Jane Fae explores the tragic transphobia faced by Ciro Migliore in the Italian press and LGBTQI community


Transphobia comes in many guises. Today it may take the form of violence against any identity that fails to fit cishet norms. Tomorrow, it will be newspapers misreporting, misgendering. Perhaps hardest to swallow is the bigotry of those closest on the LGBTQI flag: when gay or, as here, lesbian organisations set out to humiliate and erase trans male identities.

The story begins last week. On Friday night, a trans guy, Ciro Migliore, was riding a scooter in Acerra (Napoli) with his partner Maria Paola Gaglione. The two moved to Acerra following threats of violence from Maria’s family, who could not accept that she was in a relationship with a trans man.

That night, her brother Michele, caught up with them. According to Ciro’s statement, which Michele rejects, he chased and then rammed the pair as they fled. Maria died of injuries at the scene: and as she lay dying, Michele continued attacking Ciro.

This is transphobia at its most naked. It is especially relevant in Italy today, where the Italian parliament is finally debating whether to add “Homotransphobia” to hate laws. Just 20 years after such a measure was first proposed in 1999.

Long-time advocate for trans rights, and former member of parliament Vladimir Luxuria commented: “If the brother had rammed his sister because she had a black companion, that would rightly be seen as motivated by racism. If her companion had been muslim then discrimination on religious grounds would be acknowledged. But here, there is no ‘aggravating factor’, because we have no law in respect of transphobia.”

The press were quick to report this awful story. Though, being some way behind the UK press in acceptance or understanding of trans identities, the reportage was not good. The weekend kicked off with an absolute free-for-all of misgendering. They referred to “Cira”, which is no longer Ciro’s name. They used female pronouns and feminine form of grammar when talking of Ciro.

They described the couple as in a gay/lesbian relationship, thereby counting Ciro as a woman.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter has been awash with individuals calling out this horror show and some media (not all) have had the good grace to amend their coverage.

What really hurt, though, was the response from Lesbian Rights organisation Arcilesbica. An early post on their Facebook page (see below) went out of its way to misgender and to assert that Ciro is a woman.

This post interspersed laudable sentiments, identifying male violence and misogyny as the root cause, with transphobic language and attitudes. The couple, Ciro and Maria, are dismissively referred to as “le ragazze” (“the girls”). That can only mean “the girls”: unlike the more normal “i ragazzi” which would be the correct form when writing of a young man and woman.

Ciro, it explained, is definitively a woman because, inter alia, he has not changed his identity documents (a much bigger deal in Italy than in the UK). In other words, because the state does not recognise him as a man.

The post was subsequently reposted on the official Arcilesbica account. Then taken down. For all that, an apparently official statement on their Facebook page continues with the transphobic view that since Ciro had not amended their legal status, ”she” could not be considered a man.

This is an especially dangerous argument for a lesbian organisation to make. In the last couple of years, an incoming right-wing (Lega) government went out of its way to declare that lesbians must identify as mother or father on a birth certificate: and not, as previously, “parent”. What government can give, it can also take away!

Therefore, according to ArciLesbica, the attack on Ciro is an instance of violence against women. Nothing to do with transness. Despite previous history of the alleged perpetrator having a long history of aggressive conduct toward Ciro because of his transness.

That said, ArciLesbica, which is one of the larger lesbian groupings under the banner of wider Italian anti-fascist social and cultural movement, Arcinazionale, has been at best “trans-sceptic” for a long time.

Translation: “Someone should explain to arcilesbica that trans folk do not get up in the morning to have an operation and then change their documents in the afternoon and all is done, but rather that the journey is a bit longer and not all wish or are able to undertake it.”

Translation: “The eyes of #Ciro , and the abomination of those who want to call him #Cira and why the directors of @Arcilesbica would be better off staying quiet.”

It is clear, though, that this commentary has not gone down well, and demands, never far below the surface, that ArciNazionale put its house in order, have redoubled.

Three years ago, Porpora Marcasciano, honorary president of MIT (Italian Trans Movement) called out Arcilesbica, arguing that an honourable past was now being trashed by their adopting fundamentalist positions on gender, transness and sex work (“l’acqua ha rovinato i ponti”). They were guilty of over-simplification, and in the end only damaging the cause of Italian Women and Lesbians.

Jane Fae asked for comment from ArciNazionale, but so far has received no answer.

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