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Politics A Drag For Luxuria
by Malcolm Thornberry, 365Gay.com European Bureau Chief
February 23, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET
(Rome) She wears Prada shoes but that's about all Italian drag artist Luxuria has in common with Pope Benedict XVI.
Her full name is Vladimir Luxuria and she alternates between saying she is "neither male nor female" and referring to herself as "transgendered". But one thing is certain: she's about to shake up Italian politics.
"I'm going to be the first transgender to get into a parliament in Europe," the 40 year old told the Reuters news agency.
"It's a way to say to people: don't judge me by the way I look, don't judge me by my sexual orientation. Please, judge me by my ideas."
This week Luxuria announced her candidacy for a seat in Italy's parliament, running under the Communist party banner in Rome.
Political analysts say she is practically guaranteed a seat in April's general election. The Communists are part of Romano Prodi's Union left of center coalition which is heavily favored to beat the right of center party of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Luxuria is a popular fixture in Rome's LGBT community. She is a cabaret performer and in 1994 organized the county's first gay pride march.
Same-sex marriage has already become a key issue in the campaign.
Last month thousands of people marched in support of gay marriage and Prodi has pledged that if his party is elected he will bring in legislation to recognize same-sex unions, although he has refused to be pinned down on just how extensive that would be.
Drag Queen Seeks Place In Italy’s Parliament
February 25, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Joanna Wypior - All Headline News Staff Reporter
Milan, Italy (AHN) – Colorful drag queen Vladimir Luxuria says she shares a similarity with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: they both dab on lots of make-up and wear heels to make them look taller.
Luxuria is Italy’s first drag queen to run for parliament. Campaigning for the rights of homosexuals to marry and to legalize prostitution and certain drugs, Luxuria is trying for a win in the upcoming April elections.
“It will be a tough, uphill struggle, but I am not caving in,” Luxuria says.
The candidacy of Luxuria, which means lust in formal Latin, comes almost two decades after porn star Cicciolina entered parliament. The Hungarian-born Ilona Staller made headlines around the world when, before the outbreak of the first Gulf War, she offered to sleep with Saddam Hussein in return for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait.
Born as Vladimiro Guadagno, Luxuria describes herself as neither woman nor man, just someone in search of a husband. She moved to Rome to pursue a career as a night-club singer and actress, and organized Italy’s first gay pride march in 1994.
Prodi's Transvestite Ally Seeks Power, Husband in Italian Race
Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Vladimir Luxuria says she shares something with Silvio Berlusconi: They both dab on lots of make- up and wear heels to make them look taller.
The similarities end there. Luxuria is Italy's first drag queen to run for parliament. She's campaigning for the rights of homosexuals to marry and for legalizing prostitution and some drugs as part of Romano Prodi's Union coalition, which is trying to unseat Prime Minister Berlusconi in April 9 elections.
``It will be a tough, uphill struggle, but I am not caving in,'' Luxuria said in an interview.
Unlike the two-party system in the U.S., Italy's voting structure favors broad coalitions of often-disparate parties, contributing to the fact that it has had more than 60 governments since 1945. This year's candidates also include an anti- globalization activist who pledged to spend more time in jail than parliament, and, in Berlusconi's corner, Benito Mussolini's granddaughter, a defender of Italy's fascist past.
``The Italian system lends itself to all sorts of idiosyncrasies,'' said Robert Leonardi, author of the 2003 book ``Italy: Politics and Policy'' and a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics. ``Also, each coalition is reaching out as the race tightens.''
More than half the 24 polls published since the start of the year show the coalition led by former European Commission President Prodi, 66, ahead of Berlusconi, 69, by less than 5 percentage points.
The candidacy of Luxuria, which means lust in formal Latin, comes almost two decades after porn star Cicciolina entered parliament. The Hungarian-born Ilona Staller made headlines around the world when prior to the outbreak of the first Gulf War, she offered to sleep with Saddam Hussein in return for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.
Luxuria, 40, was born as Vladimiro Guadagno and describes herself as neither woman nor man, just someone in search of a husband. She moved to Rome to pursue a career as a night-club singer and actress and organized Italy's first gay pride march in 1994.
Put forward by the Refounded Communists, the third-largest of the nine parties in Prodi's coalition, Luxuria stands a good chance of getting elected because she's second on the list of candidates after party leader Fausto Bertinotti for the Lazio region, which includes Rome.
Under the country's system of proportional representation, Italians vote for a list of candidates, and the number of winners from each list are based on the proportion of votes won by the party. Allied parties then pool their seats to form a government.
