Failed Projects and Lonely Hearts: Der Kreis and the Italian Homophiles

Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago)
Alessio Ponzio, University of Michigan
The first Italian gay organization (FUORI) was founded in Turin in 1971. In an interview the founder of the Italian Homosexual Revolutionary Front, Angelo Pezzana, underlined how he discovered ideas and ideals of the American and British gay liberation movements through books and publications. He underlined how the decision of founding the Front was also a consequence of transnational impulses. However, before the FUORI was founded, Italians were already part of a transnational movement. In the 1950s one figure, Bernardino del Boca di Villaregia, was particularly active in searching for homophile connections. He “represented” Italy at the first conference organized by the International Committee for Sexual Equality in 1951 in Amsterdam, he built strong ties with the Swiss Der Kreis, he tried not only to found an Italian homophile group but also to create an Italian homophile periodical. His projects were a failure. But such attempts were fruit of his connection with the homophile network. Del Boca was not the only one searching for contacts. There were many “independent” Italian queers who, not having a local homophile organization and looking for "friendly" and "understanding" spaces, tried to reach out to groups abroad. In this paper I will look at the ways in which the Swiss homophile organization not only shaped Del Boca’s projects, but also attracted attentions and hopes of many isolated Italian men who, in the 1950s and early 1960s, wrote letters to Der Kreis and published personal announcements on Das Kleine Blatt – the lonely heart supplement published by the Swiss organization – trying to escape from their isolation. Transnational physical and intellectual exchanges not only favored the more or less successful implementation of ambitious projects, but they also affected the lives of many queers desiring contacts.
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