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Changes Interviews

Story of a metamorphosis in verse

Born twice. I was born a man, now I am a woman

Interview with Giovanna Cristina Vivinetto


By April 2021April 26th, 2022No Comments
Photo by Lorenzo De Simone

Giovanna, who was born in Sicily and then adopted in Rome, says that she was born twice. As Dacia Maraini wrote in the introduction of Giovanna’s new book “Dolore minimo (Minimal pain)” the author talks about, “her continuous being and not being that body (…) with the tight and fascinating pace of her sorrowful poetry”. She describes her transgender identity as a metamorphosis with different stages, a sort of reverse journey to reach herself.

How was your journey of self-awareness in terms of discovering a new identity?

Giovanna revealed herself alongside poetry and vice versa. Over the years I realised that I became aware of being a certain way only when I began writing in verse. The degree of introspection that writing can give you is something miraculous perhaps, a bright revelation that wouldn’t have come unless I tried to make sense of who I was through writing. Basically it’s as if the pen already knew and the need to write it all down was a way to tell yourself.

What was the most difficult and painful aspect of this important and needed change?

The most difficult part for me has always been to come to terms with myself, having to admit that something will always be lost, like the identity you worked hard to slowly create. The moments of crisis and weakness. The fear, that somehow always figures out a way to sneak back in. Most importantly, having to familiarise yourself with the certainty that the journey won’t ever end: you will have to take drugs for your entire life to avoid spotting on your skin the shadow of what you once were. I’m petrified by the possibility that a small distraction could take me back to that nightmare.

When does the pain subside and become “minimal”?

Whenever you become aware that it belongs to you, just like the shirt you wear, the colour of your hair and the voice in your throat do. Then you realise that you are actually inside that terrible and excruciating pain. A part of you will always be inside that pain. If you accept it, it will subside and become smaller. If you accept it, it will let you go.

What is it like to be transgender in our country today?

Italy does have a legislation that outlines the medical and judicial rights of transgender people, but it is a bit less helpful in terms of looking after other aspects such as social life and discrimination. Perhaps the precarious element here is society, as it’s not ready yet, nor educated, but I still remain hopeful.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote that poetry is the shortest distance between two human beings, “Poetry is a naked woman, a naked man, and the distance between them”. Is there a parallelism between poetry and your biography?

They say that poetic writing should move away from the self and from any form of autobiography. However, I strongly believe that there is no better way to describe the world than by starting with yourself and your own body- the perspective it offers and its position among things.

Can poetry help modify people’s mindset by showing the world from a different point of view?

Yes, it definitively can. Literature has always represented this fundamental civil value that is devoted to educate and teach future societies.

“Dove non siamo stati (Where we have not been)” is your second poetry book. What journey is it about?

It is a journey inside the void, a place we no longer inhabit (or where we haven’t been yet)- bodies, places and stories- in order to understand that, actually, we have always been right there. Poetic language is a channel, a bridge between us and the unseen.

What will your next book be?

I have a few ideas. I think I’d like to try writing prose.

Imparai così dall’imperfezione /
degli alberi nel farmi ramo sottile /
e spigoloso per tendere / obliquamente /
alla verità della luce.

Capivi, madre, l’ordine nascosto /
delle cose – così quando ai miei otto /
anni sussurravi «figlia mia», /
io ti rinnegavo tante volte /
quante erano le foglie che svolavi. /
«Siamo foglie d’autunno, figlia mia» /
era il tuo unico, dolce monito.

Solo ora comprendo, / a ventidue anni
e un nuovo nome, / quanto male avrei fatto /
a rinnegare l’antichissima voce /
che mi ha fatto salva la vita.

E forse, figlia mia, sei giunta di notte /
quando le ore non hanno volto, /
né pianto, né ombra di nome /
per mostrarmi che in ogni vita /
c’è un punto esatto che cede / ma anche
un punto, più occulto, / che resiste.

Allora ci fu solo da sbrogliare / gli anni
subìti, mettere a posto / le parole e liberare
all’aperto / quello che a mani giunte
si temeva. / E quel mostro che in tanti anni /
avevo allontanato, fu assai più /
docile quando, abolite le catene, /
lo presi infine per mano.

Da quando il corpo ha cominciato /
a mutare, ogni punto è una parete /
sfondata. Non ci sono più angoli /
inviolati a contenerti.

Tu resti. Così la pelle sconquassa / in marea
e il corpo s’apre / a voragine. Inghiotte tutti
/ in un gorgo verticale d’odio. / Rimaniamo
soli, come allora, / e il peso della pelle
si screzia. / Questo – dici – è il male
necessario / all’accettazione.

Ma le cicatrici restano e neppure /
quelle il corpo dimentica. / È come se la
natura, liberata, / vi ballasse ora adagio
sopra / a ricordarci che mai a niente /
si rinuncia per sempre.