Who is Vladimir Luxuria?
Born in Foggia, Puglia in 1965, Vladimir – or ‘Vladi’ – Luxuria is an actress, TV personality and writer.
She was also a Communist member of the Italian parliament between 2006 and 2008, making her Europe’s first openly transgender parliamentarian.
Luxuria lives as a female but has not undergone a sex change, so remains legally male.
She has been a fierce crusader for transgender and gay rights, a campaign which landed her in trouble in Sochi earlier this week.
So what did she do wrong?
Well, the Russian authorities do not take too kindly to the lesbian, gay and transgender community, and last year enacted a law banning the promotion of homosexuality among children.
A tide of homophobia has since swept through the country, with many using the high-profile Olympic games as a platform for protest.
One of these people was Luxuria, who on Sunday, dressed in rainbow colours, headed off to a hockey game in Sochi holding a banner saying ‘Gay is OK’. She is also said to have shouted the message during the game.
The tactic irked Russian police, who turfed her out of venue and confiscated her Olympic pass.
Officers are reported to have treated her with respect during her brief detention, although she was told that displaying pro-gay slogans in public was forbidden.
Luxuria arrived back in Italy on Tuesday, after saying on her website that she had been declared “persona non grata” in Russia.
And how did the International Olympics Committee (IOC) react?
The IOC defended her ejection from the Games, saying the Olympic Park and venues were not the place for demonstrations.
Luxuria was once a member of parliament. What challenges did she face as a transgender?
Well, in the lead-up to her election in 2006, she had a fennel (‘finocchio’ in Italian, which also means ‘faggot’) thrown at her.
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the dictator Benito Mussolini, also said it was “better to be a fascist than a faggot”.
And once elected, Elisabetta Gardini, an MP with Forza Italia, called for the creation of a third washroom in parliament after describing Luxuria’s presence in the women’s loos as a “sexual violence”.
Despite the challenges, Luxuria used her time as a politician to campaign for gay rights, calling for civil unions for same-sex couples to be allowed and for Italy to provide asylum to gay people who risk death in their home countries.
She also campaigned for gay couples to have cohabitation rights, and eventually won the support of the left.
What did she do beyond politics?
After losing her seat in the 2008 elections, Luxuria appeared in the reality show ‘L’Isola dei Famosi’, Italy’s equivalent of ‘Survivor’.
She won the show, beating showgirl Belen Rodriguez, and said of her victory that the “Italian public had shown itself to be more forward-looking than our politicians”. She gave half of her €200,000 winnings to a children’s charity.
Luxuria has also written books, acted in films and theatre productions, and is a TV personality.