The Italian Almanac

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Vladimir Luxuria

Luxuria Banned

Italy's first transgender MP cried foul after being barred from acting as witness at a cousin's wedding. "It's an outrage," said Vladimir Luxuria, who is also the first transgender MP in Europe. "This just goes to show how out of touch the Church is with the wider Catholic community, which is increasingly open and tolerant," said the 42-year-old former drag queen.

Luxuria, who was born Wladimiro Guadagno, considers herself neither male nor female but prefers to be referred to as 'she'. The bishop's office in the southern Italian city of Foggia confirmed Luxuria had been banned but did not explain its move. Luxuria said she didn't think the ban was "legitimate" because wedding-witness rules made no mention of people's gender. In Italy, witnesses perform the duties of best man or maid of honour while also signing the wedding certificate.

Luxuria, a Communist MP in Premier Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition, said she had had "no problem" about her cousin opting for a Church wedding and would have expected "similar tolerance" from the local bishop. The MP, who hit headlines last year when a political rival tried to get her banned from the women's toilets in parliament, added that she was "just glad I'm in a position to talk about this. There are many people, much less prominent than me, who are subjected to such humiliations daily without being able to do anything about it".

The Italian gay community rallied to Luxuria's side. Luxuria's election in April 2006 was seen as a breakthrough for gay rights' campaigners. Known for her intelligence and wit, supporters looked to her to help overcome perceived prejudice in traditionally Catholic Italy and boost their battle for the rights of same-sex couples. Luxuria, whose party is the third-largest in Prodi's governing coalition, has vowed to campaign for the legal recognition of such unions.