On Sunday night, fashion icon and label matriarch Donatella Versace was presented with the Humanitarian Award for Equity and Inclusivity at the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards, and used her acceptance speech to shine a light on the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in her native Italy.
“Here in Italy, it has never been more important for us to champion minority voices,” the Versace designer began. “Our government is set on taking away the rights of individuals to live as they wish. The freedom to walk down the street with your head held high and without fear, however you identify. The freedom to build a family and live how you want… We all must fight for freedom.”
Earlier this year, Italy’s right-wing government – led by the conservative traditionalist Giorgia Meloni – began a crackdown on same-sex parenting. The prime minister announced in March that state agencies would begin removing gay caregivers from their children’s birth certificates if they were not a biological parent. In addition to this, Meloni’s party is also writing up legislation that would outlaw finding a surrogate mother abroad (surrogacy has been illegal within Italy since 2004).
In her speech, Versace also notes that in a time when “trans people are still suffering terrible violence” and “minority voices are attacked by new laws”, there is still a lot more work to do. Versace then went on to recall her older brother Gianni coming out to her when she was 11 years old. “For me, this changed nothing,” she said. “I loved him. I didn’t care who he loved. His love and encouragement made me who I am.”
Versace received a standing ovation in response to the speech. Since the ceremony, Italian civil rights activists such as Franco Grillini have praised her intervention into the political sphere. “Donatella Versace was the first person in Italy to be so clear and explicit in the face of the government’s homophobic politics,” he said. “She is one of the most important names in fashion, and I invite others to follow her example.”
Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesperson for Italy’s Gay Party (Partito Gay), also commended Versace’s speech. “Donatella Versace’s declaration is important”, said Marrazzo. “She made clear how this government is diminishing freedoms and rights for the LGBTQ community… We ask her to support us, in particular the campaign to make marriage for lesbians, gays and trans people the same as for everyone else.”