Note: This piece was originally published on HuffPost Italy.
The first impression people get when they meet Ettore is that they’re facing a typical Southern Italian professor in retirement. His silvery hair, thick glasses, and expression, which is severe at times, all work together to convince you you’re facing a typical seventy-something man — someone who might be inflexible about what’s outside social norms. The last thing you would expect would be to sit down in a café with him and hear him talk passionately about defending the rights of gay people.
In a way, your first impression might be more right than you knew. Not too long ago, Ettore’s opinion on the subject of homosexuality was quite different. But now a few years have gone by since his two children, then a 17-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, walked into the family kitchen where Ettore and his wife Anna were sitting and told them: “Mom, dad, we’re gay.”
“It was a shock. I believed they’d chosen to become homosexuals, and I couldn’t accept their decision,” said Ettore during an interview with The Huffington Post’s Italian outpost. “I was full of resentment for the expectations I’d built around them, and that simple sentence tore me apart. Marriage, the chance of having grandkids… I started to feel afraid of touching my son, afraid of AIDS. I took them to see a psychotherapist for seven years, trying to ‘cure’ them. They didn’t want to go, but they did just to make me happy.”
Ettore and his wife Anna on the Facebook page for Rome’s Pride Parade