- "This Will Be the Love of the Future":Italian LGBT People and Their Emotions in Letters from the Fuori! and Massimo Consoli Archives, 1970–1984
"Reading your magazine has enabled me to liberate myself from every prejudice once and for all. . . . You can't believe . . . how much joy I felt after receiving your letter. I turned it over in my hands, I read it again and again, incredibly happy about the fact that somebody was addressing me . . . as I really am and not as I pretend to be."1 This is one of many enthusiastic reactions—in this case, that of a nineteen-year-old boy from Rome—by readers of Fuori!, the first Italian LGBT magazine, published in Turin between 1971 and 1982. The letters analyzed in this essay are full of references to emotions. Expressions of rage, affection, joy, and affliction permeated both the debate and the rhetoric of the first LGBT publications in Italy and the private autobiographical accounts of their readers.
Scholars are increasingly paying attention to the role of emotion in LGBT activism. Sociologist Deborah B. Gould, for example, has highlighted the crucial role that feelings such as anger and affection played in the development and in the practices of the American direct-action AIDS movement ACT UP, arguing that this movement "had a profound impact on the course of the epidemic," at the same time significantly affecting US politics and society in the late 1980s and early 1990s.2 But frequent references to anger can be found much earlier. Anger, in fact, is often mentioned together [End Page 51] with joy in the discourse of both English and American LGBT press and movements of the early post-Stonewall era. The same applies to the rhetoric of Fuori!, the first Italian LGBT movement, whose magazine, also called Fuori!, I have cited above. I will argue that this parallelism between the rhetoric of the Anglo-American activists and their Italian counterparts is a testimony to the crucial role of emotions in the early phases of these LGBT movements. At the same time, the fact that references to emotions such as joy and anger were so prominent in different contexts of LGBT activism much earlier than the 1980s warrants further investigation of US, British, and Italian sources. I will demonstrate that both the precise structures of British and American activism and, to use Barbara Rosenwein's terminology, the relevant LGBT "emotional communities" in these countries helped foster what Benno Gammerl has called an "emotional style" whose main characteristic was an emphasis on anger and joy. This new emotional style in the United States and the UK strongly influenced, as a result of a process of cultural transfer and of what I will call a collective emotional awakening, how many Italian LGBT people felt and how they valued emotions.3 The fact that some authors of the letters I will analyze in this essay do not happen to share this particular emotional style confirms Gammerl's claim that "the gay subculture is not a clearly circumscribed and homogeneous emotional community."4 Moreover, my approach supports the stress previously given to the emotion of pride in descriptions of the Italian LGBT community while simultaneously problematizing some aspects of this assumption.5
The Italian LGBT movement has been particularly noteworthy on the international level because it originated as a post-Stonewall movement [End Page 52] contesting heteronormative society quite early.6 Moreover, it produced publications of significant quality and reach, and the theoretical elaboration of some of its main personalities proved original.7 However, its history and protagonists are rather underresearched.8
Unlike in other Western countries, such as the United States, France, and Germany, there were no openly LGBT media, such as "homophile" periodicals, in Italy before the 1970s.9 Initially, this may sound surprising if we consider that the antisodomy statutes had already been stricken from Italy's criminal code in 1890, while in some states of the United States and in Germany homosexual acts were still considered to be criminal offenses until a few decades ago.10 But despite the lack of a specific legal prohibition against homosexuality, up until at least the...