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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans health inequalitiesInternational perspectives in social work$

Julie Fish and Kate Karban

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447309673

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447309673.001.0001

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Between public neglect and private needs

Between public neglect and private needs

conceptualising approaches to LGBT issues in Italian social work

Chapter:
(p.45) Two Between public neglect and private needs
Source:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans health inequalities
Author(s):

Andrea Nagy

Urban Nothdurfter

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447309673.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords

Discussion about LGBT issues in social work needs to take account both of the wider context, which has an impact on the lives of LGBT people and also of public debates, which construct social perceptions about them. Before focusing on LGBT issues in Italian social work, the chapter first gives an overview of the current social and political context in Italy. The chapter then examines the integration of LGBT people in social work in relation to its coverage in academic social work journals, map its inclusion in social work curricula and through a case study, analyse social worker’s practice with a young lesbian in residential care. The chapter concludes by highlighting that the ethical code of Italian social work states, that social workers are obliged to challenge discrimination in all its forms. However, social work education and social work practice must go beyond such ‘universal’ formulas in order to recognise and to understand the many faces of discrimination and oppression. Heteronormativity is a key concept in the understanding of oppression related to LGBT issues in social work, and must be introduced and handled in Italian social work education.

Keywords:   minority stress, heteronormativity, marginalization, heterosexism

The social and political background

A discussion about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) issues in social work needs to take account both of the wider context, which has an impact on the lives of LGBT people and also of public debates, which construct social perceptions about them. In this sense, before focusing on LGBT issues in Italian social work, the rest of this section gives an overview of the current social and political context in Italy. Also, both the legislative and policy background and the development of the Italian LGBT movement are briefly addressed.

From a comparative perspective, Italy is often depicted as a conservative country, mainly due to the strong impact of a conservative religious commitment in Italian politics (Ginsborg, 2001; Giorgi, 2013) and due to its familialistic welfare tradition (Ferrera, 1996; Saraceno, 2003). With respect to the legal treatment of homosexuality, it is worth mentioning that the decriminalisation of homosexuality occurred in 1889 (a relatively early date in comparison with some other European countries) through the enactment of the Zanardelli Penal Code, which also introduced the concept of ‘equal age consent’ for heterosexual and homosexual activity (Dall’Orto, 1998). However, today, Italy is the only one among the founding countries of the European Union (EU), and one of 12 countries of today’s EU 28, without any legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. Despite several legislative proposals for civil partnerships, for example the ‘PACS’ Bill in 2002 and the ‘DICO’ Bill in 2007, none of them has ever been accepted by the National Parliament. This complete lack of legal recognition has a variety of consequences on the level of legal benefits, obligations and responsibilities of same-sex partnerships. They are not recognised in taxation, pension and housing tenancy rights. A same-sex partner is not even recognised as next of kin in hospital, in inheritance or in (p.46) immigration and asylum rights. For the Italian state, and thus for its social and family policies, same-sex partnerships do not exist.

However, there have been some recent signals that have brought about hope for some change. The 2011 national Census made it possible for the first time to indicate the status of a same-sex relationship. In 2010 and again in 2013, the Constitutional Court urged the National Parliament to legislate in matters of the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and in 2012 a sentence by the Court of Cassation stated that ‘same sex couples have the same right to a family life as married straight couples’ (Corte di Cassazione, sentenza 4184/2012). However, so far, no progress in legislation has been made and same-sex partnerships continue not to be recognised at all.

The only anti-discrimination Act on sexual orientation appears in Legislative Decree 216/2003, which has transposed the European Directive 2000/78/CE and explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. With regard to transgender rights, Statute Law 164/1982 allows for official gender identity change, but only after medically indicated sex reassignment surgery. Gender identity is not included in official anti-discrimination legislation. Furthermore, there is no explicit recognition of hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Two Bills on homophobic hate crimes, introduced in 2009 and 2011, were rejected by the National Parliament. Currently, a new ‘anti-homophobia’ Bill is being discussed in the Parliament.

