Italy is preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Law 164 – which allowed Italian transgenders to change sex for the first time – on 14 April with a national conference and smaller meetings in many cities, from north to south.
But, after 30 years, the discussions about how the legislation should work are still going on. The law, in fact, does not allow transgender people to change their identity on ID cards and official documents if they don’t undergo gender reassignment surgery. The Italian law was cutting edge – together with a similar one in Germany at roughly the same time – but the transgender citizens of the Mediterranean country want the act updated.
Porpora Marcasciano, president of the Bologna based MIT (Movimento identità transessuale), said: ‘We need new laws, against discrimination in workplaces and assuring new rights to transgender people.
‘Law 164 is still a good one, but something must be changed. Many transgenders don’t want to change sex, they fear the operation and it’s a long process. So, the Italian legislation should guarantee them the right to change their identity on official documents. Transgender people, even those who have not had an operation, should have this right.’
The MIT has organized a national conference, which will be held in Bologna’s Aula di Santa Cristina on 14 April, celebrating the 30th birthday of the act. Among the others, Susanna Camusso, leader of the main Italian union, CGIL, will speak to an audience of activists, lawyers, national and regional politicians. Also there will be Don Luigi Ciotti, a famous Catholic priest fighting for human rights, and Cathy La Torre, a lawyer and one of the speakers of the Bologna gay movement.
Despite Italy being the seat of the Catholic hierarchy and home of the Pope, the situation for transgender people is relatively advanced. They don’t have to pay for gender reassignment surgery, everything is guaranteed by the 20 regional legislatures.
Five national health system hospitals are in the network: Le Molinette in Turin, Gattinara in Trieste, San Camillo in Rome, Policlinico 2 in Naples and Policlinico in Bari.
‘But a lot of transitioning people go abroad or use private healthcare, so we don’t know the real number of transgender people who, every year, go through surgery,’ Marcasciano added.
Unofficial studies suggest that every 12 months more than 100 people decide to change gender.
ONIG (Osservatorio Nazionale Sulle Identità di Genere) is the umbrella organization for all the specialist consultants, psychology practises, hospitals, associations and groups of interest. ONIG will also be present at the 14 April Bologna conference, where the problems, limits and boundaries of Law 164 will be discussed.
Also there will be Avvocatura Diritti LGBT – Rete Lenford, the Italian association of lawyers and barristers fighting for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. Antonio Rotelli, its president, said: ‘One limit of the law is that only the operation is contemplated, but the act does not consider those not wanting to change sex, because they fear hospitals or because they just don’t want to.
‘The law should be renewed: now transgender people’s requests and needs are very different. We are no longer in 1982 and people’s identities have changed. That’s why I think we need a new 164 – also because the decisions of the judges have recently moved from a traditional approach to a more modern one.
‘The law, as every law, is subject to and dependent on interpretation, almost every day. And a recent decision ruled that the change of identity must be guaranteed also to those who can’t get an operation because of health reasons.
‘We have to make the judges change their minds. That’s why we’ll be at the Italian national gay pride, in Bologna, next summer. And on July we’ll be at a London conference about discrimination in workplaces.’
Italy’s transgender citizens, in fact, still have to fight against prejudice, sexual and professional discrimination. For someone changing sex it’s hard to find a job and to have their rights recognized.
But it’s not all negative, Italy has already had a transgender member of parliament – Vladimir Luxuria, elected in 2006 for the Italian Communist Party – while Marcella Di Folco, who died two years ago, was the first trans local councillor in history, having been elected in the Bologna council, for the Italian Green Party, in 1995. The city of Bologna, one of the gay capitals of Italy, has decided to name a street in her honor.