The Philippines Elects Its First Out Trans Congressperson
Geraldine Roman is ready to serve her country
It is looking very, very likely that Filipino citizens are about to vote their first out trans person into public office.
As the polls closed on Monday evening (local time), Geraldine Roman had a commanding lead over her opponent, Danny Malana, to become the lower house representative for the first district of the Bataan province, which is located north of Manila.
This is great news generally for the global trans community, and specifically for LGBT rights in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. There are currently no openly gay politicians in the country and divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion are all illegal. The most famous person to run for Filipino public office in recent history is the boxer Manny Pacquiao, who was forced to apologize earlier this year for saying people who “mate” with their same gender are “worse than animals.” In other words: It’s a conservative place.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]If Jesus Christ was alive today, he would not approve of discrimination. I firmly believe that.[/quote]
But Roman comes from politically powerful family that has long been supportive of her. Her mother and father have both held office in the Philippines, and she recently said in an interview with AFP News that her dad always told her to be confident despite being teased heavily in school. And she says her life “has not been a secret" to those in her hometown. “I grew up here. People know me. (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 is a member of the sitting Filipino president’s Liberal Party, and has run on a progressive platform. She hopes to overturn current laws that prevent trans people from legally changing their name and sex on official documents, and to back an anti-discrimination bill that would legally enforce equal treatment of LGBT citizens in schools, hotels and the workplace.
Her family also has a long history of philanthropy, and Roman says she will continue to provide the scholarships and medical assistance they have subsidized for decades, in addition to pledging an expansion of her home province’s road system and modern medical equipment for public hospitals. The seat Roman is expected to fill was previously held by her mother, who stepped down at the end of last year to advocate for her daughter’s campaign.
After growing up in the Philippines, Roman spent several years in Spain learning a handful of new languages and serving as a senior editor at the Spanish News Agency. She returned home in 2012 to care for her ailing father, and is now poised to build on the political legacy of both her parents. “That somebody of my condition is going to enter Congress for the first time is a statement that even transgender people can serve our country and should not be discriminated against," Roman told AFP News. “If Jesus Christ was alive today, he would not approve of discrimination. I firmly believe that."
And considering Roman’s country is about to elect an unholy combination of Donald Trump and John McClane to be president—his campaign greatest hits include rape jokes, sexual bragadoccio and issuing warnings like this to drug dealers, “I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots”—the Filipino people are going to need as many people as possible in lawmaking chairs to provide a more balanced perspective on local issues.