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Together for 25 years, Stefano and Michel reflect upon their considering themselves a family. They talk about their own parental figures and reflect upon the destination of a material inheritance and cultural heritage, not having children themselves. Being childfree has been partly a choice and partly a consequence as a gay couple.

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STEFANO: «I think a family defines the place in which there are people caring for each other, who decide, at one point, at one point of their relationship to build something, to go ahead despite the inevitable changes that happen over the years in every kind of relationship.
For me, for us, I think our becoming a family is linked to the fact of meeting and living the first period of our story in a foreign country, and we kept living for other 12 years in foreign countries.
Funnily enough, although he is French and I’m Italian, we spoke in English, a foreign language for both of us, even if I could speak French and he could speak some Italian.
Therefore family means living together day after day, and somehow, without even planning it, decide to go ahead with it. We’ve been together for almost 25 years, in December it’ll be 25 years, and honestly, if I think about all these 25 years, it feels they’ve gone by incredibly quickly.»
MICHEL: «For me, instead, it grew over time. As I said, for the first 10 years, Stefano was the boyfriend of that time, just like the 3 or 4 boyfriends I had before him.
For the first ten years, I thought it was temporary, only after ten years I realized that he surely would have been my last boyfriend. Then we bought a house together, we already had a dog, we’ve bought many things together, we’ve created a nest, a place for us that we didn’t have before. From that moment I realised we were a sort of a normal family, a modern family.»
STEFANO: «As far as I am concerned, I regret somehow that in this family there isn’t a child. It would have been nice to share and pass on our story to someone we had chosen, to someone we had decided to bring into the world thanks to all the possibilities that exist. That’s something I regret not doing.
You create other things on yourself… on your daily life, on everything else, on your limits and your possibilities, on the desire to believe in something that has existed for a long time. I must say that the thing that surely holds our relationship together is finding a way to laugh, to be ironic, to lighten up the situation every day.»
MICHEL: «It just takes two people to be a family. If there’s love, the desire to do things together, to create and think about the future. Then, family can get bigger with friends, for example, or pets maybe. Clearly, they’re not children. Or other things. Not just a couple as a family, but feeling that there’s something else around us, even if it’s not a child.
Honestly, I’ve never wanted children. Even with my nephews… I feel I’m not in love with them, or that I miss them or that I want to see them often. I’ve never had the desire to have children. But I realise now that I’ve just turned 53 and it’s been like 2, 3 years that I’ve started to think about children, but I think it’s too late.
And it was never the right moment for us because we’ve always changed cities and jobs, so it has never been… It could have happened, but it was never the right time to adopt a baby, for example. I know Stefano would have liked to. He likes babies…»
STEFANO: «More than babies, I like children – Yes, children.»
MICHEL: «Yes, children.»
STEFANO: «Honestly, it wasn’t really feasible, and somehow it still isn’t, because in Italy you can’t deliberately adopt children. We’re also surrounded by couples, at least 5 or 6 straight couples that haven’t, either by choice or because it didn’t happen, any children.»
MICHEL: «One day someone told me, and I think it’s true, that for two straight people having a baby can be more a kind of duty call, or like my friend says, because they came back drunk from the club. Whereas for two gay people it takes so much to be able to have a child, that it will be a choice taken after a great pondering.»
STEFANO: «Mainly, I think … that there is this thorny point, which I don’t understand why it always creates huge issues. It’s about children who are abandoned and live in orphanages, who live in miserable conditions. Why can’t we facilitate adoption for everyone, both for single parents or for gay couples. Once it’s established there are the psychological and material requirements for the adoption, I think it’s… awful not allowing anyone to adopt a baby and guarantee to all the kids who don’t have…»
MICHEL: «a family…»
STEFANO: «A family, dignity, decency, future, and love…»
STEFANO: «I came from a simple family. My mom’s parents were farmers who for some time were wealthy but they ended up having nothing. My dad was a workman, he had a lot of interests, but he had some limits because of his social background. They really loved each other but at the expense of us children, I have a sister. A harsh mother, very cold, like those women with great feelings but hidden inside of them, who decided they can never show any feeling, and who can never be loving. Clearly, they assumed their children, in turn, would have married and would have had children.
I must say that, beyond their sorrow, which was not a topic of discussion, they have never interfered with my being gay. At one point, I’ve always known I was gay, I started to live it as an extremely normal condition.
I went to live on my own, I created my own life and they’ve always been extremely respectful towards my partners.
They’ve never hampered or criticized what for them was a choice rather than a condition. That said, I think they stopped having any expectations. I don’t think that back then, because we’re talking about mid, late ‘70s, they could imagine that one day two men could have had kids in different ways. It just stayed there as a thought, not to be taken into consideration: I would have never been a father. At least for them.»
