Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) in Italy
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An introduction to the Italian gay lifestyle
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Caravaggio among them - were homosexual.
If you're an opera lover, you may yearn to hear an opera by Verdi or Puccini. Opera is embedded in the Italian culture and in large part in the gay community.
Or maybe you just love "mangiare" (eat), in which case you can look forward to delicious food and wine. Italy has now several gay-owned or gay-friendly restaurants. You will find them in popular destinations like Viareggio, Milan, Rome, Florence. And you can't overlook the beauty of the Italians themselves.
Whether sauntering haughtily down the street in a tailored Armani suit and talking on a cell phone or squeezed into tight Dolce&Gabbana jeans and racing through the ancient streets straddling a Vespa, Italian men know how to cut "una bella figura" (nice appearance).
Rome and Florence represent very different aspects of Italy. Each is singular in terms of its art, architecture, history, cuisine and overall gay atmosphere. Rome and Florence have developed a gay social network of political organizations, bookstores, social groups, bars and clubs. Don't let that stop you from going to Venice, Milan or the Amalfi coast. Gay life in Italy is a complex subject that often confuses queers from more open countries.
The Italians, in most general sense, don't proclaim their sexuality if it's homo or bi. Only in recent years has the subject been openly talked about. The Catholic Church continues to exert a tremendous influence on everyday attitudes. It lobbied long and hard to prevent the 2000 World Pride events in Rome from taking place. Rather then welcoming the estimated half-million gays and lesbians to the Eternal City, Pope John Paul II expressed his bitterness, saying it was an affront to the church and the Christian values of the Italian capital.
The honorary president of Arci-Gay, Italy's national gay rights organizations, shot back: "The pope is wrong to condemn World Pride. The real offense is homophobia and antigay prejudice fueled by the Vatican hierarchy." Similarly, Italian AIDS activists consider the church to be a real foe in the arena of public health policy. Another factor to consider is that Italy - and Mediterranean cultures in general - are family-oriented societies where the male-macho ethic runs strong. Under these conditions it's more difficult for gays to come out; many opt instead to lead a double life. But homosexuality is not illegal in Italy.
The legal age of consent is 16. Just remember this: Sex, whether homo or hetero, must be kept private. Gay political agitation began in the turbulent early 1970s with a revolutionary gay group called F.U.O.R.I. ("Out"), spearheaded by Mario Mieli and Corrado Levi. A rash of homophobic violence forced more of the Italian gay community out of the closet and led, in the early 1980s, to the formation of a national gay organization known as "Arci-Gay Arci-Lesbica".
There are now dozens of Arci centers throughout Italy, selling yearly membership cards, called "Arci-Gay Uno". These cards are required for admittance to many gay bars, discos and saunas. As a foreigner, you may be exempted, but having an Arci membership is a good way to show your support. You can buy the card at the bar or disco. Gay and lesbians in Italy today have basic constitutional protections against discrimination in the home and in the workplace. In some cities, same-sex couples can register as domestic partners. These aren't national laws, so same-sex couples can't adopt children - but, in time, anything is possible.
Read the article from the Los Angeles Times titled: "For gays in Italy, rights and acceptance are still elusive" for a recent look at the LGBT situation in Italy (January 2014).