We’ve interviewed a transgender student to find out.
My name is Samuele Appignanesi, I’m from Marche. I am 20 years old and I’m in my second year of CLMG.
How would you define gender identity?
So, gender identity is often overlooked, because in western culture it’s considered to be linked to the biological sex. But in many other cultures, it has been studied a lot more and has become the object of religious interpretations: they’ve noticed that someone’s self-perception doesn’t always align with their bodies. So gender identity is fluidity, of course as humans we need labels, but it’s important to feel that you are not limited by a standard and you can be whatever feels right to be.
How would you describe dysphoria to a cis person?
For me dysphoria is trying to put together pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit, all my life I felt that there was something a little off with my body and with my mind. It’s very heavy in some areas of my body like my chest, it was the part of my body that led me to the realization that I was a man, but it’s everywhere really. It doesn’t work the same for everybody, some transgender people don’t have it at all.
When did you realize your gender and your biological sex weren’t matching?
I was very lucky actually because in 2019 I met a wonderful queer community that let me be brave enough to do things I was thinking about for years. The main focus was on my hair, I always wanted it short, but I felt the expectation to have it long. After I met these people, I cut all of my hair off and I experienced gender euphoria for the first time. And that was the beginning of my journey of trying new things and finding myself. At first, I came out as non-binary, experimenting with makeup and clothes to look more masculine. By the end of 2020, I was certain that I was a man. The only problem was to pick a new name. In January 2021 I came out to my friend and a month later to everyone else.
What advice would you give to our readers who feel this way?
Surround yourself with open-minded people, who love you and see you even if you are not certain of who you are, people who will spend a whole night with you just looking for a name. Because there are people who will accept you exactly as you are, you don’t have to change to be loved. I always felt that love is something you have to be good enough for, girly enough for, but it’s not. Find good people and the courage to try new things: try that skirt, cause if you are a man and you try a skirt you could realize you weren’t a man after all or you can be just a man wearing a skirt. There aren’t any bad consequences of you trying new things, so be open.
Which are the questions that should never be asked to someone who is transitioning?
There are quite a lot of topics you should avoid because they can come across as insensitive, even if the majority of people mean well while asking these questions. Don’t ask about physical transition, because the medical procedures are invasive and hard to go through. Another topic to be avoided is the dead name because it has a lot of complicated feelings around it: when you think about your dead name you think about your family and your origins, sometimes it’s even a grandparent’s name, so it carries a lot of emotion.
How to help a friend or a family member who is transitioning?
The starting step is to listen: you would find that they might often change their mind about their name, the way they like to be addressed, and also the pronouns can change. You have to be ready to be confused by them, not knowing what they are doing, and even be frustrated. Probably this person will change their mind multiple times before finding themselves, cause it’s not an easy journey for them either. Just be there emotionally: if a friend calls you, pick up the phone.
How would you rate inclusivity in Bocconi?
For me Bocconi is a paradise, I come from a place in Italy where these things aren’t talked about. I think I am the only trans man who comes from there, so it’s very lonely. Here I’ve found a strong and loud queer community and it’s a joyful experience to be able to talk to people like me. As a queer person, it’s easier to be in this community, because often straight cis people don’t have to face the same things that you did, so they don’t quite get it.
What would you improve?
So in my opinion Bocconi is inclusive of LGBTQ+, but there is always room for improvement. For example, it would be great if the Honour Code mentioned sexual orientation and gender identity along with religious beliefs. It would be a sign to make their position clear and also start a conversation, for example with professors, on how to make campus life easier for transgender students. And also we should think about gender-neutral bathrooms. For me, choosing has been really hard, sometimes I don’t go at all, because you never know if there is going to be someone hateful. Until now it has been ok, but you never know: LGBTQ+ youth often grow up with the fear of the outside world and it’s not something you can get rid of very easily.
Do you have any worries about your future working opportunities?
We still have a lot to do to make the working market accessible for trans people. I’m really scared of getting an internship because my being trans may be used against me. But I think that if I had spent too much time focusing on these fears, I wouldn’t have come out at all. I hope that we are going towards a future that will be more equal for each and every one of us.
Why was DDL Zan so important for the Italian LGBTQ+ community?
DDL Zan was a glimpse of hope for all of us. Ever since it started we knew it would be hard, we knew they would try to bring it down, we knew the most important parts would be cut out and they were. The DDL Zan that got to the senate was a very cut-down version that didn’t protect a lot of people, it was barely even a start, incomparable with laws of other countries. But it was something, you know, a way for us to know that our country is here for us and people are willing to fight for us, not just queer people, but minorities in general. It was also a protection against ableism and sexism, which are two fights that we are so behind on. When it got rejected it was heartbreaking. We expected it, but there was always a little hope that the people representing us would find some humanity inside of them. But I’m not sad or resigned: we will go there again and it will not be DDL Zan, it will be DDL someone else—but it will be. I have had foreign friends asking “was it like an amendment on a law to protect queer people?” and I had to explain that we have no law against homophobia and transphobia, we are completely alone. To everyone reading this: don’t give up.
Have you ever experienced transphobia?
I’ve been a victim of homophobia and transphobia, cause in my teens I came out as lesbian and bisexual (a lot of coming outs actually hahaha), but the problem in Italy is that homophobia and transphobia are very subtle: there are of course cases of physical violence, but the vast majority is in the little things, like pretending to not remember you are a man and laughing it off if you point it out. I’ve had professors who’ve lowered my grades and treated me differently in high school, adults who I thought were nice people, adults I could trust. So I haven’t experienced violence, but subtle hate that you recognize only with hindsight, cause at the moment you are just very confused: why would someone who used to be nice to me yesterday, once I came out, treat me as less than before.