Andrea Di Giovanni: The queer musician who refuses to fit on society's boxes

“Sharing your truth with the world is a powerful gift and absolute privilege”, says queer singer and songwriter Andrea Di Giovanni.

Growing up in Italy, Andrea spent much of his youth struggling with his sexuality and identity. Coming from a strict Italian background, there was no shortage of oppressive behaviour, both from wider society and, sadly, within his own family. After bullying left him withdrawn and shy, he turned to music as a means of solace and to express his feelings. He says:

I didn’t have someone I could openly talk to. I felt very different from other kids in the school, I had quite feminine manners and I was very shy. I was never comfortable or felt safe enough to talk about my sexuality.

At eight years old, Andrea started to use music to escape his cruel surroundings. Inspired by his musical idols, he began to develop his craft, taking singing lessons and experimenting with challenging conventional gender norms. Channelling androgyny while experimenting with expressions of femininity in a society still dominated by binary representations of gender, Andrea views his music as a form of activism.

Sharing your truth with the world is a powerful gift and absolute privilege. In the past few months I received so many positive messages on social media from young LGBT+ people. They resonate with my desire to break the rules and push the boundaries and preconceptions of masculinity and sexuality in general.

They really got me thinking. It's our duty, our responsibility as artists to tell nothing but the truth.

Music connects people, it helps you discover and learn new things about the community you live in. It also provides a platform for voices that must be heard.  

Growing up in Italy has meant that Andrea’s relationship with religion is complex and often fractious. He views religion, or more precisely a certain interpretation of Christianity, as one of the main barriers stopping LGBT+ people in Italy from feeling able to be themselves.

Religious morals tend to be validated by society and therefore accepted as universal. Homophobia was perceived as almost righteous.

I support the concept of faith. However, when these believes are exaggerated, misinterpreted and used as an excuse for violence, bloodshed and death, then no ma'am!

At 17 he decided to take a step away from Christianity, moving to London the following year to enrol at the British Institute of Modern Music. There he began experimenting with fashion, channelling the creativity of idols such as Alexander McQueen into his aesthetic. First and foremost, he views his music as a way of expressing himself unapologetically and seizing control of his own destiny.

I feel extremely powerful and in control when I’m performing. I use it as a medium to recreate and portray my deepest emotions to the audience. I also find it very therapeutic.

I will always be true to myself and be real about it. I know it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea but I'm fine with that!

Having come a long way from the little confused boy in Italy who didn’t quite fit in, Andrea wishes he’d been told that his uniqueness is his greatest strength.

I'd say to little Andrea that it's ok to be different. It's ok to be feminine. It's ok to be gay. You will go through tough times, people will try to shut you up, put you down, shame you because of who you are, your mannerisms, your passions. 

I want you to know that these will become your biggest strengths one day. They will be your trademarks. They will define your uniquenesses.

For today’s young non-binary and queer people, Andrea wants them to know that they don’t have to sign up to society’s ridged interpretation of gender. He cites queer artists Travis Alabanza and Jamie Windust as new inspirational discoveries.

Reach out for help within the community. There are a lot of other young non-binary people out there. They are telling their stories, living their truths.

No one has the right to tell you how you should identify yourself. 

Andrea Di Giovanni will perform at Pride in London Trafalgar Square stage on the 7 July at 2pm.

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