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Mario Mieli (21 May 1952, Milan – 12 March 1983) was a leading figure in the Italian gay movement of the 1970s. He combined a radical theoretical perspective with a provocative public persona. His sometimes outrageous public behavior made him a controversial figure, but he was nonetheless respected as one of the movement's most important intellectuals. He’s best known among English speakers for Towards a Gay Communism, a political pamphlet excerpted from his major theoretical work Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique.
Mieli was born in Milan on May 21, 1952 into a large and prosperous family. He lived for the first sixteen years of his life on his family's estate near Como. Mario moved back to Milan with his family in 1968. Politically precocious, he threw himself into the student uprising of that year, beginning a long commitment to revolutionary causes.
In 1971 he moved to London as a student, where he took an active part in the London Gay Liberation Front. Though he spent intermittent time in London until 1975, in 1972 based himself in Milan where he studied at university. In April 1972, he, along with Massimo Consoli (1945-2007), Nicolino Tosoni (b. 1943), Angelo Pezzana (b. 1940) and the French writer Françoise d'Eaubonne (1920-2005) held the first homosexual demonstration in Italy at a Congress of Sexology in San Remo. They protested against psychiatric condemnation of homosexual conduct and the use of aversion therapy to "convert" homosexuals.
In 1972, Mieli helped found the collective Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano (Italian revolutionary homosexual united front). Better known by its acronym F.U.O.R.I! (Come out!), it was Italy's first major gay-rights group. Started in Turin in 1971, F.U.O.R.I! appeared almost simultaneously in Rome, Padua, Venice and in Milan, where Mieli was an organizer. After the collective united with the Italian Radical Party, Mario criticized the move as "counter-revolutionary," since he thought the gay movement should remain independent of political parties. He left the organization over political differences in 1974–75.
After 1974 Mieli continued his activism by organizing the Collettivi Omosessuali Milanesi (Homosexual collectives of Milan). In 1976 the group’s gay theatrical group, Nostra Signora dei Fiori, staged his play La Traviata Norma. Ovvero: Vaffanculo... ebbene sì! (the title’s numerous puns defy translation). This outrageous production was successfully staged in Milan, Florence, and Rome. An in-your-face spectacle, it deliberately presented behavior designed to flout conventional, heterosexual norms.
A controversial personality, Mieli sometimes made a spectacle of himself. Once in Rome he publicly ate his own excrement and that of a dog. While some may have found this behavior outrageous or frightening, others knew him as a gentle person who enjoyed cross-dressing, capable of being very charming in private.
By 1976, Mieli had graduated and began revising for publication his doctoral thesis in Moral Philosophy. The revision was published as Elementi di critica omosessuale. An English translation of the book was made by David Fernbach as Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique. The translation’s last chapter – "Towards a Gay Communism"—was excerpted as a political pamphlet and became Mieli’s most widely known work among English speakers.
This major theoretical work is widely considered the most important text from the Italian gay community. With rich humor and a cosmopolitan gay sensibility, Mieli contends that homosexual liberation is an integral and indispensable part of a much wider emancipation. Mieli cites "educastration" at the core of a repressive set of norms intended to stifle the full expression of a natural human transsexuality. He combines Freud's ideas on "polymorphous perversion" (see Polymorphous perverse) with Marxist economics to argue that human liberation is possible only through a revolution allowing uninhibited pansexuality.
By 1981, Mieli became increasingly pessimistic about his cause. In 1983, he told friends about a forthcoming book titled Il risveglio dei Faraoni (The Awakening of the Pharaohs). It was to be an autobiographical novel, set in Egypt featuring a resurrected Jesus. But in early March, he decided to stop publication of the book, writing in a letter to a friend that the book might inspire someone to "have his hide". In another letter dated March 11, he wrote "My book will not be published by my free choice".
Mario Mieli killed himself the following day, on March 12, 1983. He died at age 30 from asphyxiation by inhaling gas in his Milan apartment.
It seems that Mieli's suicide stemmed from adverse reaction he expected from the book’s publication. Although a pirated edition was later published, his family brought legal action and had all copies destroyed. Only in 1994 was Il risveglio dei Faraoni published legally.
Elementi di critica omosessuale [Turin: Giulio Einaudi, 1977]
Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique [London: Gay Men's Press, 1980]
Il risveglio dei Faraoni [Milan : Cooperativa ColibrÃ, 1994]
Oro, Eros e Armonia, edited by Gianpaolo Silvestri and Antonio Veneziani, previously unpublished writings, interviews and tributes [Rome: Fabio Croce Editore, 2002]
La politica del corpo, edited by Angelo Pezzana, an anthology of writings from Fuori! [Rome: Savelli, 1976].
La Traviata Norma. Ovvero: Vaffanculo... ebbene sì!
Towards a Gay Communism [London: pirate productions, 1980]