Keeping the Peace
With such disparate partners, heads of government often devote as much time and political capital patching up rifts among allies as making policy. Differences among Berlusconi's partners led to the resignation of two finance ministers and forced him to scale back planned tax cuts that he said were needed to drive growth.
Under Berlusconi, Europe's fourth-biggest economy slumped into recession twice in as many years, and growth last year trailed that of the euro region for a ninth year in 10.
Prodi, a devout Catholic, will have to deal with issues such as gay marriage and easing Italy's restrictive fertility laws with allies ranging from the anti-clerical Radical party to the Catholic party UDEUR. On economic policy, he will need to figure out spending cuts to rein in Italy's budget deficit while dealing with the former communist party that favors increased public spending.
The Union has withdrawn one candidate, Marco Ferrando, a bearded Trotskyite who was dumped after saying Iraqi insurgents were right to fire on Italian soldiers there.
On Iraq, Luxuria calls for a dialogue with Muslim countries and going back to the ``old Islam, where there were poets that sung of homosexual love.''
``I hope we don't find (Osama) Bin Laden or one of his followers'' among the Union candidates, said Roberto Calderoli, a leader of the Northern League, the smallest party in Berlusconi's House of Freedom's bloc.
The Northern League itself formerly favored the north seceding from Italy, and Calderoli resigned as reforms minister Feb. 18 after he appeared on national television wearing a T- shirt of the Danish cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad. The display sparked a riot Feb. 17 in front of the Italian consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where police killed 14 protesters.
Berlusconi has also teamed up with Alessandra Mussolini, who was elected to parliament in 2001 as part the National Alliance and then quit the party after it denounced Italy's fascist past. Her grandfather's 20-year dictatorship ended with Italy's defeat as part of the Nazi axis in World War II. Her new party, Social Alternative, counts among its partners Roberto Fiore, leader of the neo-Nazi New Force party.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Flavia Krause-Jackson in Rome at email@example.com.
Last Updated: February 23, 2006 00:12 EST
The Times February 23, 2006
Fringe elements drag down Italy's Left
From Richard Owen in Rome
DRESSED in a bright yellow jacket with pearl earrings and necklace, it was obvious that Vladimir Luxuria, a 40-year-old drag queen, had toned down his attire at the launch of his election campaign.
Gone were the feather boas, stage make-up and skimpy outfits that he wears as a nightclub entertainer.
But his electoral programme, including gay rights, the legalisation of soft drugs and tolerance of the “visibly different”, was still enough to raise eyebrows and risk alienating middle-ground voters.
Indeed, his candidacy underlines the difficulties that Romano Prodi, the front-runner in Italy’s upcoming elections, faces in holding together a broad and fractious 11-party coalition. Added to the gay rights campaigners are globalisation protesters, former communists, social democrats, Greens, centrist former Christian Democrats and the extreme Left.
To keep this coalition happy, the Centre Left has drafted a 380-page manifesto, prompting gibes that it would take an entire parliamentary term just to read it. The manifesto is an indigestible tome, excrutiatingly detailed in some passages but deliberately vague in others, fudging sensitive issues, such as gay rights.
By many measures, Signor Prodi should be heading for a landslide victory on April 9. Italians are disillusioned with Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, who has embarrassed the country with a string of gaffes and presided over economic decline. He has changed laws to suit his interests or to avoid being tried for corruption.
But Signor Berlusconi remains a master of the media, and during the campaign so far he has dominated television broadcasts — including those of the three commercial channels he owns. Signor Prodi by contrast is seen as lacklustre, with a dry, professorial style. Italians respect him for his integrity, and for enabling Italy to qualify to join the Eurozone when prime minister from 1996 to 1998. They also admire him for his stint as President of the European Commission — which many in Europe regarded as ineffective but which Italians see as a tribute to the country’s international status.
Signor Prodi’s economic programme has won praise, including commitments to cut labour costs, streamline the bloated bureaucracy, cut a budget deficit and restore competitiveness. He has stopped short, however, of tackling entrenched trade union power, a reflection of his reliance on the hard Left.
Signora Luxuria is standing for the Refounded Communists, led by Fausto Bertinotti, a Marxist who will almost certainly veto key economic liberalisation measures if Signor Prodi returns to power. His group commands 6.5 per cent of the vote and, like the other factions, will see its power enhanced by the Berlusconi Government’s restoration of proportional representation.
Even Signor Prodi’s European credentials are a double-edged sword, since many Italians now blame the euro for soaring costs, and Euroscepticism is on the rise.
Despite troubles in his own centre-right coalition, Signor Berlusconi is making a comeback in the polls. The Centre Left’s lead has been cut from six points to four.
