One of the mottoes of Saint Francis of Assisi is "Tanto l'uomo è di scienza quanto opera," which is to say that what we know comes straight from what we do.
When I was 18 I asked my mother to put me away in a mental hospital. I told her to do this so that thoughts of homosexuality and suicide would not cross my mind. This had to be done, for I was in unbearable pain. But my mother did not do what I had asked; she did not want to see me go back into that horrid place.
Instead she sent me to a doctor near our home. Her name was Luce, which means "light" in Italian, and she lived in a house that was built on a high hill. It was beautiful, and I couldn't take my eyes off it. It reminded me of the castle from the movie Edward Scissorhands where Edward lived with the old inventor.
My first encounter with Luce was a direct one. She looked me straight in the eye and made me a promise that if we failed in our mission, which was to get to the root of my problem and figure out what I was hiding underneath my skin, in my brain, then I would have her permission to become a patient in that asylum where I dreamed of going.
Our therapy sessions began in August, and I felt protected and in good hands. I began by telling her all about my relationships with family, food, nature, and of course sex. During these sessions I realized that I had a bit of a problem discussing these topics, and that's when three magical words came to mind: gender identity disorder.
For Christmas Luce gave me a book that would change my life forever. It was called Animus et Anima and was written by Emma Jung. Within the first couple of pages, I was hooked. I can still remember the smell of pages 7, 21, 27, and 32, mixing folk legends, totems and archetypes. In these pages the author tries to explain that men and women have an element of both the masculine and the feminine inside them. This opened my eyes and captivated me, because I too have these features inside me. But there was just one problem: I could not accept it. That was the moment when I found her again: my female part, which has a body and a soul, veins and blood. She is an eternal 9-year-old child named Stella.
As I grew older, Stella always remained the same. She has kept me company since I was a little prince in Luxembourg, living in a home that my maternal grandfather had built on Rue Ermesinde. It looked like a home where a prince would live, and there I was born, in a turret where I was immersed in toys, ancient books, maps of lost islands and scale models of the town where we lived. I, a young boy growing up in a castle, was fascinated by the idea of being the fucking king of that street, with a friend only I could see.
When my parents decided that we would move to Italy, I asked Stella to come with us. I don't recall her answer, but I do recall seeing her disappear right in front of my face, like a goodbye.
We traveled from Luxembourg to Marche by car, driving for hours and hours. When we were going over the Gotthard Pass, I rolled down the window and made my father stop the car so that I could get out. Stella was following us, flying. I begged her to come inside the car. She resisted at first, but then she said to me, "Take me with you, but don't tell anyone. What we do is our secret."
I kept this secret bottled up for years, and when Luce met Stella, I felt really sick. I insisted on being institutionalized, and that's when I started visiting mental institutions. I would talk to doctors and patients, whom I almost envied for being there instead of me. But I understood that my time was never to come, so at night I would read all about the asylums, studying their weekly calendars and imitating the lifestyle, from the rules to the therapies to the meal hours and even the times for prayer. I don't believe in God, but because I saw that prayer was one of the activities on the calendar, I began to study the Bible and attend church in the early morning. Stella was always with me. Little by little, we were isolating ourselves in our own world.
After Luce, the first person to learn about Stella was my then-boyfriend Pietro. He arrived in my life after having accepted all that matters to me. After all my years of therapy, when I finally considered myself "healed," Pietro was one of the first people I could trust and share my secrets with, including the secret of Stella. Pietro didn't get scared, and he too had secrets. He'd run away from the seminary after realizing that he was gay, but instead of embracing a life of freedom, he built himself another cage: He chose to be with a woman, but then he would come back to me, then go back to her, and so on. Eventually he married her, on my birthday.
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. These are their (silent) adventures in the Big Apple.