June 2019. 30 days. 50+ events. Nearly 4 million people expected. An event that is already making history, hailed as one of the greatest mass demonstrations and mobilizations ever seen. The LGBTQIA+ community is preparing to march for its human and civil rights in the city where just fifty years ago it rebelled against the prevailing conservatism. And this seems to be the sentiment of the city of New York, an unstoppable force that is about to invade the city and oppose the conservative winds that are currently shaking the American stars and stripes.
by Tommaso Cartia
The World Pride is undoubtedly a political, socio-cultural, costume event, as well as a glamorous, glittery and exuberant one. Big names of entertainment will parade and perform this year on the rainbow carpet – stars like Rhianna, Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, Whoopi Goldberg, Ciara and Billy Porter, as well as the Queen of Pop: Madonna. An event that every year turns out to be also a big business investment for the city, a tourist attraction generating exorbitant, dizzying numbers.
We have collected the opinions of some of our Italian and Italian-American representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community living in New York, to understand what emotions are going to experience during such an historical moment for their people. They are representing here in NY an Italy that, although its recent improvements in terms of civil rights, is still incapable of truly representing them with the pride and the acknowledgement they should deserve.
We found the perfect chaperone for this inquiry in Cathy Renna, a veteran in the field of communication and media, Principal at TargetCue (Targetcue.com), an LGBTQ focused, full service communications and public relations firm based in NY. A proud lesbian and Italian-American, Cathy is currently taking care of the public relations with the media and the press for the World Pride.
Residency: New York
Origins: from Puglia
Gender: Human being. Proud lesbian woman
What can we expect from this event and how are you personally experiencing it?
This is an incredible opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall and its meaning on a global stage. The LGBTQIA+ community that will march this year is not just New York’s, it is a global community, which is facing a particularly critical moment due to the hostility of President Trump and other conservative policies all over the world. 4 million people together is an incredible figure. It is also the Pride that has received more coverage, media attention and exposure than ever. And this is particularly important for the new generations. In fact, the Youth Pride for the youngest in Central Park will be significant among the various events scheduled. Also, The World Mural Project is a spectacular and very educational initiative, a celebration of diversity and love that will be immortalized by 50 artists who will paint the walls of the five N.Y.C boroughs with their creations. An operation sponsored by Macy’s, one of the biggest department stores. We’ve never seen something like this.
As an Italian-American and a proud lesbian woman, how do you experience being a representative of the LGBTQIA+ community in relation to your origins?
Being an Italian-American is as important to me as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I live both things with the same pride. I am a first-generation Italian-American, and I do not forget what Mussolini’s lesson was, what it means to live in a climate of oppression imposed by a dictator. When you understand that as a child, you become a fighter. I dedicate my work to try to create a better world for all the young Italian and worldwide LGBTQIA+ kids. In Italy it is particularly difficult to be gay today, because of the Catholic Church. But we are here, also with this World Pride, to deliver a powerful message: we are in this fight all together!
Nationality: Italian (he recently got his American citizenship)
Residency: New York
Origins: from Rome
Gender: Human being. Proud gay man
What value do you give to the World Pride event from the point of view of an Italian homosexual who recently became an American citizen?
The first time I went to the New York Gay Pride I was so moved. I had never seen, nor would I have ever imagined, such a participation of people of all ethnic groups and social strata united by a sense of belonging to a group that had struggled for decades to be recognized and accepted. Then within a couple of years I found myself marching proudly, together with my American partner, in the group “The Immigration Task Force”, which had the task of supporting and promoting gay unions and equating them with traditional heterosexual ones. This is why, for me, this year has an even more irrepressible importance, precisely in light of the political regime in which we live in the United States, which is, alas, similar to the one we now live in Italy. At least here in the US since 2014 you same sex couples can get married and enjoy the same rights (and duties) as any other couple. What saddens me very much is to think that Italy is once again historically lagging behind the more uprising countries.
What was your greatest difficulty in living your gender identity in Italy and how do you live it here?