STATE OF THE PARTIES
*Chamber of Deputies (Lower House): 630 seats, 316 needed for majority
Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 16:01 GMT
Gay rights enter Italian election - BBC
Vladimir Luxuria sees herself as neither male nor female
A transgender opposition candidate in Italy's general election this April is campaigning for improved gay rights.
Vladimir Luxuria, standing for the Communist Refoundation party, intends to challenge conservatives in her own country and Europe.
Ms Luxuria, who considers herself neither male nor female, told the BBC that having a transgender MP would be an important symbol.
She wants to promote civic unions and press for asylum rights for gay people.
Italy was one of the very few nations in the European Union that did not recognise civil unions, she told the World Today programme.
She called for political asylum for "all the gays who try to get into Italy from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death".
The hardline Communist Refoundation is the third biggest party in the opposition alliance led by Romano Prodi, which has seen disagreements between its factions over the rights of same-sex and unmarried couples.
"We don't want privileges - we want our rights," said Ms Luxuria.
Asked about attitudes towards gay people in Italy, she argued that the views of ordinary people were changing but politicians and the Roman Catholic clergy were "far behind".
Speaking earlier to Reuters news agency, she suggested she would ditch her trademark drag costumes - sequins, feather boas and bouffant wigs - once elected.
"Parliament is not a theatre, it's not a discotheque," she said.
"It wouldn't be useful to provoke [people] in such a stupid way."
Drag queen says she's a serious politician
Italian will be Europe's first 'transgender' member of parliament if elected - Reuters
(Photo) Tony Gentile / Reuters Italian transgender election candidate Vladimir Luxuria, 40, is running for a seat in Italy's parliament.
Updated: 11:30 a.m. ET Feb. 23, 2006
ROME - Vladimir Luxuria will ditch the sequins, feather boas and bouffant wigs when she enters Italy’s parliament. The drag queen says she will be Europe’s first transgender member of parliament. and wants to be seen as a serious politician.
Born Wladimiro Guadagno, the former organizer of Italy’s gay pride parades, considers herself neither male nor female but dresses as a woman and prefers to be referred to as "she."
Luxuria has shot to national fame by running for parliament where she is practically guaranteed a seat at April’s general election by teaming up with the country’s main communist party.
“I’m going to be the first transgender to get into a parliament in Europe,” Luxuria, 40, told Reuters in an interview.
“It’s a way to say to people: don’t judge me by the way I look, don’t judge me by my sexual orientation. Please, judge me by my ideas.”
Reaching out to gay voters, Communist Refoundation has put her very near the top of its party list. With the party likely to get at least 6 percent of the vote, Luxuria’s place as a lawmaker is assured.
But Luxuria, who stars in an upcoming film playing a Neopolitan transvestite who enters politics, is keen not to be considered a novelty candidate along the lines of porn star Ilona ’Cicciolina’ Staller who sat in the assembly in the 1980s and was famous for her impromptu stripteases.
'Parliament is not a theatre'
The drag queen dressed down for a recent news conference, wearing a trouser suit with a orange jacket and said she intended to attend parliament in similarly conservative but feminine clothes rather than her cabaret attire.
“Parliament is not a theatre, it’s not a discotheque. It’s already revolutionary that a transgender gets into parliament. It wouldn’t be useful to provoke in such a stupid way.”
Luxuria’s political stand for gay rights contrasts sharply with Italy’s deep Catholic roots and the hostility to gays shown by many of its politicians.
Members of the government’s Northern League party regularly rile against what they see as the threat posed by “faggots.”
The European Parliament rejected Italy’s choice for European Commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione, a member of the Catholic UDC party, because of his belief that homosexuality was a sin.
Despite attacks from government supporters, Luxuria jokes that she has something in common with image-conscious Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is lampooned in Italy for apparently wearing built-up shoes that make him look taller.
“He wears make-up, like me, maybe a little bit less but he does. He wears heels, so sometimes, at least aesthetically we have more in common than he would think.”
A new view of Italy?
The center-left 'Union' coalition, led by former European Commission President Romano Prodi, has pledged to establish some form of civil union for homosexual couples, although gay groups say the wording is not clear enough.
Luxuria said she will work in parliament to establish full legal recognition of such unions, but stressed that she is not pushing for adoption rights for gays, such as exist in Spain, because “Italian society isn’t ready to accept it.”
While Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, campaigning on traditional family values, hopes that Italians will be put off by the sexually ambiguous Luxuria, the center left hopes her presence will demonstrate a modern, tolerant view of Italy.
Last year an earring-wearing, openly gay man, Nichi Vendola, was voted governor of the southern region of Puglia, delivering victory for Refoundation and humiliation for Berlusconi’s party.
“I think Italians are a bit more mature than many of the politicians who claim to represent them,” said Luxuria.
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