It has been a few weeks now since David Bowie's passing, and I have to say that I'm still caught up in my own form of mourning of him.
I'm celebrating the fact that we got to share the planet with him by listening to his songs all over again, and at the same time, grieving the fact that there will never be anyone like him again.
In many ways, David Bowie was my ultimate, favourite artist. The consummate mix of artistry and pop sensibility.
I remember when I was younger, people used to ask me who my favourite singers or musicians were. I could always fall back on Madonna, because I think culturally, she has excelled at every level, but she wasn't ever really a musician. I admire her musical talent, but I would never put her in the same league as Bowie on that level.
I think a lot of gay/bi men have issues identifying with male artists. It's a theme I touch on throughout my novel, and one that I have experienced myself.
I can rattle off a million names of female artists who I've really, really loved, but really, when it comes to male musical acts there are few who have touched me as deeply as the female acts. Even by the nineties, Bowie was still my male touchstone when I fumbled for an answer. Even back then, there was still no equal to his greatness.
His influence is writ large all over my novel, but thankfully I wrote it at a time when we still had the security of a living, breathing Bowie.
The Vinyl Tiger is an androgynous, pop/performance artist who arrives years after Bowie has already started to craft his magic, but the Vinyl Tiger hits his mark in a new age and a new era.
Throughout the book, Alekzandr, the main character, experiences loss, and reflects on the fact that he manages to outlive many artists who he deemed himself inferior to.
And re-reading a passage about grief today that I wrote, I felt that it would just be timely to point it out, because grief comes in all kinds of forms. Sometimes its everything, you know. Other times you can deal with it.
Clearly, the following paragraph is not in relation to Bowie, but rather, the very human feeling that supposedly makes us different to everyone else.
Perhaps you'll agree with the sentiment.
Grief is an all-encompassing thing. It ticks away under the surface and from its veiled position it attempts to derail anything and everything that stands before it. Grief is the only trace of the things that will forever be denied to us. The future moments, possibilities and promises that we are forced to accept will never eventuate. And the past glories from our own histories that we always thought we, at some point, would be able to relive, regardless of where circumstances may have led us in the meantime.
Vinyl Tiger is available at a range of online stockists (paperback).
To order it via Amazon click here.
I just spent the last month back in my hometown of Melbourne. I have to say aside from having the chance to spend time with family and friends, and to soak up the Australian summer amidst the backdrop of events like Midsumma and the Australian Open, being back in Australia was like a breath of fresh air.
This is my sixth year in Italy, and getting on the plane to come back here was difficult, not just because I was coming back to winter, but also because it meant re-entering the fraccas that is the never ending polemica.
Today is Australia Day and there are some major ongoing issues that need confronting in Australia including the divide between rich and poor, ongoing racism and a growing anti Muslim stance, but for the most part I think Australians are a tolerant and respectful bunch. Differences of opinions are rarely the source of deep divisions in society and in the media. It's not often a case of us versus them, let's just say.
Here in Italy, things are different. Italy, in my mind, has to be one of the capitals of divisive thought. A fractured, splintered media makes a huge contribution to this, as does the existence of organizations like the Catholic Church. There are so many entrenched, vested interests in this country that it feels as if Italians are stuck under a net so intricately weaved that if they ever make it up to the surface, the only thing they are capable of doing is taking shallow breaths.
I'm Australian and my partner is Italian. We've been together for more than five years. The thing is we come from two opposite spectrums of the world: I'm from the new world and he's from one of the historic centres of the world as we know it. Yet, as an Australian and an Italian we both share one thing in common. We both come from the last Western countries in our cultural worlds that don't offer equality marriage. Italy is the last major Western European nation that doesn't recognise same sex unions, and Australia is the last major country in the Anglosphere that hasn't enshrined things in law.
Now, don't get me wrong. It's not like I want to get to married. In Australia, my long term relationship with my partner is technically recognised to some extent by the existing de facto laws there. But not wanting to get married and not even having the choice or right to choose really infuriates me.
What do you care? You might think. You're happy - you've been together for five years, what will a piece of paper change?
Nothing. Not on a daily basis. But not all people marry because they want to feel different about each other. Some people marry for practical reasons. And married friends who have been together less time than I've been with my partner have a host of financial, employment and medical rights that we can only dream about.
