La Dolce Viterbo: 5/18/12
As we’ve talked about in several other columns, one of the most shocking discoveries that we made in Italy actually came from our American classmates here: the whole world is not Berkeley. That applies to everything from the way people dress to where they land on the political spectrum, which we’ve learned to embrace with an open mind. One thing, however, did not deserve our open mindedness: a bout of homophobia among the students that left us Berkeley kids disgusted. So, we created a Gay-Straight Alliance... and I’m sure all of you would have done the same.
While we were meeting mainly to work on increasing acceptance within the tiny community of students in our school, we were also interested in the larger gay community in Italy. As for our own town, Viterbo, which is so lame and so adorable, we found that the only organization that even acknowledged gay people was a piccola room up a large flight of stairs somewhere on the main street. It’s only signage consisted of a tiny button, in the middle of a row of a lot of tiny buttons, labeled “ARCI Lesbica,” (which we thought might mean lesbian citadel, though we were later corrected) and one of those nondescript wooden doors. In fact, we passed the place several times before locating it. The one employee was very nice, and welcomed us in for Saturday counseling sessions — apparently he thought we were all lesbians.
Italy is almost entirely Catholic and the country has no equivalent to civil union overall, though some more liberal regions do. Surprisingly, however, sixty–one percent of the country supports recognition of same sex couples and forty–one percent support marriage equality (disclaimer: statistics courtesy of Wikipedia). We’ve never noticed any particularly homophobic behavior in Italy; straight guys here dress in a way that Americans would expect only from the more flamboyant men anyway. Our favorite game? Gay or European.
We spent the year meeting and talking about issues ranging form LGBT rights around the world to Proposition 8 to t-shirt designs (our t-shirts are awesome). Probably the most interesting part about being in a GSA with people from all over the country was hearing about their communities’ views on and treatment of gay people. In some ways, hearing these stories around the big table in our Latin classroom with my friends and some awesome snacks made it feel far away from our reality, but much closer then in the ivory tower of political correctness that we adore and call home.
The last few weeks have been good ones to our little GSA. We finally got our shirts, had a movie night, and finished an “It Gets Better” movie that made us all cry (plus like a thousand other people on Youtube). Then, to top it off, Obama finally came out in support of gay marriage. Pundits have said he had to make the announcement because Biden pushed him in to a tight corner, but I think maybe we had something to do with it. Well, not us exactly, but everyone working towards the same thing.