The question of
whether Italy's first transgender lawmaker should be
allowed to use the women's room in parliament has triggered
a full-blown debate among politicians. The controversy
began when a lawmaker found transgendered Vladimir
Luxuria in one of the restrooms in the lower house of
parliament late last week.
''I was traumatized,'' said Elisabetta Gardini,
a former actor and now the spokeswoman for Silvio
Berlusconi's conservative Forza Italia party. ''It was
violence, sexual violence.''
Luxuria wears women's clothes and is a
self-described transgender lawmaker. She has not
undergone sex-reassignment surgery. She was elected as
a Communist party representative in the center-left
coalition that won April elections.
The topic has become the target of political
cartoons and sarcastic comments. But it was also seen
as potentially damaging for an institution whose
credibility has recently come under fire.
''Already this parliament is like a Barnum
circus. It has been ridiculed,'' said Giorgia
Meloni, a member of the right-wing National Alliance
party and deputy speaker of the lower house. ''Let's not
open a debate over where Luxuria [goes to
the restroom].... It doesn't seem very
important,'' she said.
But it was too late. Friday afternoon's incident
was taken up at a meeting of parliamentary whips
originally scheduled to discuss passage of the budget.
It drew comments from high-ranking officials, including the
house speaker, Fausto Bertinotti, who appealed for tolerance.
Bertinotti is a leading member of Luxuria's
party. Some expressed solidarity with Luxuria, saying
her dignity had been attacked, and condemned Gardini's
comment as ''homophobic.'' Others said Gardini was
right to raise the problem, and a special restroom should be
designated for her use.
''Let's do one single space for everybody, with
no distinctions of gender,'' was another proposal
floated by centrist leader Bruno Tabacci.
Luxuria was surprised that the topic caused such
a fuss, and she took Gardini to task. ''I could
not have imagined so much screaming for something like
this,'' she was quoted as saying by the Corriere della
Sera newspaper. ''Evidently, you're born a woman,
but you become a lady.'' (Alessandra Rizzo, AP)