Photographer Seeks Legal Action After Italian Far-Right Party Uses Picture in Campaign Against Gender Education

A British photographer is seeking legal action against an Italian far-right party, Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), after they used one of her photographs in a campaign against gender education in schools in the Northern Italian province of Trentino.

The photograph, titled "The Plight of Transgender," features a teenage transgender girl with lipstick and eyeliner smeared across her face and was taken to raise awareness about LGBT issues.

Rose Morelli, a photographer of Italian origin based in Bristol, England, told Newsweek that she took the photograph "to show mutual support for both the LGBT community as a whole as well as a homage to the late Leelah Alcorn," a transgender teenager from Ohio who killed herself last December.

Morelli said: "It is hugely distressing that work intended to convey a message of security, confidence and support can be used in such an ugly, malicious way."

"I am diametrically opposed to every social policy held by Fratelli D'Italia, and would never willingly endorse them on any level," Morelli added. "The fact my work is being used to inflict damage onto the LGBT community in this way is sickening, and I can only hope to rectify any damage caused with the coming case."

Morelli says the legal proceedings currently in the early stages. "We are establishing our aims for the case, but we are definitely seeking action against the party."

Fratelli d'Italia defended itself in a statement to Italian newspaper Next Quotidiano. "The picture appears to be widespread in the network, marked 'to be used freely,'" it said. The party did not immediately respond to requests for further comment from Newsweek.

Alcorn, who identified herself as a woman, was forced to undergo gender conversion therapy by her parents. In a post to Tumblr scheduled to be published after her death, Alcorn wrote that she had taken her own life because of the therapy. Tumblr has since removed the post after Alcorn's parents requested it be taken down.

Fratelli d'Italia are using Morelli's photograph to front a campaign against the teaching of gender identity in primary and secondary schools in Trentino, according to a post on the party's website made by families spokesman Guerrino Soini. He wrote on September 9 that posters featuring the image with the message "they are having it taught the wrong way" will be distributed across 70 schools in the area.

Morelli learned of posters featuring her image after being contacted by Italian gay activist group, Arcigay, who had spotted the photograph being distributed.

The image was also used separately to accompany a petition calling for conversion therapy to be banned in the U.S. The petition gained 120,000 signatures in three months and received a response from White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who posted on behalf of U.S. President, Barack Obama.

"We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth. As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."