MICHEL: «I come from a normal family, nothing special. My mom worked as well as my dad, and I’ve two older sisters. I was the youngest, the last one of the family, I was always spoiled. I’ve never felt pressured to understand whether I wanted kids or not, they’ve never said anything about my sexuality, my diversity. I grew up in peace and I’ve always felt free to do what I wanted, without any judgments.»
STEFANO: « Even his sister, who’s 2 years older than him, is a childfree woman.»
MICHEL: «She doesn’t have children, she never wanted them, and never changed her mind, up to today, at 55. She’s two years older than me. Now I could, I would like, it would be nice, but I think it’s too late … I’m sure it’s too late. My sister, for example, has never wanted kids, and she never changed her mind. My other sister had 3 children, but she’s a half generation before mine. She’s 11 years older than me. It was a different time. We are 11 years apart, she’s more like an aunt, a mom, rather than a sister, with completely different ideas. These 10 years, from the ‘60s to the ‘70s, are a significant gap, with lots of changes.»
STEFANO: «For a certain period of time, my parents, before my mother got sick, both worked.»
MICHEL: «My father instead took great care of me.
We played sports together, we went to the beach, we swam together, he threw me in the water. We did a lot of activities, when he had the time.»
STEFANO: «I had an absent father who, for me, was the first one to feel I was different, and he distanced himself a little bit. I mean we’re talking about a generation in which dads were barely present, but that’s something straight people experience too. We didn’t share the typical male interests: firstly soccer, but also all the things related to that, we’ve never had a good relationship. For the rest, we are a very normal family.»
MICHEL: «I haven’t spent much time with my parents because my dad died when I was 20, I was pretty much a child, and my mom when I was 24. I see around me people my age who still have their dad or mom or both of their parents. It’s a different kind of story with different experiences. I haven’t spent much time with them. 20 years are not that much.»
STEFANO: «I have two nephews whom I really love, we have a strong bond, but I notice we have completely different interests. So, I always think, “Who will inherit my collection of 5000 books?”»
MICHEL: «- A hospital or a retirement home. – Or a donation»
STEFANO: «- or to the pulping mill, as even with our friends’ kids there isn’t much of a fertile ground either. If there will be a physical inheritances, I’m sure nobody will reject it and will go to our nephews, to my two nephews and his two nieces. A part of me in the world…»
MICHEL: «I think we all leave…»
STEFANO: «The short book I’ve published, the stories I’ve published that apparently are all kept in the big Florence’s library, it’s a small part of me in the world. I don’t know who will ever read them, but it’s a little part of me in the world. Then, as I said, when you don’t have children it’s not so easy to create a cultural heritage unless you’re… If I were a teacher, it would have been easier, But for the job I do … I wouldn’t say so.»
MICHEL: «Maybe we’ll leave something to our friends too, a part of our life we’ve lived together, the ideas we had.»
STEFANO: «Of course. But since our friends are about the same age as us, there’s the risk some of them could die before us. So, I don’t know.»
MICHEL: «We all leave something of our life on this earth, anyway. We all leave something. With respect to leaving a cultural heritage, I don’t think I’ll leave something cultural. The only thing I can think of, because I’ve been told several times, is that I have very strong opinions. I think my strong opinions might leave a trace behind me. And the second thing is about Stefano’s books at home, maybe not 5000, but 3500 for sure. I don’t read books, I read articles. I always read, but not books. I always complain about his books at home because their number keeps growing and growing. I’ve always said to myself and asked him: “The day you won’t be here anymore, if you die before me, what should I do with your books?” He said: “You can either burn or throw them away.” Instead I think that I’ll invite his friends over to choose some of his books. But I’ll keep the others for myself as a cultural heritage, as something that once belonged to him.»
STEFANO: «If my nephews will inherit my books, even if they don’t read that much, I hope they’ll use them in a good way, if not for themselves, at least for the community.»
MICHEL: «I think his nephews would like some money to buy an iPad or a Kindle, not books for sure.»
STEFANO: «And then his belongings will be surely passed on to someone.»
MICHEL: «I’ll leave more material things rather than cultural ones. I hope the artistic and creative things I do will go in different houses.»
MICHEL: «Not without children, but those… It’s awful. Those who didn’t get married and don’t have children are called vieilles filles. They’re old girls which it’s really awful. When someone says: “That’s a vieille fille’’- because no one wanted her.»
STEFANO: «Probably nobody uses it anymore nowadays.»
MICHEL: «Yes, it’s still used for sure. But it’s really awful, it’s like saying they didn’t make it.»
STEFANO: «As in Italian. No one says Miss anymore – if not in some remote village…»
MICHEL: «Miss means vieille fille?»
STEFANO: «Yes, it is a woman who’s not married.»
MICHEL: «If you ask someone to draw a vieille fille, they will draw a pretty ugly girl.»

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