President of Cassero LGBTI+ Center
ALWAYS QUEER. NEVER FACIST.
My work as an activist started when I was living in a small town in the South of Italy and I was convinced my girlfriend and I were the only lesbians around. One day, a friend of mine and his boyfriend were kicked out of a local park because they were kissing and a few children were playing nearby. Considering the homophobia pervading the environment I had grown up in, this incident didn’t come as a surprise. However, it provoked outrage in the local community, leading to meetings and sit-ins and, most importantly, to the first (and only) Pride march in the city in 2015.
We couldn’t know back then, but 2016 had something important in store for us: the Parliament passed a bill recognizing civil partnerships, an event that still counts as one of the major legislative achievements of the Italian LGBTQIA+ movement. Since then, we have tried to add a law against discrimination, marriage equality, and de-pathologizing transgender identities to the national political agenda, to no avail.
I moved to Bologna in 2017, and like many other Italian LGBTI people, I already knew what Cassero was about. I was introduced to the association by a friend and was completely fascinated by the world I discovered there: a mosaic of activities, identities, political ideas, groups, events, and opportunities. It didn’t feel real. I started volunteering for a group of political activists, then started collaborating with the Education and Training group, and contributed to the foundation of a team focusing on international relations. With that said, I have a feeling I got a taste of less than a third of all the things this association has to offer.
Cassero was founded 41 years ago, and it includes a wide range of services: the largest and most important LGBTI+ archive in Italy; a nightclub open three nights a week; a group offering legal and psychological support to counter discrimination; several teams dedicated to countless activities, from meet-ups to an online magazine (La Falla), from sex ed training to school workshops. It’s not only a place that promotes queer culture, with its art events and the Gender Bender festival, but also a hub for political activities in collaboration with other entities in the city and the country.
Cassero is a place of resistance, a safe haven for innumerable LGBTI+ people from Bologna or pretty much anywhere in Italy.
Young people from all over the country decide to move to Bologna because they know the city has a community that wants to resist. It’s not all roses, but Bologna’s deeply rooted realities are capable of creating and providing a precious network of support. Being a beacon for those in need is of utmost importance.
For the first time in the history of Cassero, a woman has been elected as its president. This is proof of how discrimination and inequalities can be witnessed and experienced in the LGBTI+ world, as well. Traditionally, the most visible community behind the foundation of Cassero were gay men. Over the years, a diversified range of communities has emerged in the association, yet it is still perceived as overly influenced by a male perspective. From the moment I joined Cassero, I have met numerous women and trans people in leading roles, which made me feel welcome and free to express my own potential. I hope I will be able to do the same for other people.
Unfortunately, over the past year since the election of Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister, the hatred towards LGBTI+ people has increased, exacerbated by the words of Italian institutions against non-heterosexual families and the role of LGBTI+ people and gender discussions at school. The country is going through a challenging social and economic crisis, which the government has decided to face by pushing minorities aside from the white, heterosexual, and heteronormative national identity. Bologna saw an increase in the number of assaults in the public space, which local institutions found concerning.
The new Italian government has proven even worse than expected: in a year, they almost made surrogacy illegal, even though it was a way for same sex couples to have children. In the meantime, they worked locally to deprive lesbian mothers of any parental rights towards their children. There isn’t much we can do to stop this government, with its solid majority and targeted strategy. What we can do, though, is keep on fighting to make our battles and identities visible in as many fields as possible, with the aim of changing perceptions and building alliances.
What I would like people to understand is that this affects every single one of us. It might appear people already know this, considering the level of animosity triggered by the debates on themes such as inclusive language, consent, sexual violence, non-heterosexual parenthood, family models, and the role of politics in protecting citizens from discrimination. I see heated discussions about these topics, but I don’t think people are aware of why that happens – and that’s because these debates are about all of us. Trans issues are about everybody’s identity, not just a tiny percentage of people in Italy.
Together with the association I lead, we will continue to reclaim all the spaces we live in, claiming that we’re proudly queer and anti-fascist.