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Italian lawmakers
debate restroom rights for transgender member

Italian lawmakers
debate restroom rights for transgender member

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)

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