What do you care? Well. Let me illustrate how this works. You see, I come from a state in Australia called Victoria. Although Australia doesn't offer same sex unions or marriage, Victoria at least recognises same sex unions from other countries, has just passed same sex adoption laws and at the moment offers a register (although as it is purely symbolic why would I bother?). And if something happens to you, you need the protection of the law. As a human being, if something happens to me or my partner, I would like to think that either one of us would have the support and the right to decide what happens, what needs to be done, and that the other will be protected.
For those who aren't able to comprehend what this means on a human basis, Iet me draw your attention to this recent and shocking set of events that occured in South Australia, Victoria's neighbour state which doesn't recognise foreign same sex unions.
This is the senseless, inhumane setting in which same sex couples exist in many countries. Even with the protection of the law it's not a fun and games scenario.
So, having travelled over 30 hours to get back to where I am now based, two hours after landing at my local airport, I found myself in a piazza in Lecce at a demonstration.
And why was I there on Saturday? Because this week, the Italian parliament is due to debate the Renzi government's bill to introduce same sex civil unions. The bill is likely to be defeated? Why? Because of a provision for same sex couples to adopt which has courted the ire of the Catholic Church which is deeply entrenched in the Italian political system (and surprisingly, also incredibly powerful on the Australian political right- hence the failure to legislate despite overwhelming public consensus).
Now I am all for everybody having their own opinions. I believe it is your right as a persoon to choose not to agree with certain aspects of a wider society. I get that. I don't agree with it, but you as a person are entitled to your opinion. But in my books, what nobody is entitled to is the denial of an identical set of rights to another group of people or individuals. I respect and value your life and I expect you to do the same with me. And as a result I am infuriated by news in recent days that the Catholic church speared Family Day demonstations (as cynical a name as possible for an event which seeks to diminish any idea of a family that doesn't correspond to what the Catholic church defines as 'normal') are privvy to yet more rights at the expense of others. This time, transport group Italo is offering discounts to those in Italy who would like to attend the Family Day demonstration this coming Saturday in Rome. This on top of local churches who are offering a 50 euro picnic+demonstration package to parishioners who agree to attend the marches. Even the city of Rome's public transport group is offering discounts.
I made my own way to the demonstration on Saturday. I didn't get offered a discount for that, and I attended in part because I demand the right to be treated equally under the law as anyone else. What I don't appreciate is that aside from the ridiculous hipocrisy of the organisers of Family Day (the idea of a twice divorced, philandering politician and priests who have no idea what modern life resembles), their push to ensure that the GLBT community continues to live on the fringes of what is acceptable in society and by law is being backed by both public and private organizations. I won't even go into the idea that some churches are even offering a cash handout to those who are willing to head to Rome for the day.
All that is left to ask is, is this the kind of world that we should be living in today in 2016? How is this acceptable in any place in the world? Appalling. I'm not anti Catholic, but I tell you what, living in Italy really makes me wonder whether common sense simply suggests I should be.
THE team at Queerdeer were kind enough to have a chat with me about me and the Vinyl Tiger book.
As a thanks, I've made an excerpt (the Brooklyn chapter) available for readers.
Visit here to read more (and to support this wonderful site!).
Additionally there's a goodreads giveaway currently running for the paperback version of my book. You can find it here.
We have entered into that terrible window of the year when it becomes the norm to be subjected to Christmas carols. And crap Christmas pop sung by pop acts who caved and went straight down the filthy, hard cash route.
You know how some people have a psychological aversion to clowns? Well, I don't have that, but I have a very similar reaction when I have to listen to these kinds of songs. You know, the ones that you find behind the silver/red/white packaging that harp on about peace and good tidings when you know all the singers are thinking about are the dollar signs they can't see past.
I think I can trace all of this back to my days in retail, back when I was a university student. I used to have to listen to Mariah damn Carey's original Christmas album on loop, from like, October. The effect? If I hear sleigh bells now, it makes me want to slash the throat of the first reindeer that passes. I don't think that was Carey's intention you know, but we all deal with trauma in our own way.
