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Awe-inspiring International Women Leaders: Tamara Adrián

This blog series is part of our celebration of International Women’s Month.
Each piece is written by a Women, Girls & Global Justice intern.

Story by Erin East 

Tamara Adrián has made enormous strides for the LGBTQ community in Venezuela. She is the first transgender person elected to the Venezuelan legislature, and only the second transgender person elected to a legislature in North America. Born a male in Caracas in 1964 to Roman Catholic parents, Adrián knew from a very young age that her birth-assigned gender did not match how she identified herself. She went through much of her life living as a man. She graduated Andrés Bello Catholic University in 1976 and then went on to receive a doctorate in law from the top law school in France, Panthéon-Assas University. She returned to Venezuela, got married, and had children all as a gender she did not identify with. Adrián separated with her wife and continued on her transition journey. She had been experimenting with hormones as early as seventeen, but did not have sex-reassignment surgery until 2002.

Since her transition, Adrián has pioneered LGBTQ causes in Venezuela and all of Latin America. In addition to working as a lawyer and being an advocate for LGBTQ issues, she sits on the board of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association and is on the organizing committee for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. She has served the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization as a special advisor on human rights. She has also received the Luis Mariá Olaso prize for human rights, an award given by the Universidad Central de Venezuela.

On the whole, Latin American countries are becoming politically tolerant places for LGBTQ persons. Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, and certain states in Mexico have all legalized gay marriage or civil unions. Cuba, Argentina, and Chile have passed non-discrimination laws. However, the political reality in Venezuela currently is disappointing considering the great progress other countries have achieved. Adrián had to apply as a candidate under her birth name, since Venezuela does not recognize her transition. She is married to her wife, but only under her male name. Every six months she brings a suit against Venezuela to be recognized as Tamara Adrián, but for eleven years and running no judge has ever heard her case.

Adrián has had her fair share of bullying, discrimination, and wrongdoings against her but she continues to be a vision for young people. Youth have come forward thanking her for her leadership and her tirelessness to achieve equality for the LGBTQ community in Venezuela. In this instance we recognize the good that LGBTQ representation serves to children and teenagers that look out into the world and want to see people like them doing the things that everyone else is doing. Adrián’s vocal support of equality is incredibly admirable, but being in Parliament and being herself is arguably one of the most important things she has ever done.

Elected only in December of last year, Adrián hopes to use her time in office to fight for LGBTQ rights and inspire young transgender people. She has introduced several bills to address marriage equality, gender identity, and more extensive anti-discrimination laws. Over the years, Venezuela’s LGBTQ community has dealt with discrimination and less protection under the law. Adrián hopes to see that change during her time in parliament.

CC Image courtesy of LuisCarlos Diaz on Flickr.

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