A new milestone has been recorded in the Philippines, which is a conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic country, as voters elected their first ever transgender congresswoman.
Geraldine Roman, Liberal Party’s candidate beat her closest rival in the congressional district of Bataan, winning 62% of the unofficial vote count with 99% of precincts reporting.
It’s a significant milestone for the LGBT community in the Philippines, where gays, lesbians and transgenders have been publicly ridiculed by some politicians and public figures. Divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are illegal in the Philippines. There are currently no openly gay politicians at national level.
Forty-nine year old Roman has been living as a woman for the past two decades and has a male partner. Not shy to defend LGBT rights, Roman nonetheless downplayed the notion that she was a novelty candidate while campaigning in her northern Philippines district.
The transgender congresswoman insists her popularity had more to do her policies than her gender. Roman, daughter of political parents, ran for the seat last held by her mother, Herminia Roman, and she vowed to carry on her family’s call to public service. Her mother, who had previously served as the representative for the district where she won, Bataan, campaigned for her.
With her historic victory, the transgender congresswoman said she hoped more LGBT Filipinos would be inspired to join government. She intends to promote equality and eliminate discrimination against LGBT Filipinos as well as representing her constituency.
Ms. Roman said she isn’t in favor of same-sex marriage just yet. Among other things it would require changing the country’s constitution. But she said she favors the proposal of Leni Robredo, who appears to have won the vice presidency, to introduce legislation to provide for civil unions.
Roman underwent sex reassignment surgery, and legally changed her name and gender in the 1990s. In 2001, a law was passed making it impossible for transgender Filipinos to change their name and sex.
Roman studied in Spain, where she met her partner and worked as an editor for EFE, the Spanish news agency, before returning to the Philippines in 2012 to care for her aging parents.