I was born into a very open and progressive family, and that made the whole deal of being homosexual almost painless. I was very fortunate. We were at the end of the 70s, a magical moment for Italian gays. Il Fuori! (one of the first organizations in Italy to fight for the LGBTQ rights, Ed.), along with the Radical Party had widened the panorama of rampant machismo, inserting a more articulated vision of the Italic male. It is a pity that the advent of the 1980s and 1990s swallowed up everything that had been achieved. But I was already an “immigrant” in New York, and here I never felt any hostility or discrimination. Here I am considered a person, who is also a gay man. In Italy I am considered, in most cases, first a gay man, and then a person.
Residency: New York
Origins: from Turin
Gender: Human being. Proud lesbian woman
How does it feel to live your is sexual freedom as an Italian living in the U.S. in times of World Pride?
Coming from a culture where progresses in the emancipation of women and the rights of the LGTBQ community always happen slower, Pride is always very important for me. In fact, among the reasons that led me to stay in New York was the fact that I felt much more free to be myself. Watching homosexual couples holding hands freely on the streets of the city, seeing them become adoptive parents, astonished me. Moreover, Pride is important because this “normality” that we live in New York today is a utopia in many other parts of the world. Even here in New York homosexuality became officially legal only in 1980. And until 2003 same-sex relationships were still illegal in the U.S., in 14 states, in Puerto Rico and in the army. Accepting yourself for who you are, is difficult for everyone. This is why to declare ourselves proud of who we are in such a public and festive way is absolutely important and therapeutic.
Tell me how you deal with these issues in your music too, and how much music has been therapeutic for you in this sense.
The Pride is also important because only three years ago there was the Orlando Nightclub Shooting at Pulse during which 49 LGBTQ people died. The mass shooting with the highest number of deaths in the United States after that of Las Vegas. When I found out what had happened, I couldn’t give myself peace. That day Love, Shine was born, the song that gives the title to my new album. The only thing I could do was hold my guitar in my arms and play, to find comfort, to release some emotions that were too intense to verbalize. The song is an invocation to love. I don’t believe in weapons, in violence of any kind, in war. I believe in peace and love, I believe in honoring every single human being in his uniqueness. None of our divisions has any logical sense, but it probably makes sense in a collective unconscious that has yet to find a way, a light to be able to appreciate the incredible gift of life. My deepest desire is to see that light rise for everyone on this planet, and I will contribute in every possible way with my music to make that happen as soon as possible.
Residency: New York
Origins: from Florence
Occupation: Make-Up artist, Interior Designer
Gender: Human being. Proud transgender woman
I know that this year in particular, as well as many other years, you have chosen not to participate in the Pride and in the traditional march. Instead, you will take part in The Queer Liberation March, an alternative event organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition. This organization works in opposition to the Heritage of Pride that organizes the traditional march, and wants to bring back the attention to the more political and militant aspect of the Pride, protesting against the corporate-focused sponsoring and participation requirements of the larger march. Can you explain the reasons of your choice?
I prefer it because it is closer to what I believe. I haven’t been to the Pride for years. I think that in a historical moment like this, to pull out a flag and parade in a thong is not appropriate. Let’s try to be a little more serious, even more now that Trump is taking away all the achievements we conquered in these years.
Virna has a very poignant life’s story, a story that we will be able to tell in all its splendid complexity on the pages of Red Carpet in an exclusive interview entirely dedicated to her. Here is how she started telling us about her painful and conflictual relationship with Italy:
I’m self-exiled. If I had to go back to Italy, what will I do? I do not even have the right to an identification card […] We want to normalize ourselves, we want to get married, have children etc. which of course I understand is important, but first, we do not have the laws that protect us against transphobia, homophobia… so yes we fight for same-sex marriages but the basic civil rights are not granted to us. I’m not interested in getting married when in Italy, I don’t exist. My name change cannot be recognized either. So, technically I don’t exist. Even if they give me the chance to get married marry it doesn’t matter, I want to be recognized as a citizen first […] I see my future here in New York also because in Italy at the moment I do not have the right to live a life like the other people live.
Virna’s situation has recently, partially, changed. We’ll talk more about it soon.