The conditions on San Domino were squalid and prison-like. Yet it was also one of the only places gay men could be open about their sexualityby Finbarr Toesland / August 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
It’s well documented that the rise of Mussolini paved the way for abhorrent racial laws that heavily restricted the civil rights of Jewish Italians, alongside other ethnic minorities. But far less has been said about the devastating impactMussolini’s regime had on the country’s gay population.
Seen as antithetical to traditional masculine ideals, gay men in fascist Italy were targeted for discrimination and oppression—even though technically there had been no laws outlawing consensual same-sex relations.
Mussolini believed homosexuality to be an imported vice and didn’t want to officially recognise activity that he considered to be fundamentally incompatible with a strong fascist country.
“Fascism was especially keen on spreading the myth of a stereotypical Italian virility,” explains researcher Tommaso Giartosio, co-author of the 2006 book The City and the Island which explored the internal exile of gay men to the island of San Domino in fascist Italy.