Some people may think that growing up in a region in southern Italy could be a negative experience due to there being more elderly people than the young ones. Although homophobia is often present on every corner of the world, it was not completely the case when it comes to my story of growing up as a gay guy in Puglia.
Hi, my name is Daniele Vitale. I am from San Vito Dei Normanni, a small town in the province of Brindisi in Puglia and this is my story.
I first came to the realisation of being gay at the sweet age of 13 years old, during the year before starting high school. At the time, I did not know who to tell about it even though some of my friends had a suspicion that I might be gay. Yet, they were not completely sure about it. At some stage during the first year of high school I began to open up to some of my girl-friends and it was such a relieving feeling as I have always felt safer around girls than with straight boys. I think this was due to the fact that having the common interest in liking boys would make me feel less judged.
During the time in which I was not still completely out, I remember I was called “f*ggot” by some guys while walking through the square of my hometown by myself. Surprisingly enough, living in a small town where everyone knows everyone has its advantages because you would get ‘protection’ and support from the people you are close to and the villain of the situation would immediately get a negative reputation. Had such situation ever happened in a bigger city, I assume I could not have had the same ‘protection’ that I would have in a small town and, maybe, I could have ended up being beat up in the worst of scenarios. However, this would not happen when I would hang out with my girl-friends for the simple reason that boys would not want to appear weird when girls are around. These girls had always been supportive and I will never be grateful enough for the way they helped me during this phase of my life.
However, during the first year of high school (2015/2016), here in Puglia there was an app called Ask.fm through which you could ask questions to people either anonymously or by showing up your face. Most times this app was used to get to know other people of our age or know gossip about them. As of my experience, there were times in which I would get asked anonymously questions regarding my sexuality. At the beginning I used to answer them by making jokes about being “married” or “having a relationships” with some of my girl-friends. But the crucial point of my coming out was on a Saturday night. For the umpteenth time I was asked on this app whether I was gay. Eventually, I decided to come out through this app and just replied with an out-straight “Yes, I am”. As soon as my answer was posted I started getting messages from friends of mine and people from my town like “are you really gay then? I knew it” or “Oh my god, I am so happy you have finally come out”. At that exact time, I could not understand why everyone was in shock, but eventually I found out that the reason was that I had the guts to come out as gay on a social media rather than doing it in person.
As for the coming out with my family, it did not go well at the beginning. When I first came out to my parents (I have come out to them eleven times now), they thought it would be just a phase in that I was still a teenager going through puberty and its hormonal changes. Although until this day they still have not completely processed my sexuality, I cannot complain compared to other people’s stories I have heard. I have been lucky enough that, despite them not completely accepting my sexuality, they still have kept on supporting me out of love in every single aspect, from being their son to career-wise. On the other hand, my one and only sibling was really glad I had come out to him. In fact, when I said out loud “ I am gay”, I was fearing, like any queer person going through a coming out, that I would get a negative response. Instead, my older brother just replied back with “So what?”. In that moment, I cried out of joy for him being so open-minded about it. Then a hug followed along. Ever since, my relationship with my brother has never been better.
All in all, growing up gay in Puglia is now better compared to ten years ago as I have heard that even my parents’ generation is becoming more and more open-minded and understanding about not only the struggles that do we have to face, but also about being born this way and that, last but not least, is not a choice of ours not being heterosexual.