Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Part 7: When in Rome

Hey kids,

Have finally got access to the Net here in Rome but limited as always with time. I can say initial impressions of Rome is that it's very hot, poor, aggressive and Catholic. Still having a great time though, and looking forward to day trips in Florence, Venice and Verona.

Unfortunately Im battling a cold but as I refuse to be sick here, it's very much mind over matter that's keeping me going.

Anyways, heres my next QP column. I hope to write more extensive reflections soon. Ciao xo

Queer Penguin's first waddle into Rome proved somewhat challenging, and a more paranoid penguin might assume a cosmic conspiracy were in operation to make him or her feel as unwelcome as possible.

A trip to the Vatican, and specifically to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was of course a given, so with my close friend and tour guide in tow I set off to experience this classic masterpiece.

Things initially went awry when we took a deceptive sign that led us around the walled perimeter of the City. About forty minutes and a couple of blisters later we arrived at the correct entrance, only for my camera to mysteriously malfunction. Eventually consoling myself that I could return with a new camera on another day, I decided to see the ceiling, but after passing through the metal detector security with relative ease I was sent away by two menacing door bitches at the Chapels entrance for the cardinal sin of wearing shorts (not entirely unexpected on an overbearing Rome summer's day).

I took away from this debacle that "my sort" was not welcome at the Vatican, in a scene strangely metaphorical for the Church's attitude towards practising homosexuals (an "intrinsic moral evil", according to our current Pope). Even if a queer person were to make it through or over the huge walls, it seems the papacy and its minions will concoct some spurious reason to deny you access to its heart.

In contrast to the UK and Spain with its same-sex civil unions and marriages, the Catholic Church's infusion through Rome is evident everywhere, whether it be nuns crossing the road at every second street corner or the crucifixes that decorate the ubiquituous medieval architecture.

My non-existent Italian has prohibited me from talking shop with politically-aware locals, but it is clear Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is fiercely conservative, anti-progress and even anti-democratic, my English-speaking friend worringly likening the former media entrepreneur to an Italian Rupert Murdoch but with even more power.

The combination of this leader and his government with the Catholic Church would seem to guarantee that queer people here will remain outsiders to mainstream acceptance and civil justice, just as I was kept outside the Vatican.

What I would like to know is: How on earth did they know I was coming? Does the City have in operation perhaps a covert gaydar?


At 29/6/05 10:37 am, Anonymous Rstar78 said...

Just read QP and I say try again. I was in Rome, on a "business" trip, and they discriminate indiscriminately. the general rule of thumb is you have to have knees and shoulders covered. they dont' even care if you wrap a sarong around your waist over your shorts and throw on a ratty t-shirt. Just as long as things are covered. Personally, I was a littel disappointed in the magnitude of the ceiling (I thought it woudl be bigger) but the rest of the vatican was pretty damn cool. I think it's worth it just to see the creepy dead guy all decked out in his papal finest.

At 29/6/05 10:38 am, Anonymous Rstar78 said...

sorry for the spelling errors. Can't keep up with myself sometimes.

At 30/6/05 11:25 pm, Blogger Brownie said...

Penguins LIKE it cold!

At 18/2/06 9:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

having lived in rome as a "practicing homosexual", your blog entry comes off as mis-leading and ignorant.

you weren't turned away at the vatican because of your "sort", but simply because of what you were wearing. the rules for admittance at the vatican are strict, and your refusal of entry has only to do with that. (if you ever take a trip over to greece, you'll find the same response based purely on what you've got on).

personally i found rome a welcoming and accepting city. while there's few places to go that are distinctly homosexual (although, when you really stop and think about it, there's few cities that look and feel quite so gay), both the gay rome organization and charming evenings at the 'coming out' bar (across the street from the coliseum) provide more than enough assitance to finding like-minded friends.

next time: just put some pants on.

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