11/18/2014 07:53 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Delicious Awakening of the Italian Gay Powers

It took some time before I was ready to return to writing. Why? The answer is simple: I no longer recognized my own country. The mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, was celebrating the right to love, registering 16 gay weddings (much applauded abroad), 11 joining men and five joining women. The prime minister, Matteo Renzi, announced that he would legalize civil unions, and that he had already prepared a text appealing to the state to recognize all same-sex couples. Vladimir Luxuria, an activist for LGBT rights, after hosting Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend, Francesca Pascale, at Rome's Gay Village, accepted an invitation to visit the ex prime minister and published two snaps of the evening on Twitter: one in the company of Berlusconi and Pascale, the other with her dog, Dudù, with the caption "A friendship is born." And, to cap it off, there was the pope. When asked about "the gay lobby," the pope said that in the Vatican it isn't as though such things are written on one's identity card, and in any case, the problem was one of lobbies in general, not one of sexual orientation. "If a person is gay and is searching for the Lord and is of good faith, who am I to judge?" he asked.

In short, I was finding it hard to write. My imaginary friend Stella and I, having fled an Italy crushed by inequity, thought at the time that there was precious little to lose. But Italy is changing. For real. And Stella and I are changing along with her. For us it's a wonderful breath of fresh air to realize that there is still a country we can return to, and for which we can still have hope. We no longer feel like escapees, freaks, renegades. We are happy, damnably happy, even if in America there are 33 states, Alaska and Arizona among them, that have said yes to same-sex marriage, while in Italy there's still a long road ahead, in spite of the positive signs.

Meanwhile the bishops, in the so-called "relatio synodi," have slowed up Pope Francis on the gay issue and his progressive stance. Vladimir Luxuria, as an ex-parliamentarian of the Rifondazione Comunista, has been harshly criticized by the left for meeting with Berlusconi (responding like this: "Well, who can I talk to on the right? Berlusconi invited me to discuss gays. I have no ideological barriers. The only question I have is how to dress.") Furthermore, the prefect of Rome countered Mayor Marino with an act to annul the marriages the mayor had registered, but the mayor persisted, ignoring the Italian ban on same-sex marriage. Then even the interior minister, Angelino Alfano, released a statement informing legislators that any registration of foreign marriages between same-sex couples would be "voided." So, in a country like mine, the war is ongoing. But hope has awakened, at last.

Filippo is an Italian journalist who wanted to become a wizard. Stella is his imaginary friend. Filippo and Stella live in New York after having escaped from Italy.

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