A transgender activist born the only male heir of her feared mob boss father has revealed how he finally accepted her identity.
Daniela Lourdes Falanga, 41, from southern Italy was expected to take over the family business but instead became the first trans woman to be elected president of a chapter of Arcigay, the oldest LGBT organisation in Italy.
She grew up in Torre Annunziata close to Naples in the 1980s and revealed how her father ignored her and her mother would ‘react badly’ to any ‘feminine traits’ she showed.
Her father left them soon after she was born and he was jailed for life in the mid-80s.
She says that he finally accepted her identity recently, after they reconnected for the first time in 25 years.
Though he is serving a life sentence, she says that she does not want to identify him.
Daniela told the Huffington Post that her work as an activist put them back in touch.
They were both invited to an anti-violence event in Naples, she was asked to attend as president of Arcigay Napoli and he as an actor in a play with other prisoners about discrimination and violence.
Daniela says that he ‘finally recognised her as a woman’ and it has helped to mend their relationship.
Their relationship was always strained, with her father having four girls with another woman after leaving Daniela’s mother.
However, both families were still expected gathered at the mob boss’s villa for a Sunday meal.
Here, Daniela’s father made it clear that he expected her to succeed him as mob boss, as she was born his only son.
She says that he used to ignore her otherwise and that, to him, she was an ‘inanimate object’.
Her mother, on the other hand, would ‘terrify her’ growing up.
Daniela often thought about suicide and was bullied at school, with other children labeling her ‘queer’.
However, one night she saw the transgender actress and singer Eva Robin perform on TV.
She said she instantly saw ‘the life I had been denied until then.’
Daniela began going to school in women’s clothes, though her family tried to stop her.
She had gender confirmation surgery in her twenties at the San Camillo hospital in Rome, and legally changed her name, christening herself Daniela Lourdes Falanga, a name inspired by her faith in God, she said.
Now, she also works as a social worker who counsels LGBTQ inmates in the Poggioreale prison in Naples, campaigning on behalf of those with ‘the most marginal experiences’.
Daniela’s partner, Ilario, 24, is a transgender man and the couple would like to have a child.