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Wladimiro Guadagno, alias Vladimir Luxuria, 40, gives an interview in Rome in March 2006. Luxuria, who is set to become Italy's first trans-gender member of parliament, has learned to look his detractors "straight in the eye" and get on with the causes dear to his heart.(AFP/File/Giulio Napolitano) Email Photo Print Photo
Is Italy ready for a communist trans-gender MP?
ROME - Vladimir Luxuria, who is set to become Italy's first trans-gender member of parliament, has learned to look his detractors "straight in the eye" and get on with the causes dear to his heart.
"Obviously I want to fight a lot of things, starting with everything the right has done these last years," the performer and gay rights activist told AFP. "I want to help build a multi-ethnic, multisexual society, and showcase diversity as a value and an opportunity, not a threat."
Born Wladimiro Guadagno, the 40-year-old Luxuria's candidacy in the elections, standing for the Refounded Communist Party (PRC), is sending chills through a broadly conservative nation with no dearth of machismo.
Since the actor and comedian is running in a staunchly communist constituency, his election is beyond doubt.
Luxuria says he is trans-gender rather than transsexual ("I never had the operation"), setting himself up for a steady stream of insults from conservative and populist politicians.
Friday was no exception as UDC Christian Democrat leader Pier Ferdinando Casini directed jibes at Luxuria while calling on voters not to support the centre-left's plans to grant legal status to same-sex unions.
"I don't want this," he shouted at the final campaign rally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition.
"I know I represent something new in the political landscape," Luxuria said in an interview at his home in Rome's eastern Pigneto district. "I was aware that I would baffle people, but I never thought I would be the subject of so many personal insults."
Well turned out in a black pantsuit, mid-length brown hair and meticulous makeup, he said: "I've developed antibodies against insults. I've always been different, and I've been judged by others for years.
"If I get angry I would be playing their game. So I prefer to respond calmly with a smile, looking them straight in the eye," he said.
The insults have reached fever pitch in the run-up to the elections Sunday and Monday.
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the late dictator, said on a television program: "Better to be fascist than queer."
A top official of the populist, xenophobic Northern League party, Roberto Calderoli, for his part, said the parliament would have to provide a "third type of loo".
Barbs have come even from within Luxuria's center-left coalition.
Clemente Mastella of the small Catholic party Udeur called him a "ridiculous version of Cicciolina" -- a porn star who was elected to parliament in 1988.
"My adversaries thought I was going to go around as a drag queen with feathers, wigs and outrageous makeup. But since that's not the case, since I'm not putting on a show and I am dressing normally, they're disconcerted," Luxuria said.
While his top priority will be to defend gay rights and fight for civil unions for homosexuals, the future deputy said he would also champion the economically vulnerable.
"I will not be representing only the gay community. The people I meet every day include women, family men, retired folks who believe in me.
"When I came to Rome 20 years ago from my little village in (southern) Puglia, I felt so sidelined from society because of my peculiarity that I could not imagine that one day I would represent society in parliament," he sighed.
04/08/2006 05:53 GMT