The beginnings of the Italian LGBT movement are closely linked to the efforts of single leading figures and their social impact as both activists and intellectuals (Barilli Rossi, 1999; Barbagli and Colombo, 2007). During the 1970s, the first gay and lesbian associations and social groups were established in the major urban centres, the most famous one being the association FUORI! (OUT!), founded in 1973 in Turin. During the 1980s, the movement gained more public visibility due to alarming reports of crime against gay people and to the new and growing AIDS crisis. In 1985, different local associations were united under the national umbrella organisation of ArciGay, which was divided into ArciGay/ArciLesbica in 1996, providing the gay and lesbian movement two distinct but allied national associations (Barilli Rossi, 1999). As to public visibility, the first official national Gay Pride march was held in Rome in 1994. In 2000, Rome hosted the World Gay Pride, which led to harsh critique from both the Vatican and from many representatives high up in the Italian political arena (D’Ippoliti and Schuster, 2011). Europride 2011 was also held in Italy, again in Rome. In 2011 the event was organised under the patronage of the (p.47) city of Rome, with the official endorsement of many representatives from both the cultural and the political spheres.

Although Italy can be credited with a thriving LGBT movement, and although leading activists in the partisan landscape have also been elected to the National Parliament, success in terms of recognition of LGBT concerns by law and in public policies remains conspicuously absent (Scalfarotto and Mangiaterra, 2010; D’Ippoliti and Schuster, 2011).

LGBT issues in Italian social work

As to the presence of LGBT issues in the Italian academic debate in general, scholars complain of a resistance or delay in including gender identity and sexual orientation in academic curricula and scientific research (Trappolin, 2008; Ross, 2010; Operto, 2011; Ruspini, 2013). These issues are often seen as niche topics, as delicate and not conducive to successful academic careers (Ruspini, 2013). Moreover, the required interdisciplinary perspective of gender identity and sexual orientation studies is often at odds with the strict ‘departmentalisation’ of Italian academia and, thus, this field of studies often lacks an institutional home. However, in recent years there has been increasing research activity on LGBT issues in the Italian social sciences. Contributions often come from individual researchers and/or specific networks across disciplines and institutions having a strong foothold outside of traditional institutions and being informed by the LGBT movement (Ross, 2010). An overview of the state of the art of LGBT issues in the Italian social sciences (Ruspini, 2013) shows that, initially, they focused mainly on biomedical and pathological aspects of sexuality, but the focus has progressively expanded, taking into account both the broader dimension of social and cultural factors influencing the development of LGBT identities as well as the experiences of LGBT people in different spheres of everyday life (Saraceno, 2003; Barbagli and Colombo, 2007; Corbisiero, 2010, 2013). Moreover, it seems apparent that interest in more comprehensive conceptual work concerning LGBT issues and queer theory is growing (Pustianaz, 2011; Romania, 2013). In 2012, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) carried out a survey on LGBT people for the first time in Italy (ISTAT, 2012). There is also a discernible body of literature produced by legal scholars concerning the discrimination of LGBT people and the recognition of same-sex partnerships (Bilotta, 2008; D’Ippoliti and Schuster, 2011).

The fact that social work programmes in Italy have a limited academic tradition and therefore still lack recognition in academia (Campanini, (p.48) 2007; Facchini and Tonon Giraldo, 2013) could perhaps explain why LGBT issues have been scarcely integrated into existing Italian social work programmes. However, social work’s commitment to human rights and social justice (IFSW, 2000) should alert the profession to LGBT discrimination. The social work profession in Italy is distinguished by strict professional regulation and a strong identification with a Code of Ethics, at least at a formal level (Campanini, 2007). However, the Code of Ethics of Italian social workers does not refer explicitly to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (CNOAS, 2009).

Historically, social work in Italy has been characterised by different periods. The beginnings of professional social work in Italy were closely linked to the processes of reconstruction and democratisation after fascism and the Second World War. During the 1970s, social movements such as the women’s movement and the anti-psychiatry movement had a strong impact on the social work profession, which had been significantly involved in radical service reforms and in innovative social policy making (Diomede Canevini, 2005; Campanini, 2007; Fargion, 2008). However, the ensuing professionalisation process in Italian social work has been strongly oriented towards a traditionally acknowledged view of professionalism, aspiring to ‘neutrality’ and to a ‘proper’ area of competence within the micro dimension of the helping relationship (Nothdurfter, 2011). In her research on practitioners’ representations of social work, Fargion (2008) shows that focusing on social aspects is rather linked to methodological and technical choices of interventions. Because this is ‘not equally matched by a strong awareness of the structural nature of social problems and of the political dimension of the profession’ (Fargion, 2008, p 212), she suggests that there is a lack of attention to issues of power, oppression and social justice in Italian social work practice.

