Valentina Petrillo: why she marked the history of sports and more

TO where are we in accepting the ‘different’? How much do we know about specific rules that affect a person’s life? After watching the documentary 5 nanomoles – a trans woman’s Olympic dreamdirected by Elisa Mereghetti and Marco Mensa, premiered on Saturday, June 17 in its context Biografilm Festival 2023 – Special Events Department, we wanted to chat with the protagonist of this story, Valentina Petrillo.

Realizing that Valentina Petrillo’s story was a story worthy of a film and one worth telling, it was Christian Leonardo Crystalsits founder Trans APS Group (who co-created the documentary) and spokesperson for trans policies for the Arcigay National SecretariatAnd Milena Bargiacchi.

Valentina told us: “I introduced myself at a Bologna Trans Group socialization meeting where I stated that I was a Paralympic track and field champion. By that point I had won 12 Italian titles, but I wasn’t feeling happy. I was ready to leave this world because I didn’t feel like I fit in and I was asking them for help. We went through a documentation process finding out that it was possible for me to compete as a woman thanks to the guidelines introduced by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the rest is in the film.” And there would already be a sequel about what happened after filming ended.

What does the film represent to you? 5 nanomoles?
It was as if I had used cinema to metabolize everything and, at the same time, to document something historical. We didn’t know how it would end because in 2018 there was nothing, beyond the IOC guidelines, which had to be put into practice. No one knew what would happen to an athlete of this level taking hormone therapy, my coach and I noticed that we needed to change the training. In the last race with the men I had already started hormone therapy and after 3 months I lost 12 seconds over 18 meters.

Valentina Petrillo at the Biografilm Festival
Valentina Petrillo at the Biografilm Festival

How tiring was it to fight this battle?
Valentina has finished her journey (intended at the recognition level for the State, eff). In 2017, Valentina won, she couldn’t stay where she was anymore, she wanted to emerge. I had dribbled it by then.

In life you don’t choose to be transgender, you choose where you suffer

It happened to me when I was 43. maybe eye disease (Stargardt disease. When he had not yet turned 14, he made his debut, mt) I also rescheduled my whole life because I couldn’t fulfill many dreams I had, for example I was passionate about cars and dreamed of getting a driver’s license but I never could. There was something ‘more important’ to deal with at the time… no one knew about this disease, I traveled the world with my parents so that someone could give us some answers. They didn’t give us any and it wasn’t until 2002 that it was identified at the genetic level. Over time I understood myself because I could no longer live any other way and so in 2018 I started the legal journey. At the time I was married to a woman, we did not want to divorce, but in order to be recognized as Valentina I was “forced” to do so. Our story ended after that. Today I have the corrected documents, I went through a legal process that led to my recognition as a woman.

Italian law provides for gender transition, but it is taken after a lawsuit to be brought against the state in which the correction of my personal data is requested

I had to prove that I have an illness (very bad term) by submitting a psychiatric report. Act 180 of 1982 was groundbreaking then, but not anymore. The World Health Organization removed us from being defined as mentally ill just a few years ago.

The documentary shows how important the relationship with your father is
Dad was the first in the family (her mother was no longer there when she began the transition, ed) to call me Valentina. A man dad who accepts his transgender son and who supports you… I’m already ready. He tells me: “You are my pride, keep it up”, what more could I want from life? And not all dads are like that.

Do you feel more discriminated against as transgender or visually impaired?
As a transgender. If before I was Fabrizio the visually impaired, now I am Valentina the transsexual. Many people don’t know that I am visually impaired. So I had to fight a double battle… There are still those who believe that a person with a disability means that they are not capable.

Where are we in terms of awareness?
If I’m on the bus everyone always stares at me, it must be because I’m tall, I’m blonde and I have muscles in my legs. In Italy the “phenomenon” of a transgender person is not cleared by customs. We are way behind.

This is a social injustice, how do you manage to live it “peacefully”?
It is a compromise between life and death. Valentina made it, maybe. many, many are not enough and it is the statistics that give us the high number of suicides. At some point the process is so long and complicated, neither the structures nor the trained people are there.

What does diversity mean to you?
Uniqueness. We are all different and therefore unique. Diversity is still viewed negatively, but it shouldn’t be. Specifically, I’ve loaded uniqueness, so I’m more unique than rare (has a strong sense of irony, tff).

I was the first transgender in the history of athletics, but I will probably be the only one. You have to have a lot of courage. My luck is not to see people’s faces

Is there a difference in approach in the various sectors of our country?
I noticed that in Veneto they are more detached. Even though I am of Neapolitan origin, I don’t have many comments, but Naples is the Mediterranean city with the largest number of trans people. Bologna should be more open. Probably in the South we are further behind in terms of mentality.

Jessica Senesi, gender transition and social media activism.  Portrait of a WonderWom


Jessica Senesi, gender transition and social media activism. Portrait of a WonderWom

Do you think your experience will open doors for others?
When I’m not here anymore maybe so. I’m not an LGBTQIA+ activist, I don’t fly anyone’s flag. This is my story, I think it can be helpful because there are many people who are suffering. I never would have thought that one day my dream would come true when I saw Mennea winning the Olympics and therefore wearing the blue jersey and doing it as a woman. World Athletics kicked me out of the sport. We had a window of 3 years and 4 months where there was an opportunity to compete with trans women. it is now blocked. A law had been created especially for me. Now, politically, it is inconvenient to let Valentina compete in the able-bodied world. I can do it in the Paralympics.

What are you afraid of?
I’m not afraid of myself or my son or my role as a parent, but the people who will surround my son who could influence or bully him about a trans dad. The new generation has a different speed than mine. Unfortunately, we were cut off with Zan DDL not taking effect. but I am very confident about the future. I hope my son will be proud of me through sports achievements.

Next sporting and human goals?
Secure your place for the 17th edition of the Paralympic Summer Games (from 28/08 to 8/09 2024) in Paris. Something that doesn’t guarantee you’ll go, earn a spot for the Italian national team, but one step at a time. This would make me plan the year more calmly. From a human point of view I would like to have a little more peace and hope to be able to spend more time with my son, who is punished by the frequent fights, I often take him with me. In the meantime I would also like to find a life partner.

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