The Sociological Research on LGBT Population in Italy

By Zanola, Elisa | Italian Sociological Review, September 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Sociological Research on LGBT Population in Italy


Zanola, Elisa, Italian Sociological Review


I. Introduction

On the occasion of the last Synod on family (Pontificium Consilium pro Familia) summoned last October by Pope Francis I, one of the most important themes discussed was the possibility of accepting homosexual couples into the Catholic Community - in addition to the one regarding Holy Communion for remarried divorced people. Even though in the "Relatio post disceptationem" it is possible to read that "homosexual people have qualities to offer to the Christian Community" and the "mutual support" in homosexual couples is to be appreciated, the "Relatio finale" didn't show the same open-mindedness, defining it "unacceptable for Church pastors to be put under pressure on this subject and for international organizations to give hand-outs to poor countries on the condition that laws instituting the marriage between people of the same sex be introduced". Since its inception in the '70s, the Italian LGBT movement has always had to take into consideration the hostile presence of the Vatican. At the same time, however, since the 70's, the debate on LGBT issues has become more and more of a public discussion in Italy, becoming more and more relevant. So much so that in 2011 Istat (the Italian National Institute of Statistics) turned its attention to the theme of homosexuality through the national research titled "Discriminations based on gender, on sexual orientation and on ethnicity", investigating "The homosexual population in Italian society". And in the same year (2011) UNAR, the National Office Against Racial Discrimination, conducted a research named "Disorientation: Discrimination and social exclusion of LGBT people in Italy". Furthermore, in 2013, as a result of the programme promoted by the Council of Europe "Combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity", the National Strategy for the prevention and countering of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was drafted, arranged and coordinated by UNAR in collaboration with the Italian LGBT organizations. At the beginning of this paper we mentioned the Vatican: its influence has definitely affected both the history of the Italian LGBT movement as well as the research conducted in Italy on homosexuality, which is very recent. The first quantitative sociological work on sexuality, on a national level, in which homosexuality is considered, is Giampaolo Fabris and Rowena Davis's, "Il mito del sesso Rapporto sul comportamento sessuale degli italiani", Mondadori, Milano, 1978; and only in 1991, with: "Il sorriso di Afrodite. Rapporto sulla condizione omosessuale in Italia", Vallecchi editore, Firenze, 1991, promoted by Ispes with the support of Arcigay, has our country been able to provide statistical information on a national level for a study specifically on homosexuality. The Catholic Church has influenced both the Italian LGBT movement and the studies conducted in Italy on homosexuality, as was also pointed out by Giampaolo Fabris; it might seem controversial, but another feature that conditioned homosexuality in our country has been the absence of overtly anti-homosexual laws, which was emphasised - as in previously mentioned works - by Gianni Rossi Barili in "Il movimento gay in italia", Milano, Feltrinelli, 1999, by Massimo Consoli in "Indepence Gay, Alle origini del gay pride", Bolsena, Massari, 2000 and by others.

The fact that there were no explicit laws against homosexuals in the past does not mean that homosexuality was tolerated: on the contrary, it was not even recognized by law, denying its existence while punishing it at the same time. The invisible nature of the same and the "don't ask, don't tell" mentality were the predominating features in our country until the mid-'90s: everyone knew about the existence of homosexuality, but preferred not to talk about it. As far as academic studies are concerned, sexuality and homosexuality had often been considered frivolous topics and of lesser importance in Italy, as is reported in the book edited by Costantino Cipolla, Sul letto di Procuste, Introduzione alla Sociologia della Sessualità, Milano, Franco Angeli, 1996, as Elisabetta Ruspini reported more recently in Comunità omosessuali, Le scienze sociali sulla popolazione LGBT, Milano, Franco Angeli 2013 and as relayed in the book edited by the Italian Association of Sociologists, Sotto la lente del genere, la Sociologia Italiana si racconta, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2014. …

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