A transgender opposition candidate in Italy's general election this April is campaigning for improved gay rights.
Vladimir Luxuria sees herself as neither male nor female
Vladimir Luxuria, standing for the Communist Refoundation party, intends to challenge conservatives in her own country and Europe.
Ms Luxuria, who considers herself neither male nor female, told the BBC that having a transgender MP would be an important symbol.
She wants to promote civic unions and press for asylum rights for gay people.
Italy was one of the very few nations in the European Union that did not recognise civil unions, she told the World Today programme.
She called for political asylum for "all the gays who try to get into Italy from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death".
The hardline Communist Refoundation is the third biggest party in the opposition alliance led by Romano Prodi, which has seen disagreements between its factions over the rights of same-sex and unmarried couples.
"We don't want privileges - we want our rights," said Ms Luxuria.
Asked about attitudes towards gay people in Italy, she argued that the views of ordinary people were changing but politicians and the Roman Catholic clergy were "far behind".
Speaking earlier to Reuters news agency, she suggested she would ditch her trademark drag costumes - sequins, feather boas and bouffant wigs - once elected.
"Parliament is not a theatre, it's not a discotheque," she said.
"It wouldn't be useful to provoke [people] in such a stupid way."