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Transgender Politician Poised For Historic Win in Philippines

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Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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Geraldine Roman blows kisses to curious crowds and serenades them with a love song as she proudly campaigns to be the first transgender lawmaker in the mainly Catholic