See that aspiring actor there? That was me… Actually, that is me. And I’m not an aspiring actor, nor are the other people in our video. We are just real people who got together to support the ‘It Gets Better’ project. People who happen to work for the same company, Nokia, which is supporting our diversity. If you still don’t know what ‘It Gets Better’ stands for, you are probably a Republican…
That’s how I kicked off my inspiring and touching interview with Pino Bonetti, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at NOKIA, Berlin. Him and I – we are partners in crime – but that is maybe the last reason why this interview happened and why I am showing you this video. Read my chat with Pino below the video and hear his inspiring coming out saga as well as the story around NOKIA’s It Gets Better video:
Pino, does it really get better?
Oh yes, people, it does get so much better. I would say it gets fabulous!
How did your coming out happen in religion-driven Italy?
I’ve always known I am gay, even before knowing what gay means. I’ve never been attracted to girls, seriously. At elementary school I had a crush on a boy. When I first mentioned it to my aunt, I was so proud. She was insistently asking me whether I was into someone in my school and I happily answered with a bright, smiling yes and I explained the details. We talked. Well, she talked to me. She laughed, thinking I wasn’t serious, or just confused. I was supposed to like girls, not boys, she said. I did not understand why, but I definitively didn’t touch the topic anymore.
But the topic was in the air. A huge sword of Damocles ready to hurt me as often as my classmates were calling me faggot. For them I was probably a girl in a boy’s body and they were so cruel to remind me that anytime I was scoring better notes at school or I wasn’t play soccer. And their parents weren’t different. It wasn’t my classmates’ fault if I was mentally and physically bullied. It was mine, because I was a smart ass and, again, I wasn’t playing soccer.
Thinking about it now, I’m like… WTF? Ignorant people… It was a hard time. All the way from primary school to high school. I felt alone, I thought I was the only one on earth. Talking about it with someone was not an option. The society was crystal clear: I was supposed to be ashamed of myself. Full stop.
Sounds like a rough start – how did it get better afterwards?
I’ve got an Internet connection. Suddenly, I wasn’t living in a village of 300 anymore, I was part of a vaster community. But it took me time to actually look for other gays. Only in 1998, when I was at my second year of college and the center of my social life was in Milan, I finally met a guy I was chatting with. Then I came out with friends and with my family. More or less dramatically. For my mom, it was a shock. I actually had to explain her what gay means. At that time the word ‘gay’ was such a taboo in Italy! Oh, well, it is still a taboo. Or it is just connected to so much negativity! You can watch this movie if you want more details.
How did you come up with the idea of the video? Isn’t it a bit late?
Since I first heard of this project I wanted to be part of it to share my story. When I was teenager I would have loved to receive such a simple but powerful message from people like me. Their stories would have helped me understand that I wasn’t alone and that I shouldn’t have been afraid to be who I am. Although the project has been around for a while, I don’t think it is late to contribute. Actually, I believe that the project can only be kept alive if we continuously submit our videos.
What was the process – how did you approach the people and were they afraid to show up?
When I decided to support the ‘It Gets Better’ project I simply asked some colleagues to participate with me. They were all excited! Eventually I also spammed the whole Nokia Berlin site to reach those LGBT colleagues who I didn’t know personally. This project was also useful for all of us to get to know each other and set up a LGBT group.
Are there more videos like that to come from Nokia?
Nokia is a worldwide company and even if this video has been shot in Berlin, we all come from different countries: United States, Spain, United Kingdom, Brazil, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if other Nokians around the world are going to record similar videos. I couldn’t stress enough how important it is that this project gets continuous updates from all of us.