But where can one find explicit accounts of LGBT issues within the field of Italian social work research and social work education? The following subsections present the findings of two pieces of work. First, an inventory aimed at outlining to what extent LGBT issues are addressed in Italian social work key journals and in social work curricula. Subsequently, an analysis of an exemplary case in the field of residential care illustrates that the inclusion of LGBT issues is not yet common in Italian social work practice.

(p.49) Social work research

In order to assess the number of references to LGBT issues in the Italian literature, the authors undertook a systematic review of seven Italian social work journals covering the years from 2000 to 2012. The journals included can be considered the seven most important Italian social work journals, as they are national in scope, address a general spectrum of social work topics and are most likely to impact on social work education and practice.1 Four of them are longstanding social work journals, the other three address wider topics of social welfare and social policy, but regularly address specific topics relating to social work practice and professional development. The review was performed using a systematic keyword search in two different Italian databases2 combined with a supplementary hand-search in order to countercheck the findings. The review included only full articles. As Table 2.1 shows, the findings suggest that a debate on LGBT issues in Italian social work is practically non-existent. The percentage of articles concerning LGBT topics published over a period of 12 years was approximately 0.07%.

Table 2.1: Italian social work journals’ inclusion of LGBT issues, 2000–12

Journal and number of issues

Number of titles in total

Number of full articles addressing LGBT issues and the article references

Animazione Sociale

1,309

1

10 issues per year

Molinatto and Rigliano (2001)

Autonomie Locali e Servizi Sociali

606

1

3 issues per year

Pietrantoni et al (2011)

La Rivista Di Servizio Sociale

429

2

4 issues per year

Pietrantoni et al (2000)

Panico and Matarrese (2006)

Lavoro Sociale

about 390

0

3 issues per year

Prospettive Sociali e Sanitarie

1,344

0

22 issues per year until 2012

12 issues per year from 2012

Rassegna di Servizio Sociale

about 450

0

4 issues per year

Studi Zancan

975

0

6 issues per year

(p.50) Social work education

In a first attempt to investigate the inclusion of LGBT issues in Italian social work education, the authors contacted the heads of social work programmes at Italian universities, asking them to respond to a short email questionnaire. The survey included the questions as to whether or not the curriculum of their degree programme explicitly addresses the topic of LGBT people in social work and whether they thought that it was important or necessary for social work practice to address issues on gender and sexual orientation and to take into account the needs of LGBT people as social work clients.

In 2012, there were 81 social work degrees at Italian universities, of which 64 programme directors could be contacted via email. As the response rate to the questionnaire was very low (responses were received from only 19 programmes), the findings do not allow for general statements about the effective inclusion of LGBT issues in Italian social work education. The survey does, however, produce interesting insights into reasons why a more explicit inclusion of LGBT issues in social work education is impeded. Some respondents argued that ‘the curriculum does not allow a high degree of specialization’; others argued that, in their opinion, ‘other minority issues have higher priority’. Some respondents also saw a risk of categorisation or ‘labelling of LGBT people’ when addressing the issues, or the danger of a ‘reductionist focus on one dimension of identity’ instead of a ‘holistic view of a person’. By contrast, there was also the notion that LGBT issues are relevant and should be addressed, but, as one respondent stated, they are often ‘forgotten’. These responses draw on discourses that construct:

  • LGBT issues as specialised rather than LGBT people as a user group who are entitled to access social work services;

  • LGBT people as a group who merit less attention than other disadvantaged groups.

The discourses also show respondents beliefs that by identifying LGBT as a population of interest, social work risks pathologising them by attaching a label; and that LGBT identities are somehow separate from the whole of a person’s identity.

(p.51) Social work practice

Through other research activities there was a contact between the authors, a girl who had been in care from 2010 to 2012 and the interdisciplinary team of care workers who had been caring for her at the time. The connection was used to conduct an interview with the residential youth care worker team about their work with this former client, who was a self-defined lesbian at the time she had been in care. The analysis of this social work practice example in children and young people’s residential care shows that care workers, although not individually hostile towards lesbians or lesbianism, may not challenge common discourses about sexualities when they retrospectively discuss a case of a lesbian client. The residential social work team were asked whether or not they thought that a former client’s identification as a lesbian had had an impact on the care situation, and if so, how they would describe the impact. The analysis is based on a view of a residential childcare setting as a certain ‘field’ (Lewin 1951), which structures the possible actions or the actors to some extent. In this sense, the residential childcare field seems to suggest the following interpretations of this case and of lesbian identity in general.

