If that headline sounds a bit convoluted, don’t worry: it’s not really. Rather, it’s just another everyday story of how a sensational media exposé of wrongdoing in the public sphere may yet backfire with the unintended and unfortunate consequence that some trans people get killed as a result.
The story begins with a somewhat excitable Italian journalist, a reporter for Italia 1’s le Iene (literally “Hyenas”) door-stepping Francesco Spano, director of UNAR, Italy’s national anti-racism organisation. The allegation is that UNAR handed over funds, including a sum of 55,000 Euro to an organisation, in which Spano was a partner, running massage parlours, gay orgies and prostitution.
If you want to hear just how excitable an Italian journalist can get, espesh when describing the mysteries of “i sex box” and “le dark room” – not to mention “i glory holes” – just tune in to le Iene’s special on the topic.
Spano handed in his resignation pretty much the same day: and Italian media have been awash with lurid tales of corruption at the highest levels. Well, who doesn’t love a good sex scandal – especially one involving gay men doing unspeakable things in dark corners.
So far so usual: but now things get serious.
The serious side: Trans lives at risk
The other predictable outcome to this piece of sensation-raking is that Italy’s Finance Ministry has halted a number of projects due to receive UNAR funding for up to 18 months. That includes a sum of some 75,000 Euro due to be handed over to MIT (Movimento identità transessuale/Movement for trans identity) that had been earmarked for funding an LGBTI refugee centre in Bologna, the first of its kind in Italy.
MIT were preparing to welcome two refugees, both trans, currently held in Libya: now all plans are on hold, and the lives of the individuals involved are at risk. Not to mention the lives of other LGBTI refugees that MIT were planning to take on board.
However, by drawing a false equivalence between a small number of questionable projects and a much wider range of practical humanitarian projects, including a centre for supporting the victims of violence, le Iene have done great harm. Numerous projects – including the refugee centre – are now stalled: and if they do not get moving again soon, Italy will lose out on significant matching sums – as much as 23 million Euro – from the EU.
According to Cathy La Torre, vice-president of MIT: “We are seriously pissed at hyenas like Iene for giving only a partial version of the truth.”
As for the two trans refugees, La Torre continued: “”If they die, Iene will have them on their conscience. That is why we are asking them to come to Bologna to film the other side of the coin, namely the proper use of UNAR funds”.
If they do not, La Torre added: “we are prepared to chain ourselves to the editorial offices of Iene. They must listen to us!”