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Living with pride on an island

Sardinia is going to celebrate its first LGBT Pride ever, but it's not all glory and happiness
An event against homophobia in Sassari in May 2012
courtesy of MOS association

The first Sardinian pride ever will start from a sandy beach and will end in front of the sea. In the Italian island, LGBT associations are making history, but it’s not only glory and celebration.

‘In Sardinia there are still gay and lesbian people committing suicide for being what they are,’ Massimo Mele, president of MOS, Movimento Omosessuale Sardo, told Gay Star News.

He added: ‘In 2012, two guys have already committed suicide in my county. Sardinia is tolerant, but, as in the rest of Italy, homophobia is stronger day by day.’

Sardinians, however, are going to celebrate. The ‘Queeresima’ – a pride lasting 40 days – will culminate with a parade in Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, on the 30 June.

Meanwhile, conferences, forums, films and plays in theatres are keeping LGBT activists busy.

In Sardinia there are several LGBT associations, clubs, bars and beaches where LGBT people can meet. Gay life is mainly in Sassari and Cagliari, Sardinia’s biggest cities. But little villages are standing up for LGBT rights as well.

Like Jerzu, in the Ogliastra county. Last month the council banned a scout association, AGESCI, for its anti-gay stance. And now Jerzu’s council has given its support to Cagliari’s pride.

Carlo Cotza, spokesman of ARC association, Cagliari’s main LGBT group, told Gay Star News: ‘We hope to have thousands of people at the parade. 10,000 people? Why not.

‘For the previous event against homophobia, at least 3,000 people were in the streets. We have chosen to walk on the beach because, in summer, it’s Cagliari’s most crowded place.’

Cotza added: ‘Some people have spoken out against the pride, but it’s only ignorance. The right is not happy with us, but the fiercest opposition has appeared on the internet, in forums and chat rooms.

‘The movement split with some people still thinking the pride is a wrong thing. Being gay in Sardinia is still considered something strange. But, fortunately, the LGBT movement is raising awareness on this issue.’

In the north of the island, in Sassari, the MOS association is also celebrating its 20th birthday - 20 years of fighting for LGBT rights in a leftish way.

Movimento Omosessuale Sardo stands for independence too. Independence from Italy, a big issue in Sardinia, that is also an Italian region with its own constitution.

President Massimo Mele said: ‘Our flag is the Sardinian flag revisited. The Quattro Mori – four Moorish people – are sharing some kisses. That’s why we think we can’t abandon our traditions and our culture.’

MOS is, however, struggling against the worst of the traditional Italian culture. Mele added: ‘We have to face a big problem: gay and lesbian teenagers who are forced to leave their houses, because their parents ban them.

‘This is a big issue: in the past, someone has also slept in our office for months. We have also a counselling service and we teach in schools how to react to homophobia.’

In fact, in Sardinia, the most common approach is a political one. The solution is often in unions’ and parties’ hands. And it’s Italian main union CGIL that has supported Cagliari’s pride.

Sandro Gallittu is the secretary of the Nuovi Diritti section at CGIL. ‘Nuovi Diritti’ means ‘new rights’, an adjective indicating that in Sardinia and Italy LGBT issues are still something new.

Gallittu told Gay Star News: ‘We are a union and we do what unions do. We have always organized, with ARC and MOS, the events against homophobia and we support this year’s Cagliari Pride.’

Gallittu has a clear idea of what being gay in Sardinia is. He said: ‘Being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in Sardinia is like being LGBT in the rest of southern Italy.

‘Southern society is not used to these issues, but something is changing, thanks to LGBT associations, sometimes parties, but, most of all, thanks to single people’s choices of life.’

For Nuovi Diritti CGIL, now, the fight is to promote anti-discrimination and pro-rights laws. Sardinian main cities Sassari and Cagliari are proposing a “Registro delle Unioni civili”, an official register for same-sex couples.

‘Same-sex couples, in Italy, don’t have any right. There’s no marriage, no civil partnership. So, maybe, something will change thanks to the single councils’ moves,’ Gallittu added.

It's definitely something to shout for on the beach. 

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