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Michael Cutrupi
00:00 / 16:02

Audio Transcript:

we were never super wealthy growing up


but from the outside it would have

looked like it because, um my dad... everything my dad did he bought stuff

because he couldn't have it and his whole mentality was

'I want to be able to provide things for my family that I never got'


- cause he raised, you know - absolutely

his brothers and sisters


very interesting the levels of internal guilt

that still lay there and the guilt you feel as a child of that as well because

you feel like if you have any criticality about um...any criticality about

that sort of point of view, it's taken as you're not... you don't appreciate what I've given you

- and you're selfish - yeah you're selfish and this is what I gave up for you

it is absolutely confusing especially if you're...if you're really aware of that

position as well I mean I'm aware of my privilege

I'm aware of my privilege as a white man I'm aware of my privilege as a middle-class person

I'm aware of my privilege as a white gay male within know a

bigger queer perspective so um, I'm also aware of English...the privilege of

English being my first language


um and that's...what that kind of

holds in that space

um it is a very... it's a very prickly kind of

place to sit


because I used to get really kind of frustrated in that space and go be looking for an answer to kind of mediate that privilege or kind of come

to a reasoning of how to use that privilege in a really positive way or...

or whatever and that constant desire to to fix something


to problem solve that

injustice I think is a deeply kind of um... certainly was for my family, like

that family orientated thing, like if there's a problem you can fix it like you either

fix it by working harder or you fix it by spending money on it or or doing

something that kind of gets it out of the way, cause problems are there to be

fixed yeah they're not you don't sit in a space and be critically reflective

of it, you fix them because you have the means to do it

I'm not a part...

I'm not very much a part of the the queer male scene in Melbourne or Sydney


in the way I was before um because I really in the same way that I rejected my cultural

sensibilities of being Italian, I really rejected the notion... the accepted notion

of what it meant to be a gay man


because again it felt like an imposition

of masculinity that I was not comfortable with or a sense of having to

prove that through a lens, whether it be a cultural lens, an aesthetic lens

a wealth lens or whatever it may be...umm


I guess in the same way that we view institutionalised religion, when you have an institutionalised community it defines such specific boundaries

around what is acceptable


and I often battle with this mentality of... I call it that the kind of umm

the 'falsity of community' and it's, it's really umm... I don't say it out loud a lot

because people get they get their backs up about it and I understand why


because community saves people's lives...umm I know plenty of gay men, women and

trans people who would be dead if they didn't have a community around them

yeah, absolutely

I guess in the same way that we view institutionalised religion, when

you have an institutionalised community it defines such specific boundaries

around what is acceptable

yes, yep

and I see that within a queer

perspective but I also see that within a migrant perspective or an ethnic perspective

so you know you're a bad Italian, you're a bad gay, you're..

you know, there are qualities and quantifications of what makes you the best


so my dad was born in Italy

okay yeah

he was born in Terra Nova in Calabria


um and he came to Australia when he was four years old

yeah okay

um so he he has very limited memories of what it was to be living in and my mum was born in Australia

but her, her family were from like two villages apart um from my dad's family

in Calabria as well?

in Calabria


a place called Santa Cristina d'Aspromonte

and I really kind of wish that I engaged with my grandparents

a little bit more

meaningfully in how we spoke about our culture from when I was quite young

it was never something that we spoke about but it was also never something that we silenced


like it was just... we didn't really talk about it


um I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that my grandparents had left a place that

was quite difficult, I mean they all came from farming stock, like it was

was hard labor land, everything was... you know had to be made or sourced or

whatever and it was very hot it was very difficult for them so I think there was

a sensibility of leaving that aside... there certainly wasn't any romance about

Italy as a place

yeah okay interesting

there was some romance about a kind of lifestyle that they led

which mostly came from my maternal grandmother and it's mostly only

now when she kind of talks about it and it's about painting a picture of how

life is very different today than what it was then


which is very much about hand milking cows

- yep and making soap - making soap

it was almost like they knew that that transition was gonna be incredibly difficult so they tried to

continue that um community there


so there wasn't any particular notion of

trying to assimilate into the culture right away or trying to hide their ethnicity

yeah okay

but there is definitely that class divide between the

south and north

absolutely yeah

I mean that industrialists

versus the peasant farmers


and they often spoke about that so the

comparisons were always between skips and the wogs or the Northern Italians and

the Southern Italians

or the Calabrese and the non-Calabrese

that's exactly right, the Calabrese and the non-Calabrese

and it was never referred to as class it was always just

like location




which I always found really interesting

I think about the sort of factors that are involved with migration and what that means to be

kind of wrenched from your culture whether you desire that or not because

of the the poverty or the lifestyle or whatever

there's a desperate need to belong somewhere whether that belonging is through

assimilation or through a desperate grasping of your cultural identity

through iconography or through food or nostalgia or whatever it is

and my family... that definitely happened through food


some language but the language was really disparate because it was that sort of um Italian Australian

you know you put a vowel at the end of an English word and it's suddenly Italian

yeah it's this own language in itself


did they also speak dialect?

