Voters in the Philippines have elected the country’s first transgender politician to the nation’s lower house. Geraldine Roman swept to victory, representing her native Bataan province, north of the capital Manila.
Ms Roman, 49, spent several years in Spain working as a journalist before returning to care for her ageing parents.
Her landmark victory has been widely hailed across social media and she welcomed the news in the Catholic nation where religion continues to play a key role. Divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are illegal and the law prevents transgender Filipinos from changing their name and sex.
Speaking to AFP following her victory, the former news editor said: “The politics of bigotry, hatred and discrimination did not triumph. What triumphed was the politics of love, acceptance and respect.”
To date there is no openly gay politician in the Philippines, in a country where there is some degree of machismo, with boxing legend and politician Manny Pacquiao recently stating that homosexuals are “worse than animals.”
Roman added that she is looking forward to engaging in a multitude of issues, hitting back at critics who dismissed her as a politician only interested in one issue. “I’m elated, very, very happy. I’m also excited to work. I realise that the burden is bigger because the stereotype of people about the LGBT is we are frivolous, that we have nothing substantial to say, so I have to prove them wrong,” she said.
Prior to her landslide victory, Roman pledged to mount a challenge to overturn the rules surrounding gender change as well as fighting for equal rights in the workplace, schools and government offices. “[Gender] only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret. It’s nothing bad. I never hurt anyone in the process. I’m so happy so why should I be ashamed?” Roman said during her election campaign.