Uruguay’s first out trans senator vows to stand up for LGBT+ rights
Michelle Suarez, Uruguay’s first out trans senator, has vowed to stand up for LGBT+ rights in the country.
Suarez earlier this month became the first transgender senator in Uruguay.
The 34-year-old politician took her seat in the upper chamber of Congress on 10 October.
And in a new interview, Suarez has vowed to stand up for LGBT+ rights.
Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Suarez spoke frankly of the life expectancy of trans people in her country.
She said: “In Uruguay, a citizen has a life expectancy of more than 70 years but trans women have a life expectancy of 35.”
“Trans women sex workers are exposed to many situations of violence .. they face an enormous amount of aggression,” Suarez added.
“All this means to be a woman, to be transgender – together with being poor and a sex worker – affects health and, in general, cuts life expectancy for trans women practically by half.”
And Suarez, a Communist Party representative, earlier this year said she would push for a law which would make it compulsory for one percent of government jobs to be reserved for trans people.
It would also set up a fund to compensate trans people who were persecuted during the country’s military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s.
Trans people would be able to change their legal identities without having to get approval from a judge under the proposed law.
Suarez, who was elected to the country’s legislature in 2014, has broken several barriers in the South American country.
She was Uruguay’s first trans person to graduate from university, and the first to become a lawyer.
In 2013, she was at the forefront of making same-sex marriage legal in the country, helping to draft the bill which eventually became law.
Speaking to the Associated Press, she said: “Uruguay has evolved, but it’s still a discriminatory country.”
Suarez referred to classmates and teachers who had treated her badly after she realised at 15 that she was trans.
“It was a tough time,” she said.
“People who knew me began to harass me.”
Nevertheless, Suarez persisted, and finished school with excellent grades.
When she moved to college though, she still encountered discrimination, as her professor – who ironically specialised in human rights – refused to grade her work because of her gender identity.
Suarez said that despite all of this, she was lucky when compared to other trans Uruguayans.
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“I had my mother — that’s the only difference,” she said.
“My family didn’t kick me out of our house.”
Progress for trans people in the political arena has been limited all over the world, but a handful of pioneers have blazed a path.
Poland elected trans woman Anna Grodzka to be an MP in 2011.
And earlier this year, Japan elected its first trans man into public office.
The country made the landmark step with the election of Tomoya Hosoda as a councillor for the city of Iruma.
Back in 2003, trans woman Aya Kamikawa was made a Tokyo municipal official, becoming the nation’s first openly trans person in public office.