October 10, 2014 at 12:14 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Peruvian voters elect country’s first trans council member

Luisa Revilla, Miluska Luzquiños, Peru, gay news, Washington Blade

Luisa Revilla Urcia, left, speaks with Miluska Luzquiños on Sept. 5, 2014, during a meeting of LGBT activists from Latin America and the Caribbean in Lima, Peru. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Peruvian LGBT rights advocate on Oct. 5 became the first out transgender person elected to a public office in the conservative South American country.

Luisa Revilla Urcia won a seat on the local council in La Esperanza in the province of Trujillo in northwestern Peru. She was among the candidates from the Regional Movement for Development with Honesty and Security who ran in local elections.

“I will execute my office with great humility and tenacity,” Revilla told the Washington Blade on Thursday.

Revilla, 43, told Correo, a Peruvian newspaper, her platform includes the construction of a home for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“I am going to promote equality and I will say no to discrimination,” she said. “We want everyone to have equal access, to succeed and to achieve their goals. When there is no discrimination, there is pacification. Infrastructure and modernity is important, but promoting values and showing concern for the people matters even more.”

Revilla was among the nearly 300 activists from Latin America and the Caribbean who attended a meeting in Lima, the Peruvian capital, last month that the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development co-sponsored.

“We are forced to fight for our community’s interests,” Revilla told the Blade during an interview at the gathering. “We are human beings that have ideals. We are professionals, we are capable people and we have to change the image of the people.”

Peruvian advocates described Revilla’s election as a watershed moment for the country’s LGBT rights movement.

“This election is a historic step forward in the normalization and inclusion of transsexual people in our country,” said Promsex, a Lima-based LGBT advocacy group.

Maricielo Peña Hernández, a trans advocate in Lima, told the Blade that Revilla “has become a pioneer inside Peruvian politics.”

“We as a community feel proud for the significant achievement of our colleague,” said Peña. “The labor we had undertaken years earlier for the fight for respect of our rights have seen their fruits come to bare, showing the bad perception that society has towards us is going to change.”

Gay Congressman Carlos Bruce publicly declared his sexual orientation in May 2013 as lawmakers debated his bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

Peru is among the countries that backed a resolution against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted last month.

The country decriminalized homosexuality in the 1800s, but homophobia and transphobia persist in the South American nation in which the Roman Catholic Church maintains significant political and cultural influence.

Lima Archbishop Juan Luís Cipriani and other leading Peruvian religious figures and politicians have spearheaded efforts to thwart Bruce’s civil unions bill.

Michael Brown, an anti-gay minister from North Carolina, spoke to the Peruvian Congress after Congressman Julio Rosas invited him to do so. The same lawmaker last year honored Mathew Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel.

Peruvian law does not ban anti-LGBT discrimination. And lawmakers last year voted overwhelmingly to remove sexual orientation and gender identity and expression from a proposed hate crimes statute.

Bruce and others with whom the Blade spoke in Lima last month said anti-LGBT violence, a lack of employment, police brutality and poverty are among the other issues that LGBT Peruvians continue to face.

Revilla said many trans people work in hair salons or prostitute themselves because they do not have access to any other employment opportunities.

“Unfortunately trans girls and trans women don’t have the opportunity to be other things,” she told the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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