Cover Story – IACOPO MELIO

Valentina Dolciotti, Florence, May 2021 

I would like to ask you, first of all, to tell us about your educational and professional background (what you studied, useful experiences, current position).

I have a degree in Political Science (with a focus on communication, media and journalism) from the Università di Firenze. I work as a journalist, writer and activist for human and civil rights. In September 2020 I was elected as Regional Councillor for Tuscany in the constituency of the city of Florence, where I was the lead candidate for the PD (Partito Democratico), with 11.233 votes (the largest number of votes in the constituency). 

Where did your passion for your studies come from?

I realised that the social sciences could be the right path for me when I was in high school (the scientific lyceum) and understood that words and writing could have useful power in society, giving a voice to those who are not listened to enough. I think that one of the unique things about you is that you don’t stick to a specific topic but promote rights across the board. I find that interesting because I think it’s the “battle” par excellence that every politician ought to take part in, but that’s now how things are. That’s why I wanted to ask you for your opinion on various areas: 

The Zan parliamentary bill 

Our magazine has also come out in favour of the bill (we immediately began talking about it with Rete Lenford, Ivan Scalfarotto and others) and we now reiterate our total support.  The law proposed by Zan is a truly inclusive measure that considers every type of diversity, protecting it against possible discrimination, without leaving anyone behind. That’s why I find all the objections from certain political parties ridiculous, for example the claim that it ignores heterosexual people when, in reality, they are also taken into consideration, given that the bill applies to “all sexual orientations”, not only to homosexual individuals. It also makes me smile that the bill is considered an attack on freedom of thought, when instead we should be talking about “no freedom to hate”, which is a very different thing.

The ius soli 

The ius soli, and even more so the ius culturae, should be a matter of course in a democratic country: if you are born in a country, study there and are perfectly culturally and socially integrated, you are a part of that country and are no different from me just because your skin is a different colour or you perhaps have a different faith. I don’t want to name names, but seeing these kinds of concepts attacked by people whose parents come from different regions in Italy but claim that they are “Roman because they were born in Rome” makes me smile.

Familiy caregivers 

Caregivers are not fully recognised in Italy: people who take care of people with disabilities are often left to their own devices, without financial or practical support to meet their needs. Today caregivers in Italy end up having to give up their jobs (smart working is still not a right, not even in the middle of a pandemic, it would seem) and sometimes their freedom and independence, since the state does not yet offer adequate support. This is also a topic that cannot be ignored.

There is a strong generational element in your positions that I find very intelligent as well as inclusive. Supporting any good idea, regardless of where it originated (I have even heard you defend Fedez and his wife Chiara Ferragni) is proof of the open-mindedness and wide-ranging interests you have always shown. In spite of the many opinions to the contrary, I see a new, renewed and widespread interest in politics among young people, an interest that manifests itself through new kinds of language, which are no less effective for it. What do you think of this?

There is a great desire for a return to good politics, the kind that comes from below and not from within the palaces of power. A desire for civil society to participate.  There is a desire to put courageous topics back at the centre of things, topics connected to freedom and self-determination and which aren’t given enough space today: the right to make an informed decision to have an abortion, with real support for women from the very beginning, euthanasia and living wills, LGBTQ+ rights, the legalisation of cannabis, especially for therapeutic purposes, and much more. There are many young people who are attentive, prepared, and full of dreams and hopes that we have a duty to invest in by giving them confidence. This may be the time for important changes and we must seize this opportunity.

Why is it so difficult in Italy to “call things by their name”? 

We live in a patriarchal and sexist country, yet it “feels bad” to say so, there are those who are even offended by it (!). The word “feminist” has become difficult to say and there are too many misunderstandings; death is never spoken of. Everything that we don’t know somehow frightens us and therefore leads us to distance ourselves from certain issues. We should talk more, bring things out into the open, allow people to put themselves in other people’s shoes, generating not only empathy but also leading to cultural enrichment.  We live in a conservative country, also due to the strong Catholic culture we have, and there is unfortunately no lack of occasions on which we show how bigoted we are on certain fronts, especially on the right.  We still have to break down a lot of taboos, but I am sure that sooner or later we will build a society for everyone, which is able to welcome what is apparently considered “different” by breaking down walls and building bridges. At that point, nobody will be ashamed anymore to claim their ideas where they are sound and right. 

In your letter to the Repubblica newspaper on 13 February you reiterated how pointless (if not actually damaging) it is to establish a Ministry for Disability as an end in itself. After all, in Italy we still haven’t understood that the mandate of the Minister for Equal Opportunities covers not only the issue of gender (or rather the female gender, sic!) but covers all diversities, and that inclusion must be a transversal objective. How do we move past this?