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William A. Percy Homosexuality and the Holocaust


Massimo Consoli thrust out his chin and paused theatrically: "You have before you the symptom of the decadence of Western culture," he declaimed with gusto. Then, he smiled. Actually, in his well-worn, dark blue Armani jeans tracksuit, wide, retro '70s eyeglass frames and sensible slippers, the 60-year-old Consoli looked like an unlikely corrupter of morals on this cool June afternoon. And factoring in the various tubes that hang from his body - reminders of the fact that Consoli has spent the last few years in and out of the hospital to keep cancer at bay - the debauchery tag just didn't hold up. "Hold on, let me find the reference," he said, before making a beeline to a binder marked 1976 to produce an aged article from a now defunct conservative magazine, Il Borghese. The article describes Consoli as a "full-time homosexual and part-time poet," before slamming him for his activism on behalf of gays. "He even organizes literary prizes for homosexual authors," the article says.
It's clear that Consoli, who is widely recognized as one of the founders of the Italian gay rights movement, is pleased by the author's trouncing. He's made a career out of speaking out against discrimination. And though he's spoken from many public pulpits, his most piercing horn has been his writing, in which he has been highly prolific over the last 35 years. From what he calls the "Amsterdam Charter," a sort of Magna Carta of rights for Italian gays, which he jotted down in 1969, through political manifestos, self-published periodicals (chief among them Ompo and Rome Gay News), some 40 books, and hundreds of articles in both the mainstream, gay and pornographic press, he has made dissemination of the gay cause his raison d'être.
"I've lived the history of the gay movement," he said. "It's inside me."
The Internet revolution only broadened his visibility (his Web site is www.cybercore.com/consoli). To be on Consoli's contacts list is to receive a barrage of e-mails on various topics: new books, minor dissertations on gay issues, updates on his health. He's so wordy that when the e-mails stop coming, people know something is wrong. In his case, no news is bad news. Earlier this year, the Internet silence lasted more than a month, and friends began to worry.
"E-mails from Massimo have become a gauge of his health," said Daniele Priori, who published a book in March about the late poet Dario Bellezza, also gay, based in large part on Consoli's recollections of his friendship with Bellezza.
Consoli doesn't aim to write best sellers. Sitting in his office in his hilltop home near Rome, he leafed through the proofs of two books about to go to the printers - a translation of the gay anarchist Hubert Kennedy's "Anarchist of Love," and a work on the 19th-century activist Kurt Hiller. In process are a book of gay jokes, another on gays and Judaism, and one on the lives of the 12 apostles. "It's a take on the apostles that I don't think the pope will be too happy about," he said.
"He publishes here and there; he's a tumultuous figure as an intellectual, and that's reflected in his writings," said Domenico Nodari, an editor for Kaos, the publisher of some of Consoli's writings. The books don't sell many copies, but Nodari said that this was "in line with the Italian publishing industry and the potential of a small publisher." The subtext being, Italians don't read much, let alone on these issues. Mostly, Consoli is keeping alive the memory of those who fought for gay rights before him. "I feel like a historian, but I was forced to be an activist," Consoli said. Much of his research has been carried out during his globe-trotting travels, seeking out archives, libraries, bookstores and antiquarians. While he has no formal training as a historian, he is an exact researcher. "Even my e-mails have footnotes," he said. Of his books, "Homocaust," which recounts the persecution of gays at the hands of the Nazis and which he worked on for 20 years, has given him "the greatest satisfaction." On the wall just outside his study is a framed letter from Simon Wiesenthal, thanking him for writing the book.
Now he's at work on "Etymologaya," an etymological dictionary of gay terms that he has been researching since 1978. The pun of the title is intended, and it's typical of Consoli speak, plays on words which, save for a few exceptions like "predophile," don't translate well into English.
He's a born raconteur, given to lively descriptions of gay Rome in the years when the intellectual film director Pier Paolo Pasolini and the poet Sandro Penna were its luminaries.
But this was also a time of secrecy. While Italy does not have any laws banning homosexuality, society has not always condoned it. "Now if you're gay, you just look up an organization in the phone book," Consoli said. When he was growing up, he was forced to send furtive letters to gay magazines abroad, looking to make contacts. "There was a sense of sin to it all," and any meeting was potentially dangerous, he said. "It was difficult, you have to understand how it was. We lived in terror. Everything was banned; it was all clandestine, people can't believe that today."
Consoli has one bee buzzing fiercely in his bonnet. In 1998, after he threatened to take his papers out of Italy, the Culture Ministry acquired the mountains of books, magazine collections and photos and letters that he has accumulated recognizing their "historical, cultural and medical" importance.
"It's one of things I did that will remain," he said. The material was sent to the state archive in Rome, which owns the papers of many prominent Italians, and there it has sat, waiting to be catalogued and made public. "They told me it would take two years to make it accessible, but it's still in boxes," Consoli said. Material he's collected since 1998 has been sent to the Mario Mieli association, a gay rights group in Rome. Luisa Montevecchi, the archivist in charge of the Consoli collection, said Consoli's papers were important for research on gay issues but the archives just didn't have the resources to catalogue them quickly.
I agree with Massimo Consoli on his assessment of the heavy Nazi persecution of homosexuals, as explained in his book, Homocaust. In the following article, I had wanted to insert that since 10% of the general population is gay and 10 million people were exterminated by the Nazis, then a million gays must have perished at their hands. Regrettably, the editor overruled my assertion.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1065

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