Call me by my name: Rome school backs transgender students

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Matteo looks at himself in the mirror during an interview in is house in Rome, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Matteo Coccimiglio is an 18-year-old student who identifies as a man and is in the process of changing his legal gender from female to male. The Ripetta school of art in Rome - where he studies - recently joined a handful of high schools in Italy that give transgender students the right to be known by a name other than the one they were given at birth. The initiative is meant to create an environment where transgender students feel secure and reflects a growing awareness in Italy of gender dysphoria among teenagers and children. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME – The Ripetta school of art in Rome recently joined a handful of high schools in Italy that give transgender students the right to be known by a name other than the one they were given at birth.

The initiative seeks to create an environment where transgender students feel secure and reflects a growing awareness in Italy of gender dysphoria among teenagers and children.

“I’m very happy about this,” said Matteo Coccimiglio, an 18-year-old student at the school who was born as a girl but identifies as a man and is in the process of changing his legal gender from female to male.

He hopes the new rules at his school will help other teenagers transitioning their gender to “feel more protected” and “go through a lot less trouble than I went through.”

Matteo said he felt trapped in his body growing up. He said he was bullied and suffered from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. By the time he was 14 he mustered the courage to tell his parents that he wanted to change his gender. While they were supportive, it's been a long journey for the family.

His father, Franco Coccimiglio, said he initially struggled to come to terms with Matteo’s desire to become a man, but now fully supports his transition.

“My only regret is that we could have started earlier,” Coccimiglio said.

Even though surveys show public opinion is increasingly supportive of LGBTQ rights, Italy is still a conservative society, influenced by the Catholic Church's views on sexuality.