Uncovering Queer Spaces in Italy | Pocketmags.com

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Uncovering Queer Spaces in Italy

When Charlotte Herrmann moved to Rome in 2022, the last things that came to her mind were the challenges she could encounter regarding her queerness. She was aware of conservative politics in Italy, but did not expect to struggle with homophobia in the capital of the country. She describes how finding a queer community changed everything.

Arriving in Italy, at first, fear did not take up space in my mind, as I was open with my sexuality and identity. Only when I went to the city with my girlfriend at the time, I started to feel uncomfortable showing affection in public. That feeling grew bigger as I tried to live my identity unapologetically and got confronted with unprecedented homophobia.

Throughout time, I slowly started to realise how much of myself I was forgetting and hiding, how my voice lowered anytime I would bring up my identity, how I would think twice before making a joke about it, how I restrained myself from kissing someone I liked in public.

As I started to feel less comfortable in the city, I tried to discover LGBTQ+ safe spaces in which I could find a sense of freedom again. First, I found a few gay bars that I thought would be welcoming places. At first glance, the places seemed attractive, having terraces right in front of the Colosseum, exhibiting the rainbow flag proudly. I soon realised those places were mainly inclusive for gay men or for tourists.

After a few months of struggling to find proper queer places, I discovered a whole new parallel world almost hidden in the city. The first place I went to was mentioned to me by a German friend. It was located in a small obscure street, not a noise could be heard, the entrance was a black reinforced door blending into the building. It took me 15 minutes to find the entrance.

I first had to go through a dark hall, where a person was checking people’s membership cards. The moment I bought that card, I could not have imagined the world it would lead me into. I remember entering the room, which was small, a bar on the right, people sitting at tables and on couches, drinking beers and smoking, all watching a movie about the techno scene in Berlin. I was amazed by the place as I sat down with two of my friends. If the place looked so dark at first, I knew I had finally found somewhere full of light.

I learned later that night that many places in Rome were part of the same organisation, which made me eager to try them all. The one that marked me the most was located on the side of a huge road, behind fences, in what looked like an abandoned beige building. I was struck by confusion when I first saw the entrance, even wandering around it a few times to make sure I was at the right place. Once inside, I headed over to the main room, where shoes had to be removed. Now only wearing socks, I walked across dozens of carpets, surrounded by plants.

A group was gathered on the ground, forming a circle, to discuss a book on feminine sexuality. Sitting on a bench next to them, I felt happy. I ended up returning there for most of the events they organised, each time arriving early to put on the glitter and clothing provided by organisers, then perhaps getting a tarot reading in the middle of the room, or dancing to classical music barefoot. It was a freeing environment, seeing queer couples all around dancing and kissing, people being able to walk around half-naked without fear. I was reassured upon stepping one foot inside.

Being in those spaces allowed me to live again, allowed me to rethink my sexuality as something new. For that year, it felt I was living between two opposite worlds, one where I was afraid to hold hands with my partner, another, where I was in a glittery fantasy. It felt quite freeing to find that alternative reality. Even if it took me a while to find it, it was necessary.

I haven’t stopped looking for queer spaces ever since. I was not aware of the need I had to find them before, a need to embrace the freedom that queerness can bring to you. Even if I can feel quite at ease in non-queer spaces, there is always that little spark of fear ready to explode at any moment. Finding these venues allowed me to consciously protect myself from a world of brutality.

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From The Team
Welcome, dear reader, to the April/May issue of GCN.
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As Dublin Pride prepares to celebrate 50 years since the first Sexual Liberation Movement demonstration for Homosexual Law Reform in 1974, Ethan Moser continues his series highlighting the founding members of the SLM
Uncovering Queer Spaces in Italy
When Charlotte Herrmann moved to Rome in 2022, the last things that came to her mind were the challenges she could encounter regarding her queerness. She was aware of conservative politics in Italy, but did not expect to struggle with homophobia in the capital of the country.
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