«How do people even consider it to be due to judge and condemn people who hurt no one, and who only ask for the right to live a peaceful life?»Giovanni Roggero, President of the organisation for parents with LGBTQIA+ kids A.GE.D.O. Turin
Understanding oneself is difficult; making others understand is even more taxing. LGBTQIA+ people often find themselves alone, victims of a society that does not listen to them and that condemns them to a life of indifference at best, of vexation at worst. Giovanni Roggero, president of the organisation for parents with LGBTQIA+ sons or daughters A.GE.D.O. Turin, speaks about these difficulties and about the fight they are putting up to debunk the stereotypes that harm the LGBTQIA+ community. Starting from Pride, that critics often call a carnival, but that in truth is a place where people can come out and where parents, sons and daughters express their want for a more inclusive world.
The importance of living out in the open
«If I want to go out with my wife, hold her hand and maybe kiss her on the street, nothing will happen to me» Roggero says. «An LGBT+ person risks their life» he continues. The life of queer people is often subjected to violence, either open or veiled, and this forces them to hide their true selves and live in fear. And with good reason: 64% of LGBTQIA+ people suffered targeted violence. An extremely high percentage.
However, living in the shadows is not living at all, especially for people that did not make any choice but were simply born in a certain way that is different from the societal standards of the hegemonic occidental culture. «There are those who say that being homosexual or transexual is a choice, but it is one of the many stereotypes: can we really think that a person would willingly choose to have an hard life, to be the prime target for bullying and mockery, and to have more difficulties when looking for a job?»
Nonetheless, Roggero knows that those who feed these stereotypes are not always in bad faith: sometimes, they are simply people who never had to live these experiences first hand. This is why A.GE.D.O. fights against these harmful stereotypes, to become a bastion of support for whoever needs help. «Making a statement without reason may hurt people, hurt them so much that they find the only right thing to do is to be ashamed, to hide, to despise themselves».
The transition process, waiting time and bureaucracy
Giovanni Roggero, other than being president of A.GE.D.O. Turin, is also the father of a transgender daughter, one of the reasons he became interested in the problems of LGBTQIA+ people. In particular, transitioning is seen by some people as something quick, done on the spur of the moment, unsafe and even harmful. «This is a myth, as transitioning requires years» Roggero intervenes. Years of waiting amidst invasive medical and psychological examinations, bureaucracy and occasionally rejection.
Before even starting the transition process in Italy, there is a period called “admitting of taking charge”, which may last for up to 1 year. «Then, transgender people are subjected to profound scrutiny by psychologists, psychiatrists and endocrinologists. This phase can be quite hard for them». But it is not over: there is also bureaucracy. Until not long ago, a judge had to officially decree that the doctors’ findings were reliable and give their consent to transition; furthermore, legally changing names had to be postponed until the gender affirmation surgery was completed, usually after 2 years.
Even if the process is now simplified and changing names can be done before surgery, transitioning still requires a long time. «In some verses, it is an extremely hard and taxing period that makes you spend precious years of your life just waiting for someone else to decide you can transition» Roggero continues.
A.GE.D.O., educating and growing together
The A.GE.D.O. Turin organisation, of which Roggero is president, was born as a place where parents of transgender or homosexual kids could meet after their coming out. «What we do is welcome these families in a safe place, this allows us to share our common experience» Roggero explains, saying that dialogue between people with the same problems could help them get out of their “benevolent ignorance”, finally understanding the grief their sons and daughters are into.
This is why other than being a safe place of discussion, A.GE.D.O. regularly organises meetings in schools, companies and municipalities to raise awareness about the problems of the LBTQIA+ community, from gender identity to freedom to love whomever they want. «Some associations vehemently try and stop us, saying that we bring the “gender ideology”1 (in schools, a stereotyped theory that has no basis, or that we are a propaganda machine for LGBT+ objectives. Nonetheless we keep going strong» he says, highlighting the importance of keeping the awareness up even in light of these difficulties.
Sadly, the dominant culture that demonised these people is still all-encompassing, so much that some parents cannot see the point of view of their kids and even reject them coming out, because they do not have the humbleness to reflect on their position. However, Roggero ends, that humbleness is pivotal in parents as it is in younger people, in order to create a society that is just and inclusive for all. «It is true that being a parent means having to be a teacher. But my daughter taught me a lot, too. And she made me better than how I was before. And for this, I have to thank her».
“Gender ideology” or “gender theory” is a way with which traditionalist right-wing catholic movements straw man to depict the LGBTQIA+ community in a certain negative light to the public.