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Meet Uruguay's first trans senator

34-year-old Michelle Suárez is also the first trans person in Uruguay to earn a law degree

Meet Uruguay's first trans senator
Michelle Suárez

34-year-old Michelle Suárez, a lawyer, fought discrimination in order to become Uruguay’s first transgender senator.

‘At some point in my life I was harassed, persecuted, and sanctioned,’ she says. ‘Today, I am applauded by many.’

Suárez is a member of Uruguay’s Communist Party. In addition to being the country’s first trans senator, she’s also the first transgender person in Uruguay to receive a law degree.

‘I wouldn’t dare ask someone to go through what I went through,’ Suárez says. ‘Because if you asked me, I don’t know if I’d be able to go through them again.’

Suárez’s activism

Suárez helped draft the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in Uruguay back in 2013.

‘The opportunities that I may currently have are impossible for many of my fellow trans people,’ Suárez states. ‘Because they don’t have the freedom to choose their personal path, to be able to to pursue the careers or dreams that I currently achieve.’

Additionally, Suárez is also a body image activist and works to fight the oppressive standards of beauty ascribed to all women.

‘The stereotype is that a trans woman deserves to be called a woman if she passes through a kind of aesthetic court. The more it resembles the hegemonic stereotype of a woman almost vedette, almost model, young, eternal, beautiful, seems to deserve to be called a woman. It’s like you’re getting it,’ Suárez explains.

‘To me it seems absurd and totally oppressive, but not just for trans women, for all women. What we would have to learn all women is that there is no such thing as originals and copies, that sort of image that today is revealed as hegemonic and that therefore we all have to appear and be faithful copy to deserve to be women. There really have to be as many women’s profiles as there are women.’

In Uruguay, trans people need a judge’s approval before being able to legally change their name and gender. Suárez wants to change that by passing anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of over 900 transgender people in Uruguay.

‘Uruguay has evolved, but it’s still a discriminatory country,’ Suárez told the Associated Press.

Moving forward

Back in August, Uruguay introduced a new bill that would monetarily compensate trans people born before 1975 who have been treated unfairly by the government.

Uruguay also hopes to set up scholarships for trans people and encourage affirmative action on their behalf.

Learn more about Michelle Suárez’s work in the video clips below:

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