Geraldine Roman, a candidate from Bataan, will become the first ever transgender lawmaker in this mainly Catholic country if she wins a seat in the House of Representatives.
Roman, a 49-year-old transgender from an influential family, woos the crowd with kisses and songs during her campaigns as she strives to win a seat in the nation's Lower House of Representatives on Monday's (May 9) elections.
Her mother served as the congresswoman in Bataan, a rural province north of Manila, for 9 years and the family holds immense political sway.
“My loyalty is to the first district of Bataan," she said.
"But that somebody of my condition is going to enter Congress for the first time is a statement that even transgender people can serve our country and should not be discriminated against," Roman said,
She is aware that it is a long battle. If Roman wins, it would be considered a milestone, a notable breakthrough for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Roman said she would back an anti-discrimination bill. She said it would give the LGBT community their legal rights to equal treatment in the workplace, hotels, and schools. She will also campaign to make gender change legal.
"I am living proof that such a law will allow transgender people to pursue happiness and become productive citizens," she said.
While it is not an easy feat for Roman, she stands strong and refuses to be browbeaten even after several instances of being mocked and abused during her campaigns in the past few weeks.
Roman has been living as a woman for at least two decades already, but she has seen that the conservative church dogma is still a dominant driving factor in Philippine politics. Roman knows fully well that divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage are illegal in the country; however, she also knows that the LGBT community has long struggled for influence. This is something she looks forward to achieving.
"My life has not been a secret," Roman told Agence France-Presse during a rare interview a day after her campaign in Bataan. "I grew up here. People know me. (Gender) only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret. It's nothing bad. I never hurt anyone in the process. I'm so happy so why should I be ashamed?," Roman remarked.
Roman is able to speak three European languages and holds two master's degrees. She has also worked in Spain as senior editor of the Spanish News Agency, before deciding to come home and take care of her ailing father 4 years ago.
It was in the 1990’s when Roman underwent sex re-alignment surgery and legally changed her name and gender. She is in a relationship with a man for the past 18 years.
In the Philippines, a law was passed in 2001 disallowing transgender Filipinos to change their name and sex.
Then, in 2010, COMELEC streaked the Ang Ladlad party, which represents the LGBT community, from contesting the polls. The election commission said the party was tainted with accusing it of "immorality which offends religious beliefs". The party also failed to win a seat in the congress.
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