Love: a word with a vast significance, a precious feeling, an experience that pervades all of our lives both in conventional and less conventional ways. In this “Maggio dei Libri” (May of Books), Women Plot wants to tell you about loves that are much more than the classical boy-meets-girl. Today we reflect on queer love and its representation in modern literature and publishing with Giulia Peruzzi (instagram.com/peruzziscrive), an emerging author of inclusive and feminist short stories and novels that span across genres.
- What does “love” mean to you?
When we talk about love, often the first thing that comes to mind is the stereotypical romantic love: a couple, intertwined hands, a kiss at sunset. But love is so much more than that, it shows itself in different ways and shapes and there shouldn’t be an underlying hierarchy between them. From self-love to familial and friendship love to platonic love; these are all valid forms of love, just as it is valid not to desire romantic love in one’s life. Not only that: there are as many languages of love and as many ways to make it manifest as there are people in this world, and therein lies love's intrinsic beauty: in the infinite facets that make up its material.
- How do your works deal with love?
From the genesis of a new love to its loss, from the birth of an inner awareness and a consequent love for oneself to family love; there is no limit to the different representations I can deal with in my works. In one way or another, in one form or another, love makes its way into what I write, even just through the care and dedication I put into each word.
- What drew you to activism for the rights and representation of the LGBTQIA+ community?
When I started my writer’s page on Instagram, I had no intention of opening up about these issues; I had long been interested in transfeminist activism and LGBTQIA+ rights, and fighting injustice has always been a part of me to some extent. From the moment I had recognized these values as my own, however, I had also begun to notice what was (and still is) happening to people who dared to use their voices about it: misogynistic trolls, hate, rape and death threats, and the list could go on.
So, I was talking about writing and literature without really taking a stand, and I was imposing a meaningless gag on myself because while I wasn’t openly taking sides on the internet, I was pouring everything I believed in into the pages I wrote every day. Something started to click when I saw that other pages (Tiffany from @miss.fiction primarily) were talking both about books and feminist issues, mixing a love for reading with activism. And so, one day I simply decided that I was strong enough to stand up to the hate, take off the gag, and finally start contributing to the fight. And I don't regret it, despite the hate I sometimes get about it.
- How can we, through literature, try to knock down misconceptions (and, in some cases, even discrimination) about queer love?
As a bookworm since childhood, like so many other people I have always relied on books to experience what I could never do in real life and meet “people” that I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet otherwise; in other words, to learn more about the world around me (this is true even when reading speculative fiction, as it doesn’t have to be limited to fiction with realistic settings). This is why the representation of all forms of identity is important, both in literature and in all media: because it is through this that we can broaden our views and be able to empathize with people whose lives are very different from our own; the moment we begin to feel empathy towards someone different from us, we begin to make the leap from a mindset that pits “us” against “them” to one that accepts that there are individuals with lives that differ from ours and that there is nothing wrong with this, rather, that is the beauty of the human soul.
When we stop thinking of being on one side of the fence and begin to see a world with no fences, then it is possible to break down prejudices and accept the infinite and complex richness of humanity. To do that we can start reading, writing, and publishing more stories that tear down those barricades. It is a slow process, and we are only now taking small but important steps in this direction, but I have faith in an inclusive future in which the power of stories will have played a central role in destroying prejudice and discrimination.
- In the novel you're working on (#progettofigliadelmare), the main character loves a girl, however she doesn't put any labels on herself. What do you think is labels' value in today's LGBTQIA+ love?
Labels are both important and not important at the same time. I am convinced that in an ideal world, in which diversity is thought of as an asset and not something to be eradicated, labels would have no reason to exist: each person would feel comfortable in their own sexual, romantic, and gender identity, which may be like other people's, or unique. We do not, however, live in an ideal world. Homosexuality was only removed from the list of mental illnesses in the 90s, and even today, in many countries, people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community are persecuted, unprotected in their rights and often run great risks by not hiding their identity both inside and outside their homes. In a society that loves homologation and hates diversity, labels are essential: thanks to them, we can find individuals who look like us, create a supportive community or form an elected family to replace the biological one in case the latter does not accept our essence; labels can make us feel less alone and can help us give a name to something we have always felt but have never been able to identify.
My protagonist doesn't put any labels on herself, it's true, but it's also because she lives in a closed and transphobic matriarchal society that has abolished them: only women must and can exist and consequently only love between women exists. In short, such a society does not allow any choice: either you are as the State wants you to be, or you are not, you do not exist. If she had lived in a society in which women loving women was not the norm, perhaps my protagonist would have been able to try on one or more labels, because in the end that of recognizing herself in one or none of the existing labels is a choice that no one can dispute: self-determination, whether within or outside the limits of what we currently recognize as identity categories, is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do as individuals. In essence, adhering to a certain label must be a personal choice, never imposed, that is the result of a journey of self-awareness and self-knowledge; sometimes recognizing oneself in a label, or refusing to do so, can make the difference between existing and not truly existing.We will have the pleasure to speak with Giulia on Monday, 31 May 2021 alle 6:30 (CEST) through an Instagram Live on our profile (instagram.com/womenplot) – FYI: in Italian – where we will further discuss LGBTQIA+ love and its diverse representation in inclusive and feminist publishing.