Transgender pol wins reality show
Italy's first transgender MP, Vladimir Luxuria, has won reality television game L'Isola dei Famosi, Italy's celebrity answer to Survivor.
Luxuria, 43, beat Argentine model Belen Rodriguez to the title in a public poll on Monday evening after ten weeks stranded with a gaggle of minor celebrities on a Honduran island.
Around 680,000 people phoned in to vote during the final on state broadcaster RAI's second channel, giving Luxuria the edge over Rodriguez, a former girlfriend of Italy footballer Marco Borriello, by 56% to 44%.
Luxuria described her win as ''a hormonal tempest of happiness''.
''The Italian public has shown itself to be more forward-looking than our politicians, who thought I would turn up in parliament dressed like (former porn-star politician) Cicciolina,'' Luxuria said.
She added that she was proud to have made the ''right decision'' to participate in the programme, ignoring grumbles from critics who felt it would not be proper to see the former MP for the Italian Communists' Party gallivanting around the island in a bikini.
''I listened to my instinct and not to the voices of the critics, as I did when I decided to come out as the trans that I am inside, and when I decided to be a politician,'' she said.
Show host Simona Ventura praised Luxuria's decision to take part as ''very courageous in a country like ours'' and described her win as ''a blade which sinks through the butter of prejudices in Italy''.
''She entered the competition as a transgressive, but she showed that she wasn't one,'' Ventura said.
Gay rights organisation Arcigay hailed Luxuria's win as ''a revolutionary victory''.
''It's proof that diversity is not a problem but a merit, even for the vast television-viewing public,'' said Arcigay president Fabrizio Marrazzo.
''If there is anyone who doubts that Italy is a country where anything is possible and is unsure of Italians' desire for rights and freedom - well, they got their answer yesterday,'' he said.
Italian Communists' Party leader Paolo Ferrero also congratulated Luxuria and said he would welcome her return to politics, even offering to support her as a candidate in the European elections next year.
But Luxuria, who lost her seat in April's election when Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition swept to victory, said she had no plans to re-enter politics.
She said half of her 200,000-euro prize money, which programme rules say must be donated to charity, would go to UNICEF.
''I know that I won't have children and I want to help disadvantaged children in my own way,'' she said.
Luxuria, who was born Wladimiro Guadagno, considers herself neither male nor female but prefers to be referred to as 'she'.
The former MP hit headlines in 2006 when a political rival tried to get her banned from the women's toilets in parliament.
The toilet storm erupted when Elisabetta Gardini, then spokeswoman for Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, challenged Luxuria's right to use the House's female toilets.
Gardini, a former showgirl, said she felt ''raped'' after encountering Luxuria in the restrooms and brought the issue up with House whips.
Luxuria told Grazia magazine that ''I'd been using the female loos for six months and nobody protested... They're cleaner than the male ones and I think there would be more problems if I used the men's''.