Italy’s new Under-Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities has been criticized for her statements on transgender and gay issues
Italy has chosen a woman who opposes gay marriage and doesn’t respect transgender people who don’t go through full gender confirmation surgery as their new Under-Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities.
Michaela Biancofiore was appointed to the role a few hours ago (3 May).
She is previously best known for her transphobic attitudes, her rejection of same-sex marriage equality and her almost devotion to former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi.
She once refused to embrace a lesbian, the usual friendly greeting in Italy, worrying it would be ‘embarrassing’ though has since changed her stance.
Last January, speaking on Klauscondicio, the YouTube talk show of Klaus Davi, Biancofiore made a series of homophobic statements that excited strong reactions from all sides.
She said: ‘I am of the opinion that gay marriage is absolutely not a priority for Italians.
‘When someone is born with a different nature, they will not have an easy life. I consider such people equal to me. There is not simply heterosexuality, but also a diverse sexuality that is today very commonplace. Still, I emphasize my no to gay marriage.’
On trans issues, she is equally outspoken.
She said: ‘Anyone who goes with a trans has serious problems of sexual identity. I understand trans individuals who undergo surgery, but I see no reason why we should agree to marriage between a “man and a man” and “man who wants to pretend to be a woman and keep his male member”. I would rate them more if they underwent the operation.’
She went on to say: ‘These strange mixtures leave me puzzled: either one perceives oneself to be a man or a woman’ and ‘Italians are by temperament opposed to gay marriage because we remain a profoundly Catholic people. Having said that, I have the greatest respect for all forms of love.’
More recently, she spoke apologetically of an incident some years back when she was approached by a woman known to be lesbian. Instead of embracing, as would be normal between Italian women, Biancofiore preferred to shake hands.
This was, she says, an ‘instinctive reaction’ at the time, ‘for a straight to receive a kiss from a gay could have been embarrassing’. However, she claims, she has now changed her mind.
Since her appointment to this post a few hours ago, politicians have been lining up to criticize the decision.
Alessandro Zan, gay rights activist and a deputy for Sinistra Ecologia Liberta (SEL) was one of the first to go on the offensive this morning.
He said: ‘One has to ask what are the politics of Michaela Biancofiore in respect of gay issues. The new under-secretary for equal opportunities – and one of Berlusconi’s most faithful acolytes – seems to be an unfortunate choice for a minister who will be asked to make choices on gay rights.’
Ivan Scalfarotto of the Democratic Party added: ‘I have to say that the name of Michaela Biancofiore as Under-Secretary for Equal Opportunities has taken me absolutely by surprise and has quickly overtaken my satisfaction at seeing Josefa Idem picked for the corresponding ministerial role.’
Scalfarotto’s comments – as well as the selection of Biancofiore – reflect a complex balancing act currently under way as Italy struggles to put together a government combining elements from the center left and right.
The first, – and key – appointment in this area was Josefa Idem, who picked up the joint responsibilities of sport and equal opportunities. As a member of the Democratic Party, Idem is viewed as being well to the left of Biancofiore.
The latter has long been known for her close relationship with Silvio Berlusconi and is decidedly of the right. Whether, as the more junior appointment to this ministry, her views will hold any sway remains to be seen.