How I Escaped Italy's Homophobia With My Imaginary Friend

04/04/2014 07:42 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

We are all dead. We're all flying over the rainbow, out of the Great Beauty.
We are small satisfactions. We are showtimes. The first innocent blood.
We're compulsions, magic powers. We are the alternative, the soviet toys.
We're bullshits, punk, Mickey Mouse, Retta Scott.
We're not born this way, we're just born this way.
We are all gay.
We have now cut the chains.

When I was a little boy, my grandfather told me that one day a man in a white coat would find me and make me believe that the stars would never spread their light again. Of course, I never believed him, for he was a bit out there, but after his death, something grim was unearthed: a 7-year-old girl with long blonde hair, eyes like the universe, and a face that resembled that of Snow White. She'd escaped from an orphanage and came to visit me at the asylum -- that same asylum where men in long white coats confined me as their prisoner because I was different and therefore had to be tucked away, hidden from the world.

According to the doctors I denied my homosexuality, which made me afraid. In the region where I lived, Marche, people would laugh at me, and for this reason I'd asked my family to lock me away in a room of isolation. That's where I met Stella, a little girl only I could see, which was unrealistic, as though I had a bit of magic in me. She called me "the wizard." Stella freed me, and she became glued to me like a virus. Since that very moment in the mental hospital, Stella and I have desperately tried to survive and exist together, melted and fused. When I left the asylum, Stella came with me. Secretly.

Now she holds my hand like there's no tomorrow. We live in New York in an abandoned house. We are our own guardians. I tell her that now I accept being gay, and that I sometimes enjoy watching the "hedgehog" Ron Jeremy on LubeTube. I tell her that where I come from, there's no law that addresses creatures like me. I cannot return to my home in Italy because there's so much hate, so much resentment, and the people there can never accept people like me. It's not so much about my homosexuality but about Stella.

Stella is only a child, a child who understands me, who knows what I'm looking for in this world. She's the only friend I have. At times I convince myself that we are here, together, fighting to avoid this huge apocalypse, that our journey is like that of a Giorgio Moroder record, a vinyl that spins and spins, in search of the brightness of the sun.

When I registered at the journalism school in Urbino, Italy, Stella was there with me. We studied together. At times people caught us talking, hugging, and crying together, but no one dared judge us. Then, in Rome, things took a turn for the worse. In the newsroom my fellow colleagues would look at me in suspense. They knew where I came from and believed that I was hallucinating. They didn't allow me to work in peace. The only solitude and comfort I had came from hanging out with the prostitutes on Via Cristoforo Colombo, for they too were not free.

In Italy they wanted to isolate us from the world, hiding us in this cave, because we were too free, alive beyond belief. From this day forward, they will hunt us down with their torches, but we will resist; we will not surrender. If they try to burn us, we will yell at the top of our lungs for our freedom and raise our hats to the smoky sky.

Today Stella and I are free. We don't hide ourselves from the world. The Big Apple gave me what I was missing in my birthplace: freedom. My day is filled with liberty, immersed in the magical, colored balloons that are there, untouched, straight from the packaging. Sometimes Stella helps me write my articles, which will then be sent to Italy to be published. Other times we watch TV and see that where we escaped from, the hatred and violence are still there, and this makes us angry. We watch a program called Uomini e donne, where a man sits on the throne and picks the woman of his dreams. One day I too would like to sit on that throne, waiting for the man of my dreams, and ask him, "Are you afraid of me?"

Filippo is an Italian journalist who wanted to become a wizard. Stella is his imaginary friend. Filippo and Stella live in New York after escaping from Italy, where homophobia is at its highest level. These are their (silent) adventures in the Big Apple.