The results of Venezuela's parliamentary elections on Monday offered good news for progressives in the country. The opposition party, Democratic Unity coalition, claimed the majority of the National Assembly, serving a potential blow to Hugo Chávez's legacy of authoritarian rule. But the election of one congresswoman in particular is cause for celebration on the continent and around the world: Tamara Adrian, a member of the opposition party, became the first transgender congresswoman elected in South America.
Adrian, a 61-year-old lawyer and college professor, announced her candidacy this past summer, according to Fox News Latino. The already-noted women's and LGBT-rights activist had previously demonstrated her commitment to advocating for marginalized groups when she introduced a project to address marriage equality in 2014, Out reported.
"Venezuela is going through the worst economic, social and cultural crisis ever recorded," Adrian told Out of her political motivation on Monday. "We have to talk about the rights of couples and families, about the gender identity Act, about the mutilation of intersex children and about discrimination, which includes hate crimes, bullying, workplace harassment and access to housing and healthcare."
The facts back Adrian's observation up: LGBT individuals face many barriers in Venezuela. Same-sex unions are not legally recognized in the nation, same-sex couples are not able to adopt, and LGBT individuals are barred from serving in the military, according to Equaldex. The right to change one's legal gender is also unrecognized, and Adrian herself has not been legally recognized as female under Venezuelan law, according to Out.
Though transgender people are still certainly in the minority, Adrian also joins a growing group of trans individuals seeking to make a political difference the world over. As of November 2012, six elected officials in the United States have been openly transgender, according to the Advocate. Transgender politicians have also made waves beyond the Americas: Carla Antonelli was the first trans person to serve in a legislature in Spain and Emily Brothers became the British Labour party's first transgender candidate for member of Parliament last year, for example.
While Adrian's victory — as well as the victories of all transgender politicians — is specifically meaningful to the LGBT community, she hopes that her political work is not defined by her gender identity. As she told Fox News Latino in August, she hopes her viability as a politician and her candidacy is perceived not "as that of a minority, but a democratic and libertarian candidacy ... from somebody that's highly qualified," she said. "Somebody who can help overcome the worst crisis in Venezuelan history."