Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Writing Queer across the Borders of Geography, Desire, and Power

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Writing Queer across the Borders of Geography, Desire, and Power

Article excerpt

In October 16, 2005, Italians had the opportunity to vote for a candidate from the center-left coalition that might represent them as President of the Council after the next national elections. For weeks, the press and news shows were concentrated on nothing but the coverage of this original political happening. Central to the media coverage of the elections was a project for Civil Unions (PACS) presented in Parliament, and the enforcement of the 1989 and 1994 resolutions of the European Parliament on the equal treatment of sexual minorities. In November 26, 2005, dozens of hundreds of queer Italians came out into Piazza Farnese, in Rome, to support the PACS project. The square was the site to contest material and symbolic forms of hostility towards the Italian gay community. Hundreds of queers, including female to male/ male to female transsexuals, leathers, bears and bisexuals, butch and fem lesbians, fag hags, non-heterosexist straights, drag queens and kings, made visible one of the most vibrant acts of political and communal action in years, shaking old stereotypes and myths about the Mediterranean uomo (man) and the Donna Romana (Roman woman). The assortment of groups, political affiliations, voices and colors presented a vision of a diversified yet united queer community that marched from an obscurantist past toward an assertive present. Among the groups, a number of gay and lesbian parents marched together with their children, representing associations of gay parents who struggled for the right of queer couples to adopt. Right beside them, it was usual to see posters exhorting Parliament to pass a law of domestic partnership and legal parity at work.

Interestingly, 75% of all the candidates from the left responded to these demonstrations in open agreement to the rights of GLBTQs. Some of them, including Romano Prodi (the main candidate for the left), answered publicly with a letter of support to the queer community of Italy. This fascinating political and social conjuncture happens after a national coalition of GLBTQ movements issued to Parliament the final Project for PACS--the fourth project defending the rights of queers in Italy, but the first one in the history of the country to be discussed in Parliament.

PACS

At the time I was writing, never before had gay unions been so thoroughly mediated, talked about, publicized, advocated and repudiated in Italy. Interestingly enough, the terms of the public debate have boundaries that leave important questions unconsidered. Although the meaning, benefits and political consequences of PACS are widely commented on television, issues like gay parenting, the status of partners that are foreigners, multiracial queer families, and even AIDS are not a subject of inquiry, either for the press or for the spokespersons of gay organizations. Defenders of PACS argue that the document will provide individuals with choice, but they overlook the power the document accepts from the state, as a mediator that enforces certain behaviors while dismissing others. Defining gay unions as a simple exercise of freedom of choice conceals the potential consequences of such legalization for those queers that 'choose' not to marry. For example, it would extend social benefits only to married or united couples, strengthening the links between benefits and marriage/ civil unions, hence justifying that the state leaves other individuals unprotected. Gay unions might also substantiate the bigotry that non united/married queers are deviant or pathological perverts.

In Italy, debates about gay marriage had not been as preponderant in the public sphere and in the media as in the United States or North Western European countries until today, in part because GLBTQ groups did not pursue the legalization of marriage per se, but followed the French PACS. In fact, to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of PACS, it is important to bear in mind that narratives about the family in Italy encompass religious, moral and historical values, as well as representations that are different from those of protestant countries, including values like honor, faithfulness, sanctity, cohesion, natural motherhood, and so forth. …

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