September 25, 2017 at 7:09 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender woman running for Honduras congress

Rihanna Ferrera could become the first openly transgender person elected to the Honduran congress if she wins in November. (Photo courtesy of Rihanna Ferrera)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A transgender woman who is running for a seat in the Honduran congress hopes to make history in her country’s general election in November.

Rihanna Ferrera is a candidate for the center-left United Social Democratic and Innovation Party (PINU).

She is running to represent the department of Francisco Morazán in which the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa is located. Ferrera, who co-founded Asociación Cozumel Trans, a Honduran trans advocacy group, would potentially be the first openly trans person elected to public office in the Central American country if she wins on Nov. 26.

“I want to participate in politics,” Ferrera told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 during a telephone interview in Tegucigalpa.

A handful of other trans women have run for office in Honduras in recent years.

Kendra Stefani Jordany, who lives in the city of San Pedro Sula, in March became the first trans person to ever win a primary in the country when she was among the Central American Parliament candidates who advanced to the general election.

Claudia Spellman, the former director of a San Pedro Sula-based HIV/AIDS service organization who now lives near D.C. with her wife after receiving death threats, ran for the Honduran congress in 2012. Victoria Gómez, who was also a candidate in the same election cycle, has sought asylum in Spain after she was threatened and attacked in Tegucigalpa.

Both Spellman and Gómez were candidates for the leftist Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party.

“I want to be a candidate,” Ferrera told the Blade. “It will also improve things for us trans women.”

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains commonplace in Honduras.

The body of Sherlyn Montoya, a volunteer for Grupo de Mujeres Transexuales (Muñecas Arcoíris), another Honduran trans advocacy group, was found in a Tegucigalpa neighborhood on April. A trans rights advocate in San Pedro Sula who spoke with the Blade at their office in February said they have been the target of two assassination attempts in 2016.

Ferrera noted the Honduran government does not legally recognize trans people based on their gender identity. She also acknowledged violence has prompted many trans Hondurans to flee the country.

“It is very complex,” Ferrera told the Blade, referring to the situation for trans Hondurans. “It is very difficult.”

Ferrera said she has received “verbal violence” because she is trans, but has not been attacked physically.

“I take my candidacy very seriously,” she said.

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

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