'Improper' use of transgender photo by Italian political party

image copyrightRose Morelli
image captionRose Morelli took the photo of her friend Alex to raise awareness of transgender issues

A student from Bristol is taking legal action after a picture of her friend was "misrepresented" by an Italian political party campaigning against transgender education in schools.

Rose Morelli, 17, said it was "hugely distressing" to see the photo of Alex Elliot on the leaflet by the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia.

Gay rights activist group Arcigay alerted her after she posted it online.

Fratelli d'Italia tweeted an apology for its "improper" use of the photo.

Ms Morelli took the photo as part of an art project. She and Alex Elliot chose the image after being moved by the case of US teenager Leelah Alcorn who took her own life in December. Leelah was born a boy but wanted to live her life as a girl.

She is now taking legal action after her lawyer said Alex's image had been "misrepresented" and may have breached copyright issues.

Mr Elliot, 17, said: "After the tragedy of Leelah Alcorn we wanted to get out the message, 'that can't happen again', and that what happened, was in my opinion, so horribly grotesquely moving."

image copyrightCourtesy of Abigail Jones
image captionLeelah Alcorn killed herself after years of struggling with her strict Christian parents' refusal to acknowledge her true identity as a female
image captionRose Morelli's photo was used in a leaflet campaigning against gender education in Italian schools
image copyrightBBC
image captionRose Morelli took the photo as part of an arts project

Ms Morelli said: "It struck me as hugely ironic at first but after I got over that initial sense of irony, it was hugely distressing.

"The last thing we ever wanted to do was inflict harm on the members of the LGBT community.

"To find out it was being used against them in such a malicious way was horrible."

Italian law does not currently legislate against crimes motivated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.

On its website, the Trentino branch of the Italian gay rights group, Arcigay, described Fratelli d'Italia's use of Ms Morelli's photo as "an insult".

Ms Morelli's Italian lawyer, Alexander Schuster, said he planned to bring a civil action against Fratelli d'Italia and claim for damages.

In a message on Twitter, Fratelli d'Italia said the use of the photo had been "improper".

It said: "We did not want to offend the memory of Leelah."

However, the party maintained that "it is right to campaign against gender teaching in school".

Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) is currently opposing a civil partnership bill being debated by the Italian parliament. It is also known for its anti-immigration stance.

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