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This interview was made in 2019. Full version available only on The Queer Talks book. To be updated about the release click here

Francesco - TheQueerTalks

What’s your name and where are you from? 

I’m Francesco, I was born and raised in Naples, and I live in Milan now.

What do you do for a living?

I'm about to graduate in Fashion Design here in Milan. I am focusing on my studies right now in order to apply for some jobs in this field in the very near future.

How and when did you realize you're gay?

I was 13 or 14 years old. I just remember being totally naive about my sexuality and not thinking about it at all. I dated some girls during high school but nothing really happened. I truly accepted myself when I started university, but to be honest, I guess every gay boy of my generation found that out looking at Troy Bolton in High School Musical.

While you were dating girls during high school what did you feel for them?

It's hard to answer this question without sounding like an asshole. I won't say I felt nothing for them, I did care about them, but more like friends. Growing up in a small town, especially in the south, is kind of complicated. People talk, voices spread and all of a sudden people know things that you still didn't know about yourself. I am not saying I used those girls as a cover, a part of me wanted to be just like all the others and forced my heart to feel fine in situations that just weren't right for me, It was just a matter of time. But you know, it may sound sad. But what's really sad to me is that nowadays there are still people who are much older than me and still are keeping their sexual identity a secret.

Do you remember your first crush on a boy?

It's weird because when I was really young I didn't have any sexual intentions towards any boy, I just remember getting close to some other kid and wanted to be his one and only best friend. I wasn't jealous of a girlfriend, but I was jealous when it came to other male friends. It wasn't before high school that I had my first serious crush on someone that then became a very important figure in my life through the following years. I won't go into details, it would take hours for me to write about that. What I am going to say is that we were kids and kids make mistakes, but both my choices and my mistakes led me to where I am today and I couldn't be happier.

What was your most painful discriminatory experience so far?

Growing up as a gay kid in my town was harder during my teenage years, a lot more than it is now. Young boys and girls seem to live their sexuality in such an open way nowadays, they have whatsapp groups, instagram accounts, they don't hide and they don't care about other people finding it out. I wasn't assaulted or bullied, but I was called bad names, I was insulted by ignorant people and it did hurt. I don't remember any violent episodes, maybe I was lucky.  I'm a grown-up now, I don't think about it anymore but I keep my eyes open cause it may happen anytime.

Does your family know you’re gay?And what do they think about it?

Yes, they do. Also some other relatives do. I guess I was lucky enough to have a loving and supporting family throughout every step of my life. For sure we had some rough times, acceptance comes with time and deeper knowledge of things, but at least they knew that it wouldn't change who I was inside and understood it wouldn't influence who I would want to be one day. They trust me, my choices and my abilities.

Francesco - TheQueerTalks

"Ho avuto la mia prima relazione e il mio primo gruppo di amici “queer” durante le superiori e ciò mi ha fatto capire di far parte di una comunità più grande"

You've talked about the acceptance of yourself: how did you manage to achieve it ? What has helped you the most?  Is there something that you still find hard to accept about yourself?

I think it came naturally growing up, I guess I was lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time. I had my first relationships, my first group of queer friends and that just made me feel like i was part of a bigger picture. When high school finished I started driving, going out more often and going to the center of Naples every weekend. I don't think I am perfect, but I feel good in my skin and i am just aware that if we work on things we don't like about ourselves, we can be whoever we want to be.

Are there any friends of yours that don't know it?

I am not sure about having come out to all of my friends in the past, but I really don't think there is any need to. I am very selective when making friends, if someone doesn't know I am gay it's not because of me trying to hide it, it's probably because I don't see that someone as my friend.

What would you like to change in our society and what do you think we have to do in order to change it?

Honestly, I don't think it will ever change. Maybe it could be a little better, maybe our law will guarantee more rights to us, but evil is round every corner. When it comes to defending small groups of discriminated people, there is no law to be applied.

You've lived in two different cities. Have you noticed some differences between the two? Where have you found more freedom and less discrimination?

I am sad to say that I found and keep finding a lot of prejudice in my hometown as much as I keep seeing a lot of hypocrisy in Milan. In the first case I think ignorance and mind closure are the main causes behind many acts of unjustified hate and violence. Here in Milan for sure people are more open and tolerant and the chances of having a decent life are a hundred times higher given the huge variety of people living here. Despite that, the main part of our community is usually made of creative people so I would rather say they need and love what we can do and that's probably why they close an eye on who we are.

You say that you always keep your eyes open because something bad could happen, are you more afraid here in Milan or when you go back to Naples?

Mean people are everywhere, but I would say Naples. I don't know if it makes sense, but I feel like Milan is just creepy sometimes during the night hours.

What are the rights and the laws that you would like to be changed? And why do you feel that things will never change? Do you think things can get better?
Don't you think that if everybody tries to do something about it things will change?

I really am ignorant when it comes to laws and rights, but what I think is that even if the system improves we are not going that far anyway. Milan is kind of different, but it's still Italy. This country is so beautiful but the biggest part of its inhabitants is made of bigots and retrogrades. And to be honest, people will always be scared of diversity. You can claim to be living in the most forward-looking place with the most peaceful people in the world and still experience acts of violence and fear when least expected.

Have you ever felt loneliness seeing that in your hometown people were not so open minded? How do you feel this has affected you growing up?

I felt lonely because i didn't know anyone who was experiencing my same condition, i had no one to talk to. I never bonded with kids in my school because I was just scared of how they would react knowing things about me about which I was not even sure back then. That changed when I started university, I wasn't hiding anymore. I guess that being in my hometown made me experience regular things later than my peers, but it also made me build some kind of shell and it made me harder to tear down.

What can you say about LGBTQ community in Naples? Were there associations or places in which you felt safer or better represented and supported? And what about Milan?

I used to feel safe in some squares where a lot of queer people used to meet during the weekends. They would sit on the ground, eat junk food, smoke cigarettes, play games and drink alcohol for hours. It was nothing special, but i was doing that with people like me, or at least people who enjoyed our company. That's kind of normal now in my life, but it really was something back then. I am not sure about associations, i never tried to reach for one, but i guess gay life in Milan is way easier especially for the Youngers.

If you had a chance to talk to your younger self, what would you like to say to him?

You know, sometimes I really wish I could tell him that it's okay if he doesn't like playing football with his classmates, if people are rude to him, or if they joke about his way of talking and acting when angry. His parents will love and support him no matter what he likes and does. And also that during his growth he will have to be strong, cause people around him will leave, and some others he loves will get very sick and pass away but that's okay, it's just how life goes, and he has to make the best out of every second spent with them. I would tell him to be kind, but also fierce. I would tell him to be confident with his look and skills, but also humble because there is always time to grow and to learn from mistakes. It's ok if he likes nail polish and the sound that his mom's heels make when she walks around, if he likes dancing and drawing and hates watching sports on Tv. But mostly, I would tell him that people will disappoint him and break his heart many times, but that doesn't mean he has to hide from the light because life is worthless without giving and without loving. I would tell him that he has nothing to be worried about, because he will make a lot of amazing friends, his family will be there all of the time, and he will find someone whose love will just bring light and happiness into his already bright future.

Interview and photos by Clotilde Petrosino
Proofreading di Verdiana Nobile

Francesco - TheQueerTalks

"Al bambino che ero direi: va bene se ti piace lo smalto"

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