By Cristina Cabrejas
Naples, Italy, Dec 15 (EFE).- Daniela Lourdes Falanga, the president of Italy’s largest LGBT association, Antinoo Arcigay based in Naples, had a tumultuous childhood as the shy and sensitive first-born son of a high-profile mobster.
Despite her unorthodox upbringing at the heart of the Torre Annunziata criminal organization in Naples, the 45-year-old trans woman has just been appointed to helm the government’s fight against organized crime.
“In the late 1970s, my mother began dating a boy who would later become one of the Camorra bosses,” Falanga says as she starts to tell Efe how the eldest son of one of Southern Italy’s largest mafia groups, once destined to inherit the family’s criminal business, turned the tables when she decided to transition and challenge everything the family represented.
“My father was a Camorra boss, one of the worst that has ever existed, and I lived my childhood and adolescence within this context. Already as a child, I realized that I had a different, feminine sensibility. I recognized myself in that pink, in that stereotype that defined genres at the time, but was born in a patriarchal blue,” she says sitting at the historical headquarters of Arcigay in downtown Naples.
She describes a “terrible” childhood and the enormous pressure to become a “Camorra man.”
“Since I was little I couldn’t choose my games, I couldn’t listen to certain music because it was feminine and so on until adulthood when I was finally able to count on myself and distance myself from everything and everyone,” she continues.
Her estranged mother forced her to spend time with a father who despised her and forced her to live in a world “where violence, force, wealth and reverence of power reigned,” Falanga recalls.
It is a world she never spoke about until a few years ago, when she was told not to speak by a homosexual man at an LGBT meeting because of her background as a member of a family of mobsters.
“It was devastating. My whole world fell apart,” she says.
But shortly after that meeting, the then-mayor of Naples, Luigi di Magistris, convinced her that it was not a story to be ashamed of but an example of resilience that needed to be shared.
Since then she has become an LGBT activist and a vocal critic of Italy’s criminal networks.
Falanga’s father was arrested and handed a life sentence when she was 15.
She did not see him again until four years ago when they both met at the Ferdinando Galiani institute in Naples.
Falange was a speaker at a meeting on gender violence and her father was a member of the Rebibbia prison theater company.
“He sat next to me and asked me: ‘Did you think I hadn’t recognized you? Blood is blood.’ I cried throughout the entire performance,” she adds.
Throughout her life, Falange says she has witnessed “the rowdy culture that further reinforced the macho and violent patriarchal culture that already existed in the social fabric in Italy in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.”
“Mafia culture is even tougher with the LGBT collective because it rejects what they consider weak, that element that must be eliminated, stopped, something to reject as part of the essence of Camorra culture.”
For this reason, Falange continues, “when I go to schools or prisons I talk to them about living within the law, about anti-Camorra, that there is a new culture that can separate us from these limits that the mafias represent and from violence in general.”
The activist is steadfast that she will continue to fight for what she calls the “Camorra innocents”, the individuals caught up in a criminal culture who must be “helped to cross the border or they will never know that another life is possible”. EFE