All photos by Maria Giulia Trombini
The difficulty of living as a transgender people in Italy is culturally and politically determined. According to data provided by Rainbow Europe, Italy ranks 35th out of 49 countries in terms of LGBTQ rights. Italy has recently been called on by the European Union to fill the gaps regarding specific laws against homophobic crimes and hate speech. The so-called Zan bill, which would punish discrimination and the incitement to violence against LGBTQ people, was approved by the lower house of Parliament on Nov. 4, but it’s still awaiting approval from the upper house of Parliament because of opposition from the conservative wing of the government.
Can tracking the journey of a person who is becoming himself prompt us to reconsider the web of a country’s culture that makes his path to awareness uncertain and painful? “My Name is Nico” aims to build a portrait of my childhood friend Nico, who is transitioning from female to male. “My Name is Nico” explores gender and the politics around it through an intimate look into the life of Nico. The political insensitivity of Italy toward LGBTQ people has become a reality through the felt experience of Nico’s life. The portrayal of Nico and his life surrounded by friends, family, uncertainty and joy is a challenge to the idea that LGBTQ people should be denied equal rights.
The right to be yourself is inalienable, so I share Nico’s choice to be himself.
The project is made in close collaboration with Nico; he is an active part of it. Nico once said: “In Italy, there’s just one stereotype that people feed on trying to classify something they don’t really know.” So the ultimate aim of the project is to create empathy and, consequently, identification. The images have a concrete and abstract form; I followed Nico in his daily life, and I visually represented what Nico told me about his personal journey of identification as a man. We explored his roots and his need to stick to what Nico calls “my nature.”
Below, see selected photos from the project.
Nico gets dressed. “Shirts are for everyone. They don’t have distinctions, and even though there are shirts for women and shirts for men, no one really cares. I feel really cool when I wear them. I can show my chest but not show my breasts.”
Nico’s house, Bologna, February
Nico considers himself similar to a tree. “I am conservative, attached to what I have, and I need to maintain a coherence, and I need to explore, to risk, so I tend instinctively towards something undefined, unstable and constantly changing, despite a strong need for stability and concreteness.”
The bedroom at Nico’s father’s house, where Nico lived for a while when he was a teenager. The photos represent Nico when he still identified as a woman; they were hung by Nico’s father.
Dinner at Casale, a country house rented by Nico and his theater company, along with other actor friends. Casale was born from the idea of creating a refuge for artists. From left: Matteo, Giulio, Nico, Alice, Francesco, Agostino, Giulia, Niccolò, Flavia and Nicola.
Grizzana Morandi, April
Nico wears his golden tape.
Nico’s house, Bologna, May
Nico, after removing the tape, realizes it has left wounds on his skin. “I didn’t get what was due to me. For me, it’s a very strong and deep feeling. I call it ‘lack.’ I feel it especially when I’m closer to being a boy: I feel the lack I wasn’t born a boy, but I have a female body.”
Nico’s house, Bologna, May
Ludo, Nico’s girlfriend, on the subway. Nico sits next to her.
Nico and his theater company rehearse for a show. From left: Niccolò, Nico, Alice and Flavia.
Moline Theater, Bologna, April
Nico and his father, Alessandro. “He has always been stubborn and sweet,” Alessandro said of his son. “I hope he doesn’t have any regrets, because it’s important that he’s okay. I wish that even if the outside world rejects him, he remains happy with his choice. My hope is that he remains convinced and doesn’t suffer.”
A car in the parking lot where Nico’s mom, Katia, lived when he was a teenager. When Katia lived in the car, Nico left notes on the windshield to talk to her.
Nico and Katia after lunch.
Nico’s house, Bologna, April
Nico during a walk in a public park. “Today, I told myself that, up until now, I felt fragile thinking about going on a journey where I might encounter people against me. It would have made me cry, I would have broken down. Today, I would cry as a feeling of defensiveness to myself, to who I am.”
Giardini Margherita public park, Bologna, January
The view of Naples from the panoramic walkway near Ludo’s house in the Vomero district.
Nico and the theater company discuss stage costumes. From left: Niccolò, Flavia, Alice and Nico.
Bologna, March 2021
Nico and his theater company celebrate winning a grant. From left: Alice, Niccolò, Nico, Claudia.
Casale, Grizzana Morandi, May
Nico recites a monologue related to self-identification. “In this alien body gently creeps sweetness. Genetically different, the awareness of a substantial diversity slowly grows. I totally abandon myself and become myself.”
Casale, Grizzana Morandi, April
An intimate moment of sweetness between Nico and Ludo.
Ludo’s house, Naples, March
Nico during a dinner at Margherita’s place. She is also a member of the LGBTQ community and is one of Nico’s beloved friends. “This is me. This is how I see me.”
Maria Giulia Trombini is a photographer based in Rome.