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Interview realized in 2019. Full version available only on The Queer Talks book. To be updated about the release click here

Robert Storia TheQueerTalks

Let’s start with a difficult question: can you describe yourself in third person? Try to see yourself from the outside.

Robert is a 21-year-old cis gay, born in Romania but moved to Rome when he was one. His parents worked there, so he grew up in the eternal city. Nowadays he lives in Milan, where he studies Fashion Design. That’s all I can say by using the third person, I don’t feel comfortable in using it. [Laughing] I spend my days studying like a crazy girl (I know, “come una pazza” sounds better in Italian!) and sharing stories on my Instagram. I have always being a creative person, I like having fun while expanding my horizons and learning something new every day. I just like to get in touch with people and share both my happy and sad moments on the web. Internet was since the beginning the only place where I “really” felt comfortable and accepted. I didn’t had to pretend, I could be myself.

When did you know you were gay?

I knew from a very early age I was gay. During the summer between 8th and 9th grade, for the first time I felt like having a big crush on a boy. I asked him out, and I gave him my first kiss.

So, you have never dated any girl during high school?

Nope, my sexuality was always clear to me. During my teenagerhood I kissed several girls, but for fun, in a friendly way, at parties.

How did you manage your sexuality?

That’s a good question. In 2013, when I was 13, I post an innocent photo of my boyfriend and me kissing on Facebook, and it went viral first in Rome, then in the rest of Italy. I got tons of comments, likes and shares. Some pages shared the post by writing: “Put like if you agree, commenti f you don’t”. People felt like they had to say their opition, insisting it was the right one. Readers were literally split in two. I know it sounds crazy and so unreal, but that’s what happened. And you know what? That was my coming out.

So, how did you feel about your coming out on Facebook?

Well, you can imagine the consequences of posting something private on the web. Every day I got homophobic insults, both online and in person. Even though I was 13, I knew immediately that I had to protect myself from these people. I learnt how to let people talk and not to answer them back. I put my headphones and listened to music, in order to let it go. I didn’t felt ashamed or anything: I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was simply be myself. It hurted, and it hurted a lot. But I was lucky – and I’m still be –  enough to had the chance to help other people who were or are in my same situation. And I couldn’t be any prouder.

Does your family know you’re gay? How was your coming out?

I was found out as being gay from my parents because someone (I still don’t know who he/she was) told them he/she saw me kissing a boy in the street. My mom and dad forced me to come out, and it was terrible. That wasn’t the way I wanted to do it. I got found out too early, I had not even started to understand myself. I didn’t feel out and proud. I hadn’t prepared for any of this. It felt like being thrown into the middle of a storm before I’d even notice it was clouding over.

At the beginning my dad tried to talk to me, and he had a comprehensive approach to the situation. My mom just didn’t even want to listen. For ages she didn’t want to talk about having a gay son. It was really hard for me: I had friends who were able to share their life with their parents, and I couldn’t. I wish I could break down the walls at home, but I couldn’t. Until I had my first serious relationship and I forced both my mom and dad to meet my boyfriend and to have him around the house. After that, they learnt how to accept me. I know their behaviour wasn’t related to homophoby: they simply didn’t know what being gay meant. It took time, a lot of time, and patience, and finally things changed.

The reaction of my relatives in Romania was totally different: everybody knows, nobody talks. So, my relationship with them didn’t actually changed, and I’m ok with that. I want to be accountable to nobody but myself.

Do your friends know you’re gay?

Everyone know I’m gay, even if I have never felt I had to say it. The first time I was in a relationship, I posted a picture with my boyfriend on my social media. It was common for youngsters posting such those photos. Some friends already knew I was gay, they figured it out, the others found it out while reading that post. Honestly, I didn’t even care if they knew it or not.

What’s the worst discrimination you experienced?

I was 14 or 15. One night 10 guys had me surrounded and I had no way out. They started to insult me, to make fun of me, to get closer, to bully me and to push me. 10 against one. I remember I was thinking: “Fingers crossed, I don’t want to end up in coma”. Luckily, a friend of mine who knew those kids showed up, and she saved me. I don’t even what to think about what could have happened if she wasn’t there.

Robert TheQueerTalks

“Even though I was 13, I knew immediately that I had to protect myself"

People still judge you by the sex of your partner? Is irrelevant the fact you sleep with a boy or a girl, isn’t it?

Lately, people stopped judging me for my sexual orientation. I feel really lucky actually, since in the past some jerks insulted me in the street. It was horrible, and my only reaction was looking at these people disgusted.

In a recent post on Instagram you wrote a reflection about all the time you have being judged in 20 years. How important is, for you, being able to accept yourself? Have you reached that step yet?

I have always accepted myself, simply because I don’t have anything to accept. The fact that we have to accept our sexual orientation is due to the society we live in. Unfortunately, in this era, if your sexual orientation is “different”, you are automatically “different”. Different from whom? I keep asking myself this question, not being able to find any answer. Let’s be honest: what is the secret to be able to live happily and with self-confidence? Self-love, the only one that last a lifetime. I’m proud to say I love myself the way I am, no matter if I am hetero, gay, transgender, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual. That’s the way I am, and I will always be.

What is LGBTQ+, besides an acronym? Is still necessary, in 2019, to label your sexual orientation?

I think the LGBTQ+ acronym is still necessary, otherwise our society wouldn’t be able to know we exist. It would probably ignore us, like it did 50 years ago. That’s the way we identify ourselves, and ask for respect. In a more open minded society, things would be different, of course, but hey, believe it or not, that’s the society we live in.

Label someone’s sexual orientation? I’m not sure about it. I have never asked anyone about their sexual orientation. That’s totally irrelevant for me, I honestly care about much more important things.

Have you ever felt lonely in Rome, where you grew up? If yes, how and why?

You know, I have never felt lonely in my town. Rome gave me the chance to meet amazing new people every day, and to collect some great memories. I owe Rome so much, I was able to live my teenagerhood to the fullest. Every corner of the city has a special place in my heart, and that’s also because the LGBTQ+ community there is one of the better integrated in the Italian society. If offers not only safe places and spots, like the Gay Street but it also organizes safe events, like LGBTQ+ nights and the not to be missed gay pride. So, guess what: it felt like home to me!

How about the LGBTQ+ community in Romania?

Unfortunately, the situation about the LGBTQ+ community in Romania is totally different. It’s not considered at all. People of prior generations don’t even know what “being gay” or “being a member of a LGBTQ+ community” means. It’s not even their fault, actually: we have to keep in mind the country was under the Communist regime until 1989. Since then, Romania made a step forward, but there’s a long road ahed.

What law would you change, if you could?

Even if I have never studied law, I think some very important laws are missing in Italy. We need law against homophobia, transphobia, homophobic and transphobic bullying. We also need same-sex marriage being legal, same-sex and LGBTQ+ adoption, a LGBTQ+ military policy. Not to mention a law to protect the non-binary genre and legal protections for the transgender employees. Who knows, maybe one day, someone, by reading this interview, will open his/her eyes…

What would you say to your younger self and your older self?

To my younger self, I would say: “Babe, good job, enjoy life, you are doing great!”. To my older self: “Babe, don’t piss me off, enjoy life!”.

What is love?

Love is… my boyfriend and dogs.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Well, I see myself in Paris Hilton’s shoes! [Laughing]. Otherwise, I see myself married to my boyfriend, having 3 dogs I still haven’t, and an outstading job.

Interview and translation by

Krizia Ribaudo

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