Things That Matter

Mexico’s First Transgender Lawmakers Are Going To Work For Their Country And Community

On June 6, Mexicans went to the polls to cast their votes in the county’s largest election ever. More than 500 congressional seats were up for grabs along with dozens of governorships and thousands of local offices. And there were more LGBTQ candidates – including 40 transgender politicians – on the ballot than ever before.

These numbers though – as positive as they are – don’t tell the whole truth. Discrimination and violence against Mexico’s LGBTQ community is still a nationwide crisis that has left hundreds dead in just the last few years. It’s because of this that the LGBTQ politicians who won their hard-fought races are going to work not only for their country, but also their community.

Mexico’s recent elections had the highest number of LGBTQ candidates in history.

During the June 6 elections, which took place across the country to fill more than 20,000 posts, more than 100 members of the LGBTQ community ran as candidates. It is the largest number of LGBTQ candidates in Mexico’s history, according to Carla Humphrey, an official with the National Electoral Institute.

Although, the likely success of many of these candidates was never certain, activists, analysts, and members from the community say the sheer number of candidates itself was a major success. It signals a departure from a history of hiding sexual identity to pursue a political career.

The surge in LGBTQ participation follows an order from electoral authorities for political parties to include those candidates on their rosters as part of their “affirmative action” efforts, which seek “to generate and open spaces to vulnerable groups,” Humphrey told the AP.

Two transgender candidates won seats at the national level and will take their seat in Congress.

Salma Luévano is one of two transgender federal legislators elected to the lower house in the country’s June 6 election. It wasn’t long ago that Luévano was arrested in rural Mexico for simply publicly identifying herself as transgender. She spent 36 hours locked up, an experience that she remembers with bitterness but which marked the beginning of her activism seeking respect for sexual diversity.

Luévano plans to lead a campaign to get gender equality written into the constitution and gain recognition nationwide for same-sex marriage and gender identity. Luévano, a hair stylist who ran on the ticket of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party, is under no illusions about how hard the task still is.

“The fact that I was able to get here doesn’t mean they’re going to roll out the red carpet for me, and everything is solved,” Luévano said in an interview this week. But nevertheless, Luévano knows the importance of her election.

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

The election of two transgender politicians to the Congreso Nacional is a watershed moment worth celebrating. But on the other hand, 79 people from the LGBTQ community were murdered in 2020, 43 of them transgender, according to the activist group Letra S. That was a decline of about one-third from 2019, something that may be associated with the coronavirus pandemic. But Mexico still holds second place in the world for murders of gay and transgender people between 2008 and 2020, trailing only Brazil, according to a study by Transgender Europe and the academic journal Liminalis.

Meanwhile, same sex marriage is recognized in 20 of Mexico’s 32 states and only 13 have laws recognizing self-identified gender. The recently-seated politicians acknowledge the hard work that lays ahead but they’re determined to create a better Mexico for the country’s most vulnerable communities.

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