Michelle Suárez — who is a member of the Uruguayan Communist Party — spoke with the Blade nearly two weeks after she formally assumed her seat on Oct. 10.
Suárez, 34, is the first trans woman to graduate from a Uruguayan university. She is also the first and only trans lawyer in the South American country that borders Brazil and Argentina.
Suárez, who was a member of Ovejas Negras, a Uruguayan LGBT advocacy group, helped write a same-sex marriage bill that became law in 2013. Suárez was elected to the country’s Senate two years later, but she was an alternative senator without full voting privileges until she took her seat last month.
She described Uruguay to the Blade as a “vanguard” in Latin America “in terms of rights,” noting same-sex couples can legally marry and adopt children. Suárez also pointed out Uruguay allows trans people to legally change their gender without undergoing surgery.
Suárez told the Associated Press after she took her seat that she would introduce a bill that would allow trans people to legally change their identity without a court order. The measure would also require Uruguay to set aside 1 percent of government jobs for trans people and create a pension to compensate those who suffered persecution during the country’s military dictatorship, which was from 1973-1985, because of their gender identity.
“These advances don’t mean that Uruguay as a country has less discrimination,” Suárez told the Blade.
In addition to advocating on behalf of LGBT Uruguayans, Suárez has also championed the rights of women and the poor. Suárez is also a healthy body image advocate.
“One is not more valid than another,” she told the Blade, referring to a woman’s body image.
Suárez is the third openly trans woman to sit in a national legislative body in Latin America.
Tamara Adrián in 2015 was elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly of the left-leaning Popular Will party that is part of the opposition against President Nicolás Maduro. Diane Rodríguez earlier this year won a seat in Ecuador’s congress when she ran on the ticket of now Congressman Carlos Vera, a former World Cup referee who was a candidate for the left-leaning Movimiento Alianza PAIS party.
Luisa Revilla in 2014 became the first openly trans person elected to public office in Peru after she won a seat on the local council in La Esperanza, a city that is located in the province of Trujillo. Rihanna Ferrara and Kendra Stefani Jordany are two openly trans women in Honduras who are running for seats in the country’s congress and the Central American Parliament respectively.
Adela Hernández in 2012 became the first openly trans person to hold public office in Cuba when she became a member of the Caibarién Municipal Council in the province of Villa Clara. Tatiana Piñeros was a member of former Bogotá (Colombia) Mayor Gustavo Petro’s cabinet until his term ended in 2015.