What I miss the most right now is the world’s noise. These days, the silence here in Milan, Italy, is unreal. It makes everything muffled, and it urges you to whisper the few times you have to interact with people.
The silence is broken only by the loud blare of ambulance sirens, which many of us will remember.
Our elders tell us that this reminds them of war times. Only, this time it’s them, more than the youngsters, who are dying in battle. It’s our collective memory which is in jeopardy.
Today’s trenches are our hospitals. Our doctors and nurses are the soldiers and heroes. But for the rest of us, it’s more a matter of responsibility: the more responsible we are, the more we can claim our freedom back; the less responsible we are, the more they can push for draconian measures. That’s why, in the past month, I left my 40-square-meters flat with no view over the street, where I live by myself, only twice.
I desperately needed to go beyond the curtain of silence and ear-piercing sirens to feel less lonely and try to learn what was going on with fellow LGBT+ folks here in Italy. That’s why I reached out to All Out members and asked them to share their stories.
I received many stories of hope and solidarity, but also of fear, loneliness, and the creative ways folks found to cope with these feelings.
“Hi! My name’s Mara and I live near Bergamo. This is enough to let you know how much covid-19 has impacted my life.”
Bergamo is the bleak heart of Italy’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak.
“The greatest anxiety is not having to stay at home, but staying in a house that I don't love, in a town that I don't love, and the ambulance sirens blaring right outside my house. The greatest burden is having to share this house with my parents, not so much for my mother, but certainly it is very hard having to put up with my father. A father who has no respect for me and shows it as soon as he gets the chance.”
Manlio, from Naples, is a doctor:
“I'm a suburban doctor, at very low risk at the moment, even though I get more homemade masks from my mother [...] than I do from the Local Health Department. Oh well, at least I get to work in record time, while I usually spend more than two hours of my life lost in traffic.”
Francesco, from Alessandria is a doctor, too:
“I think I've walked into some kind of tornado, banging into everything and everyone."
Andrea volunteers for All Out here in Italy and says:
“Personally, I understood from the very beginning that in order to face the quarantine in the best possible way I would have to concentrate as much as possible on my microcosm: my passions, my mental health, reading, video games and studying, because I am aware that if I did not manage to strike a good balance, I could not be of help to those around me.”
Alberto is the president of an LGBTI+ association in Reggio Emilia and mentions how trans folks struggle to find the medicines they need:
“We immediately saw how appointments to renew treatment plans disappeared from the agendas. The only solution is to network and find out who you can turn to for help. It's not easy.”
But the most important piece of work they do is for asylum seekers and refugees:
“We provide rice, canned goods, fruit, over-the-counter medicines to those who have no protection and already live on the edge. This is possible thanks to the commitment of some members of our association... but soon we will have to invent other forms of sustenance. [...] one of the boys we helped has been reported by the police because he was far from home ‘without a reason of necessity.’ He lives on the street, what was he supposed to do? We're trying to find him an accommodation, but it's not easy. I have personally been hosting 2 gay Nigerian migrants for some time. Without me, they would be on the street. The cohabitation has obviously become more intense now, as well as the economic concern for the future (I’m a freelancer and I lost 90% of my work in February...); but what is the point of having a guest room if you don't use it when someone risks becoming homeless?”
Erica, from Monza, lost her job entirely:
“The last two years I worked in the same company and since my contract would have expired in March anyway, they decided to leave me at home.”
As for me, I eat. I need comfort food and cooking relaxes me. I miss going to the supermarket knowing that if I forget something, I can quickly go back. But I’m lucky enough to have a subscription with an online shop that delivers food on a weekly basis. Sure, there’s a cap on how much you are allowed to buy and you can no longer choose the fruit and vegetables you get, but it’s still better than queuing for about three hours.
When I’m not eating, I work and wonder what is happening to democracy, to all those who can’t stay home because they don’t have one. I ask myself if this is the end of the world as I knew it. Does it really happen so quickly? I try to find some answers in articles, books, and some Zoom meetings. Then I laugh (so much laughing, so unnatural and tense) and eat again.
“’You have to be strong and react’. So they all tell me,” writes S., from Cagliari. “But I wake up every single day with the desire to cry. Tears come streaming down, before the boys wake up, lying there on my damn couch.
Then I react. I try to breathe, my head explodes, my stomach hurts, it's the stress. But I won't give up. I wanna dream and dance. You're not gonna steal my life, you virus. You're not gonna take who I love. And I cry. And the next thing I know, I'm laughing. First I yell, then I insult. But I'm not angry at anyone or am I?
I try to tidy up, but I can't. I try to cook, but to tell you the truth, I just want to throw up. I don't know what to say. I want to forget about this. I want everything to go back to normal. But I never stop fighting...
I often sleep during the day to feel less pain or I put on my headphones to flood my head with music, but I just have to wait. I wait for the time when I have to take the dog for a walk and I wait for myself to get some air. When that moment comes, often I can't get out, my legs stop, my hands shake, my tummy hurts.
There's the sea there to keep me company and then there's Margot, the dog who won't let go of me for a moment, and the cat Emma, who meows so much and nobody knows why. Come on, it's a bit cloudy today, but soon the sun will come back and I cling to every object that tells me about me and Silla, about us before today, about our love that I cannot think of giving up…”
I cannot sleep well and TikTok easily takes over my nights. I have no fear, I feel very safe in my own place and I’m a loner, so I’m coping pretty well. But knowing that, outside, the world was moving, made me feel a lot more comfortable.
Mara is like me:
“I've never been a social and party animal, on the contrary, I've always preferred to be alone or with very few trustworthy people. That doesn’t mean I enjoy this quarantine: loneliness is ok, but every now and then I want to go out and have coffee in the town where I grew up, which now I can no longer do. Even the 10-minute line at the Post Office was fun and now they are closed too…”
Eating, cooking, washing and cleaning are the only things I do offline. My work, political, social, family and love lives only happen online.
My dad reminded me on WhatsApp he wants to be cremated, and I celebrated my second anniversary with my boyfriend chatting on Telegram – no phone or video calls are allowed when your partner is quarantined with a very homophobic family.
He shared his story too:
“I am forced to live 24/7 in a religious and conservative environment, which deprives me of being who I am at home and forces me to pretend to be who I am not. Besides, living away from my boyfriend, the love of my life, and not being able to see him, not being able to give him all my love, all the kisses and hugs of this world doesn't help much. Luckily there is the Internet, where I can express myself freely, I can be myself, at least virtually, and where I can chat with my boyfriend every day.
I hope this will end soon and that we can go back to our everyday life and enjoy our freedom".
It’s been over a month since I last touched another human being, and this has never happened to me before. I was holding hands with my boyfriend when it all began. Well, when the quarantine is over, I’d like to start again from there.
Click here to check out all the stories we collected. They are only in Italian.