Relatively few Canadian writers and artists of Italian heritage openly identify as queer through their writings and in interviews. In some circles, being queer is still taboo. In the forthcoming documentary, Creative Spaces: Queer and Italian Canadian, a group of writers discuss their lives, work, and experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ Italian-Canadian community. The Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) and the Queer Studies in Quebec Research Group (ÉRÉQQ) have joined forces to produce this video, which aims to broaden the understanding and increase sensibility towards queer identities and everyday lived realities.
The subjects of the documentary are writers from across Canada, including Steve Galluccio who broke new ground nearly twenty years ago with his plays about the difficulties of Italian-Canadian gay and trans characters trying to gain acceptance. Most notable among these is his play-turned-feature-film Mambo Italiano (2003). Christopher DiRaddo is the author of Geography of Pluto (2014), a novel that presents the emerging self-acceptance of a young gay man in Montreal’s urban landscape. Salvatore Antonio, in his play In Gabriel’s Kitchen (2007), depicts the suicide of a young gay man whose family is unable to accept his homosexuality. Michelle Alfano documents the parenting of a gender-transitioning child in her memoir The Unfinished Dollhouse (2017). (Click here to read an interview with Michelle Alfano.) Monica Meneghetti, whose book What the Mouth Wants was published in 2017, is the author of the essay “I’m Queer and Italian-Canadian – Coming Out Was Twice as Hard” (The Globe and Mail, May 28, 2018). (Click here to read an interview with Monica Meneghetti.) Many Italian Canadians are still hesitant to openly identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Domenic Beneventi, professor at Université de Sherbrooke, heads ÉRÉQQ and is a past-president of the AICW. “The confessional aspect of this video project is important,” says Beneventi. “As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick makes clear in her discussion of the ‘epistemology of the closet,’ the interdictions around same-sex desire function precisely in the power of silence, invisibility, and the erasure of LGBTQ+ realities in public discourse. In order to break such an impasse one must speak up or speak out. This video project allows Italian-Canadian artists and writers to marry their literary art to their performative speech-act as a testimony or confessional, which allows a larger social dialogue to emerge about the continued stigma and prejudice around queer identity within and outside the Italian-Canadian community.”
With this video, the AICW and ÉRÉQQ take on subjects that are not traditionally discussed in the Italian-Canadian community. The vantage point of someone who identities as gay, lesbian, queer, or transgender and who is of Italian heritage, in Canada, may be quite different from the mainstream. For a community that prioritizes the traditional concept of family, the writing of LGBTQ+ Italian-Canadians raises important questions about social structures. This new video project asks the following questions: How do queer Italian Canadians relate to their families and extended community? How do they negotiate the conventional heteronormative discourses and practices of everyday life? How do they reconcile a queer identity and an Italian-Canadian identity?
Through this video, the producers hope that prejudice, bullying, and stigma can be confronted by thoughtful and thought-provoking exposure to different life-narratives and experiences.
Licia Canton is the author of The Pink House and Other Stories (2018) and Accenti Magazine’s editor-in-chief. She is director of the video documentary Creative Spaces: Queer and Italian Canadian.