Political change

Mexico’s first trans lawmakers seek political change

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Mexico City (AFP)

Teenager, Salma Luevano has already been imprisoned for dressing as a woman. Three decades later, she is one of Mexico’s first two transgender members newly elected to Congress.

Together, they hope to bring about political change and fight for the rights of an LGBT community that has faced years of discrimination and violence.

Luevano was walking with friends at a mall in the conservative central town of Aguascalientes when he was 17 when they heard a police siren.

Suddenly, they were surrounded by police who took them away and accused them of acts of indecency, she told AFP.

Luevano spent 36 hours locked up, an experience she remembers bitterly but which marked the beginning of her activism in favor of respect for sexual diversity.

It was first a sit-in in front of the town hall to protest against the arrests.

Then come legal battles over gender identity and, more recently, to force political parties to include members of the LGBT community on their candidate lists in the June 6 parliamentary elections.

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This breakthrough led to Luevano and another transgender candidate, Maria Clemente Garcia, being elected lawmakers in the lower house of the ruling Morena party.

“This is a big message for our community, which for decades has been discriminated against so much,” said Luevano, a 52-year-old human rights defender, stylist and lawyer in training.

– ‘Historical’ moment –

Despite having a degree in business administration, discrimination made it difficult for Garcia to build a successful career, she said.

Until recently, the leftist activist made a living as a taxi driver in Mexico City.

“It is historic that the most vulnerable sector of the gender-diverse population – trans women – is part of the country’s decision-making,” said the 36-year-old.

The life expectancy of transgender people in Mexico is 35 years because of the violence they face, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, compared to 77 years for the general population.

Mexico is the second deadliest country for transgender people after Brazil, according to advocacy groups Letra S and Transgender Europe.

In 2020, 79 members of Mexico’s LGBTI + community were reportedly murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including 43 trans women, according to Letra S.

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The figure was even higher the year before before the pandemic resulted in lockdown restrictions.

Garcia said she aimed to amend the article in the constitution banning discrimination based on sexual preferences to refer instead to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

It will also promote the creation of the first comprehensive clinic for trans people in the capital.

“We are not the same as gays or lesbians. We do not live the same way,” she said.

– Do not fight –

Luevano said she wanted to expand the right to gender identity in order to alleviate the “extreme poverty” that plagues the trans population due to the lack of opportunities.

This right, which allows name and sex to be changed in official documents, is only recognized in 13 of the 32 Mexican states.

More than 100 members of the LGBT community, including around 40 transgender candidates, contested in the legislative and local elections on June 6.

Previously, only one transgender person, Rubi Araujo, had been elected to public office in Mexico, as a city councilor in the central state of Guanajuato in 2016.

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“First gay men, then lesbian women found a space to be represented in Congress,” Letra S director Alejandro Brito said.

“Now that trans people have more visibility, it is only right that this translates into a legislative presence,” added Brito.

But the fight is not over, Garcia said.

“We need efforts to move from one, two or five trans lawmakers to a Congress where people of gender diversity feel represented,” she said.

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