Tales From Indie Pride in Italy

1/18/2017

On October 22nd, Italy came alive with LGBTQ pride to the sound of indie music. It was the 5th edition of Indie Pride, in an event that brings people together to combat homophobia. Italy still does not have laws against homophobia, and this is a motivator for the organizers to make their voices heard. The LA Times reports that Italy is “the only major nation in Western Europe to offer virtually no rights or protections to homosexuals. From a legal standpoint in Italy, gays and lesbians essentially do not exist.” 

Indie Pride is a group of feminists and LGBTQ activists who put on on an annual festival night in Bologna, in order to unite artists and people from the Italian music industry, to emphasize equality, embrace diversity, and fight for civil rights. I had performed at a previous Indie Pride years ago, and it was formative for me in linking my LGBTQ identity and my music.

Bologna is known as the “San Francisco of Italy” and lives up to that name. A vibrant city, bursting with life and rainbow flags, it is home to many Italian activists and musicians seeking a fun place to work and live. Year after year, the organizers of Indie Pride, led by Antonia Peressoni, bring together top names in the Italian indie-rock scene to perform. This year was no exception.

The crowd at the TPO

The venue in Bologna was packed, with around 900 people filling the Teatro Polivalente Occupato (TPO), a historic venue in the city. The audience was a mixed lot. There were a lot of Bologna-based indie-rock fans, along with various members of the LGBTQ community.

Opening the event were the two presenters, Italian rapper and LGBTQ activist MC NILL, who also organizes and event called “Pussy Galore” and yours truly, Monique “Honeybird” Mizrahi, fresh from performing at the White House for the Bisexual Community Meeting. First up was Erio. With his angelic voice and Daffy Duck pyjamas, he crooned the audience into a warm fuzzy place.

Francesca Bellan and MC Nill

What followed was a very special bi moment. Francesca Bellan and Silvia Carugo joined us on stage to talk about BPROUD, the local bisexual organization they created 8 years ago. BPROUD began with a blog and forum online, and now they’re also speaking in schools, LGBT centers, and gatherings. It was encouraging to hear an out and proud bi voice in Italian! They bring awareness and pride to the Italian bi community, who are sometimes excluded and made to feel invisible. Francesca is also the first person to make a StillBisexual video in Italian.

Next up was Generatio_N, presented by Charlie, a new media project seeking to include more gender diversity and a wider range of sexual orientations in media. They presented their crowdfunding campaign on Musicraiser, followed by Giorgieness who sang her driving rock. Then, there was a stellar performance by the hottest band in the Italian indie music scene, La Rappresentante di Lista, who define themselves as a queer band. The audience loved them and continued singing their songs well after the band was off stage.

As the audience singing died down, representatives of the Gender Bender Festival took to the state to present a promo for their festival: a boundary-breaking local gathering with many activities, including free twerking lessons.

The dark Pierpaolo Capovilla followed, hailing from Venice, with his poetry and reflections on life, insanity, and the prison system.

Nada

The headliner was Nada, an iconic Italian singer active since the ’60s, who joined forces with indie band par excellence, …A Toys Orchestra. It was a driving, moving set. As we got up and thanked all the bands, MC NILL spontaneously began to freestyle and I accompanied her with my non-existent beat boxing skills. The crowd got into it, warmed up and ready to dance to the DJ set by the Garrincha All Stars, DJs from local indie label Garrincha Dischi, who took us out. Icing on the cake was a group of choreographed dancers pumping up the jams in the name of PRIDE. 

The event brought great live music together with LGBTQ community building / activism. As a bi woman, I was delighted to have Francesca and Silvia there; their presence meant the world to me. The more out bi people there are and the more we can connect with one another, the less alone we all feel and the more acceptance we will gain. I look forward to next year’s Indie Pride. Hopefully by then there will be a law against LGBTQ discrimination in Italy, so we can be that much more loud and proud, both in the growing Italian bi+ community and in the Italian LGBTQ community at large.

Monique Mizrahi

Monique knew she was bisexual at 13 years old. It took 20 years before she realized she could celebrate her bisexuality instead of feeling ashamed. Now she is full of BiPride. She writes and performs her original music as Honeybird, and in 2015 released an album “Out Comes Woman” about her experience coming out. She regularly attends BiRequest meetings at the LGBT Center in NYC.