About Shame

Italy: A country that celebrates fashion and flamboyancy, yet the stigma of being gay persists.



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Marcello Sanzi
Photo by: Luis Cortés

Italy is a country where being gay still carries a great deal of stigma. People should be outraged, yet they are not. This an appeal to commence the new year with respect rather than judgement

Two thousand five hundred  euros.  
Three thousand sixty USD, approximately.  
Twenty-six thousand two hundred seventy-four Norwegian Krones.  

That’s the amount of money a man in Turin, Italy was willing to pay in order to get his son punished by a semi-professional hitman.  This was not a random punishment: the hitman’s job was quite precisely to break the son’s hands in order to disable him from his career as a surgeon.  

Why? Because the son is homosexual, and his father never accepted it.  

Details are in several Italian newspapers. The hitman decided to tell the truth to help the doctor in suing his father, who received a two-years sentence. Happy ending, right? 

Let’s try to imagine how it all started.  

The Shame 

A father that was ashamed because his son was sleeping with other men. The man had introduced his boyfriend to the family after the relationship became public, his partner being a sort-of celebrity. In my opinion, this is where it all started: a father’s feeling of shame—feeling of guilt or disgrace, dishonor, insult, loss of esteem or reputation—because his son is gay.  

Did this father love his son in first place? Probably yes. Yet, shame apparently can somehow erase the love for one’s own child.  

Was this man proud of his son? Probably, he is a surgeon—an education and a profession that carry high esteem. Or at least that is the sentiment that I receive from my parents when I, as a resident, perform an operation or publish a scientific paper and tell my parents. They say: We are proud of you.  

Begging the question: Does shame have the power to erase the pride one feels towards a son? Apparently so.  

Shame can turn love into hate; shame can turn pride into disgust, shame can turn your parents into your worst enemies; shame can make your friends hurt you. Shame can even make you hate yourself.  

Personal Experience 

Photo provided by Marcello Sanzi.

My personal experience as an Italian gay man, is that you are supposed to feel shame beginning in childhood if you like to dance, to play with dolls, or some other “girly stuff,” when you are supposed to like “boyish stuff.” They teach you to be ashamed of what you are doing, and not to do it again. 

This pattern repeats many times in a lifetime, and you end up feeling that everything you like is wrong. Trust me, that’s a little bit too much to handle for one person.  

Coming out isn’t always the solution, I  still feel ashamed now and then. 

Whose fault is that? Who is to blame for shame? 

Opinions and Arrows 

Opinions are not like arrows. When you throw opinions around, they don’t tear flesh, they don’t penetrate deep into the vessels, they can’t cause fatal hemorrhages, and they can’t kill.  

I have been told that if people silently judge me, it is not their fault if I still feel ashamed. They often say, “Have the courage to be yourself, no matter what people around you are thinking”. That is a ridiculous  thing to say, probably the most stupid-positive message we can tell one-another.  

However, the problem is not that I don’t have enough courage. The problem is that some people around me are busybodies who need to mind their own business and stay out of mine.  

What if people threw arrows instead of opinions? Would it finally be their fault if someone got hurt?  

Your Gossip Matters 

I’ve read stories—too many stories—about girls taking their lives because of feeling ashamed after revenge-porn. Whose fault is that? Expressing one’s true self is such an exciting  way to live your day. How come society blames people for having satisfying sex, for having desires, for expressing ourselves?  

We live in a society where chatting about others is considered acceptable, even chic sometimes. Yet it is considered extremely impolite  to fart at the dining table. A fart never killed anyone. Prejudice did. Many, many times.  

Can we let folks kiss each other without making a big deal out of it? I would like for people to mind their own business, but people will still love to talk to about others behind their back.  

Maybe you did so too, just a few hours ago. If so, let me tell you this: You are the one who should feel ashamed right now. •