The residential social work team expressed that there are practical problems to address when someone in a group is gay. However, the following quote shows that these were thought about in terms of heterosexuality:

‘I realise now where the topic was indeed an issue, when she requested to stay overnight with girlfriends … and there we applied the standard procedure when someone in the group has a relationship. And I was always relieved, because we didn’t have to think of contraception. That was practical.’

(Care worker A)

‘Heterosexuality’ is the concept that shapes beliefs about romantic relationships and renders lesbianism unthinkable. In heteronormative constructs, every other relationship is a ‘variation of’ heterosexuality. The young lesbian’s identity was seen only as a lesser risk, or, risk, for her sexual and reproductive health. The team members realised during the interview that their care planning practice did not include sexual identity in terms of emotional, social or physical wellbeing. Sexuality seemed to be addressed only in relation to sexual activity and the need for contraception.

(p.52) In the discussion the team members ‘trivialised’ (Thompson, 2003)3 the young lesbian’s identity, reinforcing the prevailing stereotype that lesbianism is simply a phase, and that the girl might become heterosexual: “But I didn’t take her seriously in that because I thought that she might just be experimenting a bit in her adolescence. For me this was not fixed yet [that she is a lesbian]” (care worker A). Furthermore, the team members assumed that lesbianism was less overtly sexual, less actively demanding than male homosexuality and would therefore not influence group dynamics as ‘negatively’. This is evidence of the heteronormative construction of gender differences:

‘I think it would have had another ‘quality’ if a boy would have proclaimed it so openly. I remember that X and Y, and yes Z [names of three boys in the care setting] toyed with being gay and this impacted heavily on the group dynamics in terms of disapproval.’

(Care worker B)

[approval from the other team members]

‘That’s right and there we started to listen attentively when we recognised that the boys performed games, sex-games in the house.’

(Care worker A)

In these statements, the team members implied that boys and girls differed in their expression of sexuality; that is to say that boys were more active and obsessive in their sexuality and that girls were modest and moderate in their desires. As a consequence, the girl’s identity as a lesbian and the group’s reaction to her were ignored, whereas homo-erotic behaviour between the boys resulted in authoritative intervention, even though it was assumed that the boys were just joking. These are stereotypical views of gender roles, where men’s sexuality is acknowledged and women’s sexuality is not recognised. It is obvious through the contradictory statements made about the young woman’s sexual assertiveness (“she did not express her sexuality openly” versus “she was very self-assertive and persistent in her sexual advances”) that the care workers’ perception of the case was constructed through knowledge based on their own personal experience. Only one care worker (C) who had been confronted with bisexuality in her own private surroundings perceived and acknowledged the girl’s identity expression as a lesbian and reacted more sensitively to it. The young woman’s self-definition as a lesbian was a subordinate issue: “And there were so many other urgent topics in her case, which were more (p.53) important to address; the whole case was one big crisis management” (care worker B).

Even when love dramas were a daily issue4 and self-harm and drug abuse were also issues, self-defined identity status was not considered relevant. But self-harm and drug abuse could very well have had to do with the girl’s ‘internalised oppression’ (Elze, 2006, p 64) or ‘minority stress’ (Elze, 2006, p 63) because of the discrimination of LGBT identities.

It would be possible to analyse some of the issues, which appeared in practice settings with the young lesbian, using existing anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive concepts (see, for example, Thompson, 2003; Elze, 2006). In regard to the example of young people in residential care, it must be stated that the lack of knowledge of the issues resulting from the girl’s self-definition as a lesbian and the lack of reflection on concepts of sexuality in general, might have caused the client to suffer and might also have hindered positive intervention. This is in contrast to the main policy goals defined for children and young people in care. The prevailing legal framework stresses the need to reduce disadvantages for young people in care and emphasises their rights to the promotion of individual development and to be respected in their mental and body development.5 Disadvantages based on lesbianism cannot possibly be reduced if care workers do not know anything about lesbianism, do not take it seriously or do not critically reflect on the heterosexual norm. ‘Minority stress’ and ‘internalised oppression’ can even damage the young person’s mental and physical health, if the mechanisms of oppression based on sexual orientation are not recognised by care workers.

