As part of the Career/Interests series, on Tuesday, April 13, high school students from La Scuola d’Italia interviewed Cathy La Torre, civil rights attorney, LGBTQ activist, and author of Nessuna causa è persa (“No Cause is Lost”).
Born in Trapani from an American mother and an Italian father, raised in Buffalo until she was five years old, La Torre lives between Rome and Bologna and is a senior partner of the law firm Wildside.
A Bologna council member from 2011 to 2016, in July 2019, La Torre launched the Odiare Ti Costa (“Hating costs you”) campaign to tackle online hate. Along with a group of attorneys, philosophers, PR experts, investigators, and software engineers, they offer support and legal assistance to victims of death threats, defamation, and libel on the internet and social media.
“I am honored to have you here. You are an incredible human being and model for human rights activism for La Scuola d’Italia,” said Dr. Maria Palandra, Head of School.
Joining the Zoom meeting from Italy, La Torre described her academic background and professional career and revealed that she first dreamt of becoming a lawyer and a legislator when she was nine. She recalled her first trial when she assisted a noncitizen woman in getting her sex change recognized in her Italian documents. “Engaging in a multigenerational debate and understanding a different point of view on present times is a great emotion,” said La Torre.
While she described her challenges as a member of the LGBTQ community, La Torre stressed that Italy is one of the worst countries in Western Europe for LGBTQ rights, and there is no same-sex marriage, but only civil partnerships
Students engaged in the conversation with enthusiasm and did not hesitate to ask questions on current topics. La Torre presented her insights on the Disegno di Legge Zan (Zan Act) against homophobia and transphobia, which has languished in the Italian Parliament for months. According to La Torre, the law cannot fight intolerance in society but can deliver the message that hate and discrimination will be prosecuted and punished severely.
“I am amazed how Cathy is a down-to-earth person, and I am grateful that despite her busy schedule, she had the time and eagerness to meet with us. I am also incredibly proud that the GSA we just founded in our Liceo is the first one she has ever heard of in an Italian high school. Respect is a moral obligation for everyone. Talking to her inspired me to do more for the community,” commented Giorgio Valente, one of the four students involved in the interview.
Before the end of the discussion, La Torre shared a few recommendations on interacting with people who deny LGBTQ rights and explained her efforts to reach out to the public opinion and students in schools and colleges even during the COVID-19 pandemic.