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Lucio Dalla’s muted homosexuality

Last Sunday, the people of Bologna gave a dignified and respectful burial to the artiste Lucio Dalla, with the final applause resounding in the city’s most important and most symbolical square, Piazza Grande.

The Catholic Church, by opening the doors of the Basilica of St Petronius, Bologna’s most famous and most majestic church, has received Lucio Dalla as a true son who had “an intense dialogue with God”, as his confessor, Padre Bernardo Boschi, said in his homily.

The rite of the funeral Mass was that of the traditional liturgy, the only departure coming at the end of the Mass, when Marco Alemanno – an actor, singer and photographer who was close to Dalla for many years – read the lyrics of his song, Le rondini (The swallows). Marco was with Dalla at Montreux the day he died.

As if to give expression to Dalla’s world of relationships and personal affections, the funeral oration delivered by Marco distressed but also refreshed the atmosphere of the old basilica and was received with a tremendous round of applause.

It was a declaration of love, true and authentic; an act that does not belong to any gender but to the most intimate human feelings. It was pure, resounding along the church’s nave and declaimed in front of God.

I was there, among the congregation inside the basilica, and I too wept when this young man, unable to hold back his tears, concluded with the words:

“Today, together with you, I can thank him”, without realising that for over 10 years he was Dalla’s silent and loving companion.

However, outside the church, from a Rai TV studio in Rome, an imprudent “committed” journalist, “ottimista e di sinistra”, revealed, with lucid and ruthless coldness, a way of life which Dalla had always jealously kept under wraps: his homosexuality.

With appalling incivility this journalist stated and revealed publicly that “Lucio Dalla was probably one of the most powerful examples of how being gay is dealt with in Italy. Everything’s fine and they hold a funeral for you in a cathedral with the full blessing of the Church if you do not say you are gay. After all, this seems to be the symbol of how permissive we are – as long as you look the other way.”

Apparently motivated by ideology and anticlericalism, from various quarters we are now seeing a violent public reproach to Dalla – most untimely, I would add, coming so soon after his death – on grounds of his homosexuality, which he lived far removed from the gay culture. A culture that is flaunted, ready at the slightest excuse to proclaim its sexual diversity with pride and even to claim a right to marriage.

Dalla kept his homosexuality private and never showed it, not even at home. Yet, on the very day of his funeral, we saw the launching of one of those fearsome attacks on the basic principles of humanity: respect for the person and for one’s circle of affection, even the most intimate and hidden.

Marco, with a simple “thank you”, broken by heartfelt sobbing, has freed us from so much hypocrisy. He had been presented as a “chorister”, “friend”, “colleague”, “close collaborator” and other ridiculous and embarrassing circumlocutions.

What is left after this inop­portune polemic, instead, is a loving relationship denied but not repudiated, a homosexual love, a true and deep one to protect, sheltering it from any gay revenge acknowledging his legal right, asin this case, to inherit a part of Dalla’s estate.

Marco has been a faithful companion in a homosexual relationship, like so many others all over the world, which should be regularised according to the principle of mutual and recognised assistance. A symbol for obtaining a civil right that is quite different from gay marriage as demanded by an international coming out.

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