This post originally appeared on HuffPost Italy and was translated into English.
Imagine walking down the street with your boyfriend or girlfriend and not being able to hold hands. Imagine being beaten if people found out you were in a relationship. Imagine receiving rape threats, claiming they will “save and fix you,” just because you are a woman who loves another woman instead of a man.
Teenage love should not be afraid to show itself but for Giulia and Laura the situation described above is a daily reality; the couple lives in a climate of homophobia so deep-rooted and backwards it is almost beyond belief. These two girls from the Italian city of Naples have been beaten by their parents and discriminated against and abused in their school, where their teachers described their romance to fellow classmates as a disease that could infect them all.
Laura and Giulia are in the same grade in high school. They fell in love and started going out soon after they met. At first they hid their romance, but then decided to bring it to out into the open, at which point the school intervened.
“The vice principal said that I was turning the girls into lesbians, that it was a disease that I was spreading,” Laura explained to the Huffington Post. “During class, one of our teachers would say that we were disgusting, that we were abnormal. ‘Does a hen mate with a rooster or another hen?’ she would ask the class. Professors would stop my classmates in the hallways and tell them not to hang out with me. One day the vice principal met with Giulia’s mother to tell her I was stalking and brainwashing her.”
When Giulia’s father heard about it, he beat her violently, took away her cell phone, and locked her up in the house. Her parents presented her with an ultimatum --“ it’s her or us” -- but Giulia didn’t want to choose. To help her decide, her parents threw her out.
Some time has passed since that day. The girls reported their school and Giulia’s father for the beatings. Giulia went back to live with her parents, and her mother has accepted Laura, although her father less so. The situation at school has not changed much, but Laura has the support of one of her teachers, who defended her to the principal. She has one year until graduation.
“My girlfriend and I can’t hold hands in the street. One time we tried and people were threatening to beat us and rape us to ‘bring us over to the other team.’ This is the truth I live out every day, on the street, with my friends, and at home. I don’t feel safe outside. I want to get away, to go somewhere where I can be free. For me, Naples is also part of the problem. In the streets of Naples, Giulia and I can only ever be friends, and that’s it.”