Prof From Saskatchewan, Canada Creates Italy's First LGBTQ+ History Month

Esther Spurrill Jones
Dr. Alessio Ponzio (PhD) is an assistant professor in USask's Department of History.Morgan Carlton

University of Saskatchewan historian Dr. Alessio Ponzio (PhD) hopes to change Italy with the creation of the country's first LGBT+ History Month Italia now underway in Italy for the month of April 2022.

Italy currently holds a 67/100 score on Equaldex's equality index. Homosexuality and changing gender are legal in the country, but there are no protections for housing discrimination and same sex couples cannot adopt. Conversion therapy laws vary by region. While 83% of Italians surveyed support same sex marriage and 75% say that "society should accept homosexuality", only 43.7% think homosexuality "can always be justified." And a mere 26.9% of Italians surveyed believe that "homosexual couples are as good parents as other couples."

“We hope we are going to bring a change. We hope that through this month, we are going to stimulate more and more teachers, more and more professors, more and more students, more and more young people, to understand (LGBT+) history. We want to push them to ask questions about this history,” Ponzio said.

While many countries around the world, including Canada and the United States, observe a month dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, Italy has not done so before. Dr. Ponzio and the other organizers created a website and invited Italians to host events thoughout April. They were overwhelmed by the response: around 200 people and organizations are planning close to 125 events, from exhibitions to lectures and workshops, and more.

Italy's Rolling Stone Magazine took notice and published a feature on LGBT+ History Month Italia.

Dr. Ponzio is a specialist in modern European history and in the history of gender and sexuality at the Univerisity of Saskatchewan, which is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Ponzio is one of the USask faculty members who designed the new Certificate in Queer Theory, Gender Diversity and Sexualities Studies launching this May in the College of Arts and Science.

Although homosexuality became legal in Italy at the end of the 19th Century, it remains stigmatized to this day. “We don't teach it. We don't talk about it,” said Ponzio. Along with his fellow organizers, he hopesw the events this month will start a conversation that could "start kind of a cultural revolution, a cultural change. We think of the LGBT+ History Month as a cultural project, a social project, that goes beyond just the idea of history, but really is an intervention in Italian society."

“I hope that people like me, when they are in high school, will not perceive themselves as nonexistent. You always feel that you’re alone, so I think it’s very important for students to understand that they are not. There is that history. There were people who were different sexually and from a gender perspective… So you are not the only one,” Ponzio said.

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