interior, and sent to internment camps.
This is the story of the ‘arrusi’. Forty-five gay men from Catania, arrested in 1939 and sentenced to 5 years confinement on Puglia’s beautiful Tremiti islands, unwittingly creating Italy’s first openly gay community.
Active -vs- passive
It was impossible to legally arrest the ‘arrusi’ because that would have meant admitting the existence of homosexuality in Italy. Mussolini denied the existence of homosexuality in Italy: ‘In Italy there are only men’ («In Italia sono tutti maschi»), he boasted.
«In Catania in the 1930s – write the authors – the arrusu is a man who usually assumes the passive (or receptive) role in homosexual relationships. He gets penetrated. Whoever assumes the active (or insertive) role does not consider himself an arrusu, but a male exactly like everyone else. The opposite of arrusu is, in fact, male or masculu […]. To use the imaginative and precise expression of one of the detained: the male turns to the arrusu to be lustful».
— G. Burgio, Fuori binario. Bisessualità maschile e identità virile, Mimesis, Milano-Udine 2021
In Italy there are only men
These dedicated passive pederasts constitute a serious and dangerous harm to society
“…dedicated to passive pederasty, with serious prejudice to public morality and the integrity of the lineage. They therefore constitute a serious and dangerous harm to society, due to the frequent scandals to which they give rise.”
Italy’s “strong and virile” men
Italy’s strong and virile men In Italy, under the fascist dictatorship, The persecution of homosexuals was ruthless. Suspected and exposed, but Only the passive are sent to confinement. In our country the image is sent out, Of the strong man, virile, without exception, Mussolini raced and rallied to celebrated masculinity And the others, the feminine, are not found in Italy. Eliminate or arrest them, it was not possible, An admission of homosexuality in Italy, A taboo that must not exist. Because "There are only men in Italy". To confinement, these others are sent To hide their passive shame, The solution that hides those who are different With "a certain decency".
Active, passive, male, human
3rd Station | Detained, Disappeared
5th Station |