Ecuador could receive its first transgender lawmaker this month.
Diane Rodriguez, a psychology student and trans rights activist in her home town of Guayaquil, is vying for a Congressional seat in the leftist Ruptura 25 party during the presidential and parliamentary elections held on 17 February (Sunday).
If elected, it is believed Rodriguez would be the first transgender individual to hold public office in Ecuador, where 85% of the population identifies as Catholic. It is thought she would also be the first openly transgender lawmaker in South America.
Valentina Verbal, a transgender candidate in Chile’s upcoming November elections, could also potentially be South America’s first transgender legislator if Rodriguez is not elected.
‘My focus will be on all minorities, vulnerable ethnic groups and feminist causes,’ Rodriguez said in an interview with AFP.
She added that she would also push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ecuador – an issue President Rafael Correa has spoken out against. Currently there is one openly lesbian minister in his cabinet.
Guillermo Lasso, Correa’s main rival, has also spoken out against gay marriage, but said he supports civil unions between same-sex couples who wish to share their property.
In 1998 Ecuador’s constitution was ratified to punish all forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation. Rodriguez has pledged to push these protections further for the LGBT community.
As director of X Silhouette Association, a trans rights group in Guayaquil, Rodriguez has been an outspoken activist for some time.
She was born Luis Benedicto. After coming out to her parents, she was kicked out and survived as a prostitute until she was allowed to return home. Rogriguez won a landmark case in 2009 that granted her a new ID card that replaced her male birth name, but not her gender.
Rodriguez will appear on the ballot under her male name. Run-off elections, if necessary, will take place 7 April.