Conceptualising approaches to LGBT issues in Italian social work

The evidence of a missing LGBT debate in Italian social work literature and the lack of inclusion of LGBT issues in social work education leads one to ask how LGBT issues could be introduced and theorised in Italian social work. Furthermore, the discussed practice situation has shown in an exemplary way, how operations and consequences of unchallenged structures of understanding about sexualities can result in mechanisms and, eventually, services that do not consider the circumstances and needs of LGBT people.

Thus, this section suggests a conceptualising approach for LGBT issues in Italian social work, which goes beyond ‘mentioning LGBT too’. LGBT issues do not only represent minority issues, which can (p.54) only be addressed in highly specialised social work education curricula. Approaching LGBT issues can rather make a valid contribution to the knowledge base of social work by ‘a continuous and insistent interrogation of notions of the normal’ (Hall, 2007, p 186). Queer theory, with its critical stance on heteronormativity (Hicks and Watson, 2003) offers a useful conceptual lens for challenging the construction of heterosexuality as the unproblematic norm, and its influence in shaping ‘institutions, structures of understandings and practical orientations’ (Berlant and Warner, 1998, p 548) that frame society as well as the accustomed knowledge base of professionals. The concept of ‘heteronormativity’, coined by queer theorist Michael Warner (1991), exposes the pervasive and invisible norm of heterosexuality embedded as a normative principle in social institutions and theories, which also determine processes of knowledge and understanding. As Weiss (2008) points out, the concept of ‘heteronormativity’

is useful in attempting to understand the assumptions upon which heterosexuality rests, and to show how and why deviations from heterosexual norms are subject to social and legal sanctions. For example, heteronormativity assumes a belief in dimorphic sexual difference (there are two sexes), biological essentialism (male and female functions are essentially different), and mimetic sex/gender relationship (psycho-social traits follow anatomy). Those who deviate from these assumptions by openly preferring romantic partners of the same sex, who change from one sex to another, or who violate heterosexual norms in other ways, are marginalised.

‘Marginalisation’ is the reason why the client’s self-definition in the practice example was not seen as an important issue. As previously expressed by some social work programme directors, making other sexual orientations visible can lead to categorisation or labelling and the risk of a reductionist focus on one dimension of identity. Focusing instead on heteronormativity can help to theorise LGBT issues and expose invisibility as a structural problem.6 ‘Instead of detailing who is sexually different’, Jeyasingham (2008, p 149) suggests that social work education ‘should examine the operations and consequences of homophobia and heteronormativity’. In this way, it is not difference in itself, which is highlighted. In fact, the ‘idea of making marginalised groups known through visibility (a logic of knowing through recognising how we appear) is at best a risky objective because images, whether positive (p.55) or not, are one way in which we are turned into objects examined by those who do not themselves need to be defined in terms of difference’ (Jeyasingham, 2008, p 141). Dealing with knowledge and ignorance and the construction of sexuality in social work education, Jeyasingham (2008, p 141) suggests instead to ‘explore the system of knowledge that produces certain ways of knowing sexuality and its relevance’. The view that sexuality is only relevant in terms of contraception, as reported by the care workers in the practice example as well as their assumptions of given differences of men and women that pre-structured their perceptions, could be challenged on that basis. Queering social work not only helps students and social workers to challenge their personal attitudes towards LGBT people, but also enables them to see and to understand how heteronormativity works through structures and processes in society and, thus, contributes to mitigating heterosexist oppression (Foreman and Quinlan, 2008).

Fish (2008) discusses oppression in relation to sexuality. She shows how heterosexism is established through a system of beliefs that values heterosexuality as superior to homosexuality. Heterosexism is based on compulsory heterosexuality and it constitutes a complex system of oppression that intersects with other marginalised identities such as class and ‘race’ (Fish, 2008). An approach that challenges heteronormativity and illustrates the complex nature and form of sexuality oppression, shows that heterosexism is far from being trivial, but that institutions and practices maintain heterosexist oppression by rendering LGBT people invisible (or ‘forgotten’) while at the same time treating them unequally in many respects: legally, politically and socially but also morally and psychologically (Fish, 2008). As it has been shown, in the Italian context, that LGBT people continue to be oppressed and denied full citizenship status (Saraceno, 2012). Social work students should be educated to see these forms of disadvantage and oppression in order to develop approaches of emancipatory practice. As Fish (2008: 186) puts it, ‘the family is a key site in which heterosexuality is maintained and where gender difference is constructed’. A sociological approach to ‘family’ is an important element of Italian social work curricula, and it could provide an excellent starting point in teaching about the heterosexual norm and related concepts. In this way, speaking about LGBT people in social work goes far beyond the constituency of yet another minority and holds a valuable potential for what is, ultimately, so important for social work in general; namely the better understanding of the complex process of developing identities in societal contexts with their institutionalised normativities (Otto and Ziegler, 2012).

