Friday, June 14, 2013

Fascists do the strangest things

BBC News - A gay island community created by Italy's Fascists

A somewhat interesting story here of an island exile which Mussolini set up in the 1930's for homosexual men.

The way fascist Italy dealt with them was a step up from Germany, I suppose, but still:  
No discriminatory laws were passed. But a climate was created in which open manifestations of homosexuality could be vigorously suppressed.

And one particular police prefect in the Sicilian city of Catania took full advantage of the official mood.
"We notice that many public dances, beaches and places in the mountains receive many of these sick men, and that youngsters from all social classes look for their company," he wrote. 

He said he was determined to halt this "spreading of degeneration" in his city "or at least contain such a sexual aberration that offends morality and that is disastrous to public health and the improvement of the race".

He went on: "This evil needs to be attacked and burned at its core."

So in 1938 around 45 men believed to be homosexuals in Catania were rounded up and consigned to internal exile.
They were locked up in dormitories at 8pm (under police supervision, it says), and had no electricity or running water, but apart from that, it appears the days were pretty relaxed:
"In those days if you were a femminella [a slang Italian word for a gay man] you couldn't even leave your home, or make yourself noticed - the police would arrest you," he said of his home town near Naples.
"On the island, on the other hand, we would celebrate our Saint's days or the arrival of someone new... We did theatre, and we could dress as women there and no-one would say anything."
And he said that of course, there was romance, and even fights over lovers.
Then the war broke out, and they had to go back home to "a kind of house arrest", and some were disappointed to leave.It does sound like most sent to the island were effeminate, although there is reference to a seminarian who somehow was exiled there.

The article ends on a point I hadn't realised about the state of gay politics in Italy today:
There is still no real social stigma attached to homophobia in Italy, Scalfarotto says, and the state doesn't extend legal rights of any kind to gay or lesbian couples.
The influence of the Church, I assume?   One thing I have never understood, though, is why the Spanish Latin countries seem to have adapted to gay relationships very quickly, given that the macho culture reputation and Catholic influence.   Why have they changed very quickly, yet Italy is conservative on the matter?  I also don't really understand the strength of the anti gay marriage sentiment in France:  a country I had assumed had little Catholic influence.  I know there are other elements in the protests there, but still... 

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