Darren, one of our basses reflects on the choir’s recent trip to Bologna as part of the Various Voices festival and how the struggle and fight for equality remains as strong today as it’s ever been.
In June I travelled to Italy, Bologna for a LGBTQ+ choir festival called Various Voices. Imagine over 100 LGBTQ+ choirs from all over the world gathering every 3 years to raise their voices in harmony and sing on the steps of churches, central piazzas, open air spaces in museums and streets across the city and doing major performances in the main Bologna theatres. It was absolutely idyllic, perfect weather, the people of Italy excited to see all of the performances from different choirs singing in different languages, singing in amazing spaces surrounded by beautiful Italian architecture. The festival ran over five days and was a complete success with friendships forged, voices harmonizing and lots of pasta eaten.
And it doesn’t stop there. I’m in the middle of planning a trip to Liverpool with the choir for Liverpool Pride to support and sing with the smaller choirs based in the city at the end of July to further raise LGBTQ+ awareness.
Sometimes I look at the things I get involved in as a gay man in the UK, the freedom of living openly as a gay in London, the LGBTQ+ choir I’m a member of, the various gay sport clubs I belong to, and I think how wonderful, how far we have travelled, how open society is to LGBTQ+ people and then I remember. I remember the hardships, the struggles of coming out, the non-acceptance both publicly and privately, the abuse on the streets, endured both personally and by minority communities, up and down the country for being different, the struggles of the gay black pride movement and the trans community and I realise how far we still must travel.
These pictures from Italy Various Voices Choir Festival are beautiful, they celebrate and rejoice in all things that bring acceptance, and bring our society together but unfortunately the story is different. Whilst performing the Italian government announced its intention to ban same sex couples from having babies via surrogacy abroad. In Bologna I met an Italian same sex couple who explained the heartache they are feeling because they will be breaking the law and are stopped from fathering children and building a family of their own because of their sexual orientation.
More recently the Italian government ordered city councils to stop registering same sex parents’ children and following that a state prosecutor in Rome demanded the cancellation of 33 birth certificates of children born to lesbian couples dating back to 2017, saying the name of the non-biological mother should be removed. Reuters News Article.
Whilst you look at the pictures and hear the wonderful experience I had in Italy and have as a gay man in the UK and London, remember there is a sliding scale of equality, acceptance and openness that creates laws and regulations that infringe on the civil liberties of the LGBTQ+ community both in the UK and abroad. Whilst being a member of the Pink Singers, I feel surrounded and supported by friends and allies and that permeates into the wider UK society, but we can become complacent as it seems like everything is ok now, and that everybody is afforded the same liberty and freedom as everyone else but that’s not the case and so support, change and activism is still required and we still have a long way to go.