Anyhoo, can something good come out of this kind of thing? Maybe? I mean, the Christmas spirit is strong, and was strong enough to bring Kylie and Dannii together on a record for the first time ever. There are still echelons of the gay gasp being heard in Australia and beyond. That 100 Degrees song sounds like it should've been on the Priscilla soundtrack, so how fitting that it seems to have inspired a drag, flash mob on Sydney's Bondi Beach. Watch it if you're up for a bit of a giggle and enjoy the ongoing Kylie/Dannii 'rivalry'.
Have to say it was good for a chuckle, and a timely reminder that Christmas is not about snow, eggnog and mistletoe, but rather, surf, sand and sun!
THE team at the Becausetwomenarebetterthanone have been kind enough to let me do a guest post on their blog.
In addition to some info about one of the themes of the book and about moi, there is also a short excerpt from Vinyl Tiger which is now available in paperback form.
As a thanks, the blog are offering up a free ebook version of my novel to one lucky reader.
Visit the blog to find out how to enter, and to discover other M/M fiction and authors that you may not have otherwise had the chance to discover yet.
Occasionally people do things without an ulterior motive.
And those people are the kind of people we should champion.
Michelle Rae and the Moral Fortitude website are a boon for LGBT writers and the website deserves a look. Why?
Because motivated by a passion for supporting self published authors, writers and cover designers, the Moral Fortitude website offers up promotion and support for those trying to get projects up and running that the mainstream press sometimes have some issues in getting behind. And Michelle also gives authors a chance to answer some pertinent questions about LGBT writing and the creative process in general.
Michelle has been kind enough to feature Vinyl Tiger and as a result, also cooked up some questions for me to stew on.
You can read the resulting interview here.
I often get asked what life is like for the gay community in Italy by friends abroad. People assume that because it's a Western European country that life is reasonably progressive here, as it is in neighbouring countries like Spain, Germany and The Netherlands.
Had they asked me in the month of July or August I'd probably be too distracted by the good looking locals, the gay beaches and the brilliant electronica parties to think too much about the situation.
But the month of June has delivered with it all the answers we need for the question at hand...read on and hopefully I'll have given you a pretty comprehensive snapshot of what the situation is like here.
From the outset let me say that I am not an activist. I probably quite naively believe that there is room for everyone in a society, even if reality continues to prove me wrong. But I have a brain and a conscience which is more than I can say for some parts of the wider community, and community leaders in particular who always seek to divide.
Earlier this month Rome celebrated its annual Pride event with crowd estimates ranging between 500-600k.
Alongside Milan's Pride, Rome consistently attracts huge numbers in part because pride there acts like a magnet for many people in the south of Italy.
While a number of southern cities are now hosting events (including Naples, Palermo, Bari and my new base of Lecce), the LGBTQI community still has less of a presence in the south and therefore those who want to march often do so in the protection of the country's capital.
In the country's capital and across its political offices, the current centre-left government, run by Matteo Renzi is busy trying to enact a number of huge reforms including the reforming of the public school system and the drafting of legislation to introduce civil unions on a national scale.
Renzi's goal is to have the legislation enacted as soon as possible - it's been one of his platforms since coming to power - and the idea is that the civil unions will in the main part replicate the system used in Germany where the protections are all but identical to marriage but without that pesky word being mentioned and, as in Germany, without provisions for gay couples to adopt.
Italian opinion polls show that despite the tentacle like reach of the church, the majority of Italians are in favour of civil partnerships. Any political organisation worth its salt has done its own polling to confirm this trend, and as such, even the usual suspects on the right are not demonstrating opposition to granting the right of legal acknowledgement to the unions, even if they are playing the political game and obstructing thousands of points in the draft legislation to slow things down.
Having realised that the public tide has turned, the right is shifting its stance.
The new line is that on the whole, they begrudgingly support civil unions (after all, their constituents are already on that page), so the debate has shifted towards gay parenting and the alleged perils that Italian children and families face, and its an attack that is being propelled by the usual suspects.
This month, a Family Day march was convened by pro-life and pro-family groups and the Catholic church and attracted a crowd in Rome for which estimates ranged between 300K and 1 million people. Even the Catholic press cited the 300K figure, but suffice to say the "Difendiamo i nostri figli" (Protect our Children) march drew in the parishioners in much the same way that occurred in France when gay marriage was legislated. This after months of lobbying and preparation from the network of churches and parishes that dot the land. Stepping into a church the other day to photograph the art, I was shocked that there was actually a poster inciting people to join the march.
