A tattoo, like marriage, is a clear indication of committment. 2 days ago, Jessica Romani posted a video on YouTube of her father showing her bisexual brother Dylan his new tattoo, which says in Italian, “Born This Way”. This is real, on the ground, activism. The people who speak out against LGBT issues invariably do so as if it is all right to treat such issues as abstract concepts. This video humanises what is all too often dehumanised by bigotry. It shows a father expressing his love for his son; it shows what the ‘issues’ mean to real people.
The video was posted to guest wall on the Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook page. The founder of the group, Kevin O’Neil, saw the video and reposted it. Within a day it had increased from 27 hits to 50,000. Rosie O’Donnell also retweeted the link. This is a compelling confirmation of how groups like Wipeout create a community – which is one of the reasons I chose Kevin for Polari’s list of heroes in LGBT History Month. There were 3,000 likes, and 300 comments on the Sunday morning that it was reposted, and one of the comments was from Jessica Romani. Kevin responded, “I saw this video and just had to post it, with all of the negativity in the world it’s nice to see a positive reaction. Thousands of people watched within the first hour, and the positivity and emotion was overwhelming”.
This is what Jessica had to say about the video:
My brother dealt with extreme bullying from a young boy until high school, he suffered depression and suicidal thoughts because he was always “different”. He knew he was bisexual ever since he can remember but didn’t think or know it was okay because he was so little and was getting made fun of all the time, so he shut himself off pretty much from everything and everyone.
No one wanted to be his friend especially guys because he wasn’t into what a typical teen boy was into, he liked fashion and music and the dramatic arts. He was alone but at the end of the day always had his family, and me being his older sister I helped him through as much of his struggles as I could before knowing really the root of his feelings. He finally came out that he was bisexual his senior year of high school and to be honest none of us were shocked but so thrilled for him that he could finally be honest with the world and really start living his life!
My Dad is a very old school Italian father, and my brother knowing this was most nervous to tell him. He didn’t want to disappoint him, he didn’t want him to not love him as much because of what he was, being his only son, he was scared of shame. But my father and mother accepted him with their whole hearts, as much as they could, with a lot still to learn. This video shows the day my brother came home for spring break from college, a little over a year since he came out, now with his first boyfriend, and my Dad surprised him with a matching tattoo.
The story behind the tattoo is this: my brother for the courage to finally come out and accept who he was because of Lady Gaga. She inspires him every day. He finally got to meet her at a concert, had her write down her signature and the phrase “born this way”. He (Dylan Romani, my brother) got this tattooed on his wrist to remind him everyday that he was born this way and to love himself. It was a huge deal for him. So my Dad (Fred Romani) decided for this birthday to get the same phrase in Italian tattooed on his own wrist for my brother. To show his unconditional love, how proud he is of his son, and how he accepts him no matter what. I captured this moment, and am so happy I did because we as a family hope it can inspire others to be as accepting and loving to people they know or to themselves.
This is an important message of hope, and its story shows the power of a community group like Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook to roll out such a message to thousands.