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.
Accused of non-habitual abnormal intercourse
“The real and proper homosexuals, the dangerous ones, are only the passive ones, the “arrusi”, «confirmed» as such by the examination of the anus.”
— La città e l’isola: Omosessuali al confino nell’Italia fascista by Gianfranco Goretti, Tommaso Giartosio.
What is the fate of homosexuals?
In Catania, a man who dresses in a recognised “effeminate” way is forced to undergo a medical inspection of the rectum and is then classified as: “person addicted to passive gay sex” and as a result is sentenced, after trial, to five years of confinement on the Tremiti islands.
Antonio B. is labelled by the police: “typical homosexual evidenced by his deep-rooted deplorable physical features and for his behaviour that makes no secret of his sinister tendencies towards effeminacy, so much so that he prefers to be called Ninetta; he boasts of having several lovers to copulate with in secret, sometimes shocking with his overt, repulsive attitudes”.
Giuseppe L.P. is so classified because of his: “gaunt face, sunken eyes, wide nostrils, thick lips: he appears to be the perfect sensual sort. His voice reveals no anomalies, but it is his intimate relations that betray his sexual perversion.”
For an objective confirmation of homosexuality, the Questore subjects all those accused of being gay to a medical examination. The definition of: “occasional pederast, not used for habitual intercourse” is the least recurrent and the most neutral of the definitions.
The final word ended up being that of the person in charge of the penal colonies: the provincial doctor of Foggia (administrative center of this part of Puglia). His expert conclusions are ruthless: “Anus broken” he writes, and with that the appeal is rejected. Although in fact, most of medical certificates list much more inhuman and less kind detail:
Used to non-habitual abnormal intercourse | Regular pederast – internal fissures in progress and fleshy outgrowth of the rectal lining | Used to habitual abnormal intercourse.”
“Used in abnormal intercourse, in an unnatural way | Occasional pederast | Funnel-shaped anus – Occasional homosexual.”
“He has a funnel-shaped anus, used for intercourse.”
“Anus slightly flared. Centripetal type fissures – Not excessively used in abnormal intercourse | Accustomed to unnatural intercourse.”
“Funnel-shaped anus – healed fissures – Used for occasional unnatural intercourse.”
“Occasional pederast I have a funnel-shaped anus, used for intercourse.”
Used to regular abnormal sex | Used to unnatural intercourse | Regularly experiencing unnatural intercourse.”
“Suffering and operated on for fissures – but accustomed to abnormal coitus | Used to unnatural intercourse | Used to preternatural coitus | Used to habitual abnormal sex.”
Rage against the homosexuals
Fascism vented its fury against homosexuals, considered to be “traitors of the race”. The practice of (passive) homosexuality was considered at the time as one of the most serious offences against Italian racial purity.
There are only men in Italy (active, passive, others)
Stazione 4 | ‘In Italia sono tutti maschi’
Stazione 6 |