they also spoke dialect

when I said to my maternal grandmother

'nonna you know I would really love to take you back to Italy, I would really love to see where you came from'

because I've never been down South I've

been to the North and I've been to Venice and Florence but never down below

um below and she was like

'no, no I don't need to go back'

I mean what is memory?

memory is just a recreation of what we want it to be


based on some facts, like memory is nostalgia

she knew that if she had gone back there it would

have changed so dramatically, it wouldn't have been anything like the

village that she grew up in and it's almost like holding that image to

the divine, is that same capacity that she provided me for that recipe that I

- could never get as good as she could, you know? - that you, yeah

like I could never get the pasta as good as she could, she would never have Italy as good as it...she had it in mind


my dad whenever he talks about

things like immigration or refugees or whatever and it's like 'how did you come here?'


you came he on a boat


you were a refugee, why did you come here?

to escape poverty, your family weren't being killed and murdered and

raped and tortured like their families maybe


where's the empathy?

where's the compassion?


and I think there is in in that which is why I talk about the

'falsity of community' because I feel like that um essentialising of the

community eliminates empathy because it wants to

standardise an experience


and in standardising experience you go

'every other person has gone through exactly what I have', therefore we

empathise in a collective way we don't have to empathise with the person next

to us


it's an ideology rather than an actual experience

yes absolutely

and there is no connection to people

it's connection to ideas


and we're all connecting to ideas in isolation

without connecting with each other

it's like the difference between Italians Italians

yeah haha

and immigrant Italians, you know?


and you go to Brunettis and you see it

yeah yeah

like this sort of entitledness know, Italians Italians are very bold and loud and unapologetic

and all of that...

and you just... the... you equate yourself with them even though

you have a completely different lived experience


and that internalised racism that...I mean I speak for myself here


that internalised racism goes, 'oh my god, you are just fucking far too much to deal with'

yeah yeah

you know, the same... I I... you know the comparison is the same in the queer community for me


I can be as effeminate, I can be as butch as I like

at any point in time, there's an equal balance in me, but if somebody is

super effeminate, if there is a super effeminate male, there's something

that that is so jarring in that image of what I expect to be acceptable

a default internalisation goes 'woah, that is too much'


and then I reprocess and I

- go actually no this is just a reaction to... - what is this about?

yeah this is a reaction to my own

internalised homophobia or internalised racism, whatever it may be

um but it's amazing that sort of um...the immediacy of that reaction even when

- you're aware of it and how powerful it is - and how powerful it is, yeah

what can you bring as a migrant?

what can you bring - your religious practices, your language, your food


and that's what they did and they, they didn't want to do anything else

yeah, and we see the same with every other migrated culture to Australia, I mean

that's that is the reason why Australia is such a diverse

landscape in terms of cuisine, in terms of um races, in terms of religious

experiences because we, and through a lot of difficulties, have encouraged that sense of...

communities have built those those kind of ghettos, that they experience

those things together and they have grown into their own experiences


I haven't consciously had friends around me that were a part of a different ethnicity

almost... I kind of... I think because I

did reject my my cultural identity for so long because it felt like it was...

the expectations of what that imposition meant were quite huge


I never tried

to hide my ethnicity but I never made a big deal out of it either and I think

also that's because I was also dealing with the fact, of the fact of being a fat kid


a queer kid


so there are already a couple of

things that I wanted to hide and then gradually once realising that they were

only attributes of the greater idea of myself, I started to embrace

those things where I felt like I could

we built in this mentality as immigrants

that we all must assimilate to the 'Australian way' but we don't know what the 'Australian way' is

and in fact the Australian culture is an ever evolving

culture because we are such a relatively young society, not a country because of our

First Nations people but a cultural society


as a white as a...kind of like contemporary Australia

because we've only had English and American influence in terms of our, our

ruling structures so then we adapt and adopt those qualities but we actually

ignore every other element of our humanity that is made up...that has got

us to this point which has been the work of everybody who's been here


in a situation where I kind of like... I'm given a bit of a you know 2-minute thing

you know 'tell us a little bit about yourself', um so I'll say:

my name's Michael I'm a white cis-gendered gay male um and my family are Italian and I will

refer myself as like Italian Australian but I will also refer to myself as a

queer male and the reason why I do that is because I certainly didn't feel

like there was a representation of people who looked like me growing up


who shared the commonality of my sexuality, who shared the commonality of

my interests but also the diversity of all those things as well and the

conflicts of all those things together


so for me it's about visibility of that

like I would love it if people introduced themselves based on values


rather than identity

that again comes down to giving people labels for things


because they're incredibly helpful but also limiting

Oh totally limiting and and because

we still have such a divisive idea of what it means to live your life as a

migrant, what it means to live your life as a gay person or a queer person or a

trans person or whatever because we always see the labels as the first port

of call rather than the humanity underneath it


the reason why I rejected my cultural identity, in the same way that I rejected my sexuality

as a community at the very beginning, was because I didn't want to be identified

or confined to an idea of what I was supposed to be and that that label was

all of me


whereas I see all of these things as elements of one bigger picture


and they influence me and they help me make decisions and they inform how I

move through the world but they don't define it


cause only my experience on a

day-to-day basis defines it

- yeah and it can change - absolutely

at any point

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