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Consoli, Massimo (1945-2007)  
 
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Writer, archivist, and theorist, Massimo Consoli was the founder of the Italian gay movement. For many years he was Italy's leading glbtq activist.

Massimo Consoli was born on December 12, 1945 in Rome to a middle-class family. He was the last of five children. His parents named him Luciano and Romolo (after the founder of Rome), but as a teenager he chose the name Massimo for himself.

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Consoli early felt his sexual difference from the majority and developed a strong sense of the injustices that minorities of all kinds experience. He studied accounting, but after a long crisis over his homosexuality, he broke off his studies to dedicate himself to aiding those he considered his brothers and sisters. He did not consider it just, he said, "that anyone should have to suffer uselessly just because he loved someone of his own sex."

His own loves are chronicled in his prolific writings. An early attachment, for example, resulted in the novel 16-22, which was published in installments in gay journals in Denmark and Sweden in 1970 and 1971, and issued in Italy in 1993. (The title refers to the ages of the two male lovers of the novel.) His most important love affair was the subject of a long series of poems that appeared in the book Viva l'Omosessualità (Long live homosexuality; 1976).

Consoli's organizational ability showed itself early. In 1963 he formed a circle, La Rivoluzione è Verde (The revolution is green), to discuss social injustice and sexual discrimination. He formed another group in 1966, the Associazione Culturale Roma-1, where "Roma-1" does not refer to the city, but is a secret acronym for Rivolta Omosessuale dei Maschi Anarchici--Prima fase (Homosexual revolt of male anarchists--first phase).

In 1966 Consoli subscribed to several gay journals, including Arcadie (France), Der Kreis (Switzerland, published in German, French, and English), and One and Mattachine Review (U. S. A.), although his knowledge of English was limited at that time. These journals became part of an extensive collection of material in several languages that eventually became the largest gay archive in Italy. In 2001, the Archivio Massimo Consoli became part of the Archivio di Stato (Italian State Archive).

Consoli's Dantesque sense of righteous indignation showed itself over the years in his many confrontations with individuals and institutions, especially the Italian state and the Roman Catholic Church. As early as October 1967 the Italian counter-espionage service, SID (Servizio Informazioni Difesa), began a file on him. His neighbors were interrogated as to his visitors and his habits. This investigation caused him to give up his teaching position in a Roman school and move to the Netherlands in 1969.

Consoli's reason for relocating was threefold: (1) he wished to publish an ideological document that would stimulate the birth of a homosexual movement; (2) he knew this was not possible in Italy (since he was already under police surveillance, he could expect a violent reaction to any such publication); and (3) the Netherlands seemed at that time to be the most open to homosexual political action.

The resulting document, published in 1971, became known as Manifesto Gay; its original title was Manifesto per la Rivoluzione Morale: l'Omosessualità Rivoluzionaria (Manifesto for the moral revolution: Revolutionary homosexuality). It was a programmatic document meant to furnish the basis for an Italian movement, such as had already been established in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. The work succeeded in stimulating the formation of gay organizations in Italy.

Among the first was the Turin-based collective Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano (Italian revolutionary homosexual united front), which explicitly stated that it was inspired by Consoli's Manifesto. Better known by its acronym FUORI! (Come out!), the group included Mario Mieli (1952-1983), whose university thesis of 1976 (published in revised form in 1977) is a major critical work on homosexuality. Following Mieli's early death, the largest gay organization in Rome changed its name in 1983 to Circolo di Cultura Omosessuale Mario Mieli (Homosexual Cultural Circle "Mario Mieli").

Consoli participated in--and often organized--many of the most significant gay events in Italy. For example, he took part in the Gay May Day in Rome in 1972. He organized the first annual Italian commemoration of New York City's Stonewall riots on June 28, 1976, at a time when most of the participants had no idea what "Stonewall" meant.

Throughout the 1970s he organized hundreds of conferences, exhibitions, book presentations, theatrical spectacles, and political demonstrations. In 1976 he defied a police ban to organize a public demonstration on the first anniversary of the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini.

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A photograph of Massimo Consoli at Rome's Pride Parade in 2002 by Giovanni Dall'Orto.
  
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