Current Affairs

Italy’s first ‘publicly gay’ woman Mariasilvia Spolato dies at 83

Patrick Kelleher November 10, 2018
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Italy and LGBT flag.

Italy has seen a rise in homophobia. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty)

Italian woman Mariasilvia Spolato, who became the first woman in the country to publicly come out, has died at the age of 83.

Spolato passed away on Wednesday in a nursing home in Italy where she reportedly spent her final years, in what was a historically significant and often tragic life.

Born in 1935, she went on to become an academic and taught at a university, and also wrote textbooks for students.

In the early 1970s, she became one of the founding members of the Italian Revolutionary Homosexual Front.

Mariasilvia Spolato dies in Italy

‘Homosexual Liberation’

On March 8 1972, hundreds of people, including Spolato, gathered in Rome for a women’s day march. However, she was the one who drew attention for her placard that said: “Homosexual liberation.”

After a photo of her with the placard was published in magazines, she was fired from her job as a university lecturer, and also became estranged from her family.

After losing her job and family, she became homeless.

“I slept at friends’ houses, because I could no longer pay my rent. I roamed here and there, from city to city. My home had become the trains. Conductors and engineers from half of Europe knew me. I laid my head wherever I was. I ate whatever I could get,” she said.

She remained homeless for many years afterwards, and after gangrene set in in one of her legs, she was transferred to the care of homeless shelters.

As she is estranged from her family, the town council will likely arrange her funeral.

Public Opinion

While public opinion about homosexuality in Italy has changed dramatically since Spolato’s placard made waves, LGBT+ people in the country still face issues.

Same-sex marriage is still illegal there, and while Italy’s Senate introduced civil unions in 2016, recent comments from politicians have suggested an uncertain future for their LGBT+ community.

Mariasilvia Spolato dies in Italy

In August, Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini expressed his strong opposition to same-sex parents, equal marriage and surrogacy.

Salvini gave an example of how he had already erased gender-neutral terms from government resources in order to ensure a return to heteronormativity.

“Last week I was told that on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, on the forms for the electronic identity card there were ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2,’ he said.

“I immediately changed the site by restoring the definition ‘mother’ and ‘father.’”

Similarly, the Families minister came under fire last June for saying that gay families “don’t exist” legally in the country. 

Lorenzo Fontana added: “I am Catholic, I do not hide it. And that’s why I believe  that the family is the natural one, where a child must have a mother and a father.”

More: Europe, Italy, Italy

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