Last week, Silvio Berlusconi had a snide go at homosexuals. His attack led to widespread uproar both in Italy and abroad. The comment – “better to like beautiful girls than to be gay” – was probably aimed at one Nichi Vendola, an Italian politician who also happens to be gay. Vendola is the president of the Italian region of Apulia, and he seems to be readying himself for elections.
Could Nichi Vendola: a self-declared gay and communist politician, actually end up being Italy’s first gay prime minister? Well, Silvio Berlusconi appears to believe so. I don’t know if others noted how Silvio stuttered over his anti-gay quip. This, for me, indicated that Berlusconi had had a slight problem remembering his lines. Anyway, this dig at Italy’s gay community did not go unnoticed.
Vendola responded to Berlusconi’s veiled attack via a YouTube video with aplomb, remarking that “The time for jokes is over…Your jokes can’t amuse a country that is exhausted, impoverished, scared, precarious and abandoned.”. Vendola is something of a threat for Silvio, and this is known.
The question is: Is Italy ready for an openly gay leader?
Probably not, even if Vendola has done remarkably well to get elected in his home region, which is deep in Italy’s archaic south. People who voted for Berlusconi are likely to be anti-gay, even if some of them may have frequented transsexual prostitutes. But seeing as transsexuals tend to look like women, people who frequent them would never admit to being gay. At least Vendola is honest – he’s a man who likes men, and does not have to hide this fact by going to bed with men who look like women.
Berlusconi’s anti-gay quip could backfire on him, seeing as there have been reports of transsexual prostitutes attending the Italian leaders’ rollicking parties. In fact, Investigations into the alleged procurement prostitutes for Berlusconi’s parties uncovered the existence of at least on transsexual who may have partied in the company of Italy’s premier. It’s probably only a matter of time before one comes forward and claims he/she went to bed with Italy’s active premier, or with someone within Berlusconi’s entourage. If this does occur, Berlusconi’s cleverly staged little quips will begin to look rather hollow. In fact, someone has already recently claimed that Berlusconi enjoyed the bedroom company of a transsexual – GossipPhone: Berlusconi Gay, Ha Fatto Sesso con Un Trans – Berlusconi Gay, He had Sex with a Transsexual. Note that Italian blog GossipPhone states that its contents are satirical.
Berlusconi has Gay Friends
There is also the fact that celebrity agent Lele Mora, a close friend of Berlusconi, declared in a statement to prosecutors that he had a gay relationship with one Fabrizio Corona, an Italian paparazzo. Berlusconi does, therefore, have friends who are homosexuals, although he might not admit this.
Regarding the “better to like beautiful girls than to be gay” comment, it is only a matter of time before Berlusconi says he was merely joking.
The Vatican Won’t Go For Vendola
So Vendola may not have much to fear from Berlusconi. However, being gay is not likely to make Vendola flavour of the day with the Vatican. Indeed, it is likely that the greatest opposition to Vendola’s political progress will come from this direction, albeit indirectly via a few cleverly targeted sermons. Then again, Vendola may well receive the votes of a few gay priests, even if, technically, they don’t exist.
Varsity, the online magazine of Cambridge University ran an article which caught my eye: The Emptying Churches of Italy. Reading it certainly gives the impression that more than a few Italians have lost faith in the Roman Catholic Church, so some Italians may well be prepared to vote Vendola in the hope he might reduce the Vatican’s interference in Italy’s affairs, which, it has to be said, does occur and occurs rather frequently. Technically, the Vatican is a separate state, so it should not be influencing attitudes in Italy, but connections between Italy and the Vatican run very deep.
Vendola is a Commie! Eek!
Along with Vendola’s sexuality, mix in the fact he is very much an out of the closet communist, and the chances of him getting too far politically in Italy also tend to look slim. Many Italians nurse an innate fear of communism, which is why Silvio Berlusconi labels all and sundry commies when they accuse him of bunga bunga, skulduggery and tax dodging. Berlusconi knows the numbers and is aware that by coming across as anti-commie and anti-gay, he is likely to obtain enough votes to end up back in power in the event of a national election. An election seems to be on the cards, and Berlusconi appears to be warming up for this eventuality.
Vendola, meanwhile, has his work cut out for him – he’s going to have to work very hard to persuade enough voters that being a commie is not such a bad thing in order to win votes. This, in traditional Italy, won’t be at all easy. In actual fact, it might prove more difficult than overcoming anti-gay sentiment.
Reading what Vendola has to say on business in his home region of Apulia, he comes across as being a queer kind of communist with some distinctly intelligent ideas. He may be just what Italy needs. Depends which side prevails – the Bad Italy or the Good Italy.
Complexity is, as usual, the order of the day in Italy.
Vendola photograph taken from Nichi Vendola’s page on Facebook
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