(p.56) The Code of Ethics of Italian social work states that social workers are obliged to challenge discrimination in all its forms. However, social work education and social work practice must go beyond such ‘universal’ formulas in order to recognise and to understand the many faces of discrimination and oppression. ‘Heteronormativity’ is a key concept in the understanding of oppression related to LGBT issues in social work, and must be introduced and handled in Italian social work education.

(p.57) Notes

(1) A similar, but much more articulated review on the coverage of gay and lesbian subject matter in social work journals has been carried out, for example, by Van Voorhis and Wagner (2001).

(2) Databases: Centro Studi Gruppo Abele (http://centrostudi.gruppoabele.org/?q=node/132”org/?q=node/132) and Associazione ESSPER periodici italiani di economia, scienze sociali e storia (www.biblio.liuc.it/scripts/essper/default.asp).

(3) Thompson (2003, p 91) describes ‘trivialization’ as one possible ‘process of discrimination’ in which the relevance of an issue of discrimination is not accepted or made ridiculous. Also, the concentration on a minor aspect of the issue in order to distract from the more important aspects is described through this term.

(4) Care worker C, who had been confronted with bisexuality in her own private surroundings, said: “I think that it was really not right away when she arrived here, that she expressed openly her orientation. That came a little later, and then she was very self-assertive and persistent in her sexual advances and the issue developed quite intensively with lots of constructed romantic dramas, there were constantly dramas, romantic dramas. That was quite intense.”

(5) There is a distinct national children’s social policy in Italy that defines outcomes for children and young people in care. Due to the decentralisation of the welfare system and the autonomy of the province of Bolzano/Bozen, the main policy goals for children and young people in care are defined by the ‘Guidelines for socio-pedagogical care for minors’ on a provincial level (Autonome Provinz Bozen-Südtirol et al, 2013).

(6) Fish (2008) challenges the usual representation of invisibility as an individual choice whether or not to come out. ‘[I]nvisibility is structural in the absence of data and official statistics about the LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] population, the lack of social policies, the dearth of equality targets and monitoring systems, the paucity of published guidelines about sexuality and the lack of practice models and examples. Because improving access to services relies upon a visible, readily identifiable population, LGB people are often overlooked in developing service provision’ (Fish, 2008, p 191).

(p.58)

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Notes:

(1) A similar, but much more articulated review on the coverage of gay and lesbian subject matter in social work journals has been carried out, for example, by Van Voorhis and Wagner (2001).

(2) Databases: Centro Studi Gruppo Abele (http://centrostudi.gruppoabele.org/?q=node/132”org/?q=node/132) and Associazione ESSPER periodici italiani di economia, scienze sociali e storia (www.biblio.liuc.it/scripts/essper/default.asp).

(3) Thompson (2003, p 91) describes ‘trivialization’ as one possible ‘process of discrimination’ in which the relevance of an issue of discrimination is not accepted or made ridiculous. Also, the concentration on a minor aspect of the issue in order to distract from the more important aspects is described through this term.

(4) Care worker C, who had been confronted with bisexuality in her own private surroundings, said: “I think that it was really not right away when she arrived here, that she expressed openly her orientation. That came a little later, and then she was very self-assertive and persistent in her sexual advances and the issue developed quite intensively with lots of constructed romantic dramas, there were constantly dramas, romantic dramas. That was quite intense.”

(5) There is a distinct national children’s social policy in Italy that defines outcomes for children and young people in care. Due to the decentralisation of the welfare system and the autonomy of the province of Bolzano/Bozen, the main policy goals for children and young people in care are defined by the ‘Guidelines for socio-pedagogical care for minors’ on a provincial level (Autonome Provinz Bozen-Südtirol et al, 2013).

(6) Fish (2008) challenges the usual representation of invisibility as an individual choice whether or not to come out. ‘[I]nvisibility is structural in the absence of data and official statistics about the LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] population, the lack of social policies, the dearth of equality targets and monitoring systems, the paucity of published guidelines about sexuality and the lack of practice models and examples. Because improving access to services relies upon a visible, readily identifiable population, LGB people are often overlooked in developing service provision’ (Fish, 2008, p 191).