But this new pope? Isn't he the good guy in all of this?
Well, some will have you believe so, and the church's involvement in the march was more grassroots in nature, with the Bishop's Council not formally being involved. That said, any negation that the church was involved would be a blatant lie (as I said, I spotted the poster in a church, and it was a mass produced poster some 600km away from the march itself).
But Francis has actually been doing a lot of late to fan the fires and to stoke the church's underlying agenda. While the perception is that he's gay friendly, the reality is that the Church's stance has not changed at all, and that he in fact is opposed by large factions within for conceding any public ground on the matter. As such, he has been releasing well timed statements to reinforce the Catholic church's fundamental belief in the traditional family. Every family needs a mother (female) and a father (male). Any sentiment to the contrary is unacceptable. Period.
And so, in sensing that civil unions are now politically untouchable, talk has shifted towards the idea of family and gender as being the perils that civil unions will bring with.
The march, although ostensibly one against civil unions, was presented as a march for traditional values, attracting its audience by opposing the idea of gender ideology that conservative groups believe is being piloted in Italian schools as part of the education system reforms.
What they are mistakedly, but conveniently, referring to are a series of initiatives based on improving social cohesion and harmony through the use of materials which challenge stereotypes. Materials that, the likes of which have been in circulation in Western schools for decades.
Materials like Salvero la Principessa which champions the use of words over violence, or Zaff, or E Con Tango Siamo in Tre, children's books which are designed and written to help children overcome their prejudices towards minority groups. These titles sit alongside conventional materials in some libraries in an attempt to acknowledge the growing diversity of society, but that right wing groups and certain politicians are demonizing, suggesting that there is no place for them in schools, and no space for these ideas to be considered.
Ultra conservative media outlets like Breitart (like Fox but exotic) and the dozens of Vatican connected media outlets will have you believe that these materials are indoctrinating children into cross dressing and, you know, basically trying to destroy the entire society because they are an affront to the church's agenda.
And what of Arcigay, the national LGBTQI group that attracts so much foreign press? Aren't they using their resources to help the government sensitize the public to the nuances of the debate? Well, although they have chapters in many Italian cities, (some of which are more active than others), much of the gay community here views them as being inneffective, so other groups like Mario Miele, or even much smaller groups like LeA- Liberamente e Apertamente here in the relatively small town of Lecce are using their own resources to strike back at the misinformation that is polarising the community on a piecemeal scale.
It's a long running debate which, in shifting the focus away from gay marriage, is tapping into another form of ingrained discrimination that the LGBTQI community has yet to overcome. LGBTQI people are conditioned into thinking certain things by society, one of which is that they are not entitled to become parents. There's a self flagellation that occurs suggesting that the ingrained religious beliefs are very hard to overcome in the quest to get over self loathing, especially when society as a whole is doing little to counteract it.
We've seen celebrity scalps in the debate already: Dolce and Gabbana waded unnecessarily into the debate in a classic case of this self-perpetuating loathing, and are now paying for it at brand level (good luck to them, as tax evaders, designers and self conflicted social commentators I can do without them).
The children in danger argument has though, infiltrated the mass media. Even local starlets like Lorella Cuccarini (I know, that name means nothing to me either) are becoming embroiled in a debate which substantially seems to be reinforcing the idea that, yes, we'll concede on partnerships, but in doing so, you, the gay community need to acknowledge that whatever you do you won't be seen as part of any family unit, and your yet to be enshrined rights have no place in our education system, nor should they be acknowledged in any other way. This is the case for adoption. But in a way it also addresses the consensus towards members from the GLBT community who have children of their own. (Surrogacy and assisted fertility is not provided to singles in Italy, though many hop over to Spain or other nearby countries to get around the law).
The overall message. Strides are being made and Italy (like my homeland Australia) will inevitably get on the right page of history. But before that happens, or perhaps while it does, groups like the church will continue to use kids as pawns in their own political agendas. Is their goal to obstruct the presence of non nuclear families so that they can instill just enough hate and self loathing in the next generations as well? That's my guess. What's yours?
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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