A gay island community created by Italy's Fascists

Published: June 12, 2013

Every summer, tourists are drawn to the beauty of a tiny string of rocky islands in the Adriatic.

But just recently a group of visitors came to the Tremiti archipelago not so much to enjoy the peace and calm of this remote place as to remember.

These were gay, lesbian and transgender rights activists.

They had come to hold a small ceremony during which they would mark a shameful episode that unfolded in the islands more than 70 years ago.
Tremiti Islands

Back in the late 1930s the archipelago played a part in the effort by Benito Mussolini’s Fascists to suppress homosexuality.

Gay men undermined the image that the dictator wanted to project of Italian manhood.

"Fascism is a virile regime. So the Italians are strong, masculine, and it’s impossible that homosexuality can exist in a Fascist regime," says professor of history at the University of Bergamo, Lorenzo Benadusi.

So the strategy was to cover up the issue as much as possible.
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“Start Quote

    This evil needs to be attacked and burned at its core”

Mayor of Catania, in Sicily

No discriminatory laws were passed. But a climate was created in which open manifestations of homosexuality could be vigorously suppressed.

And one particular police prefect in the Sicilian city of Catania took full advantage of the official mood.

"We notice that many public dances, beaches and places in the mountains receive many of these sick men, and that youngsters from all social classes look for their company," he wrote.

He said he was determined to halt this "spreading of degeneration" in his city "or at least contain such a sexual aberration that offends morality and that is disastrous to public health and the improvement of the race".

He went on: "This evil needs to be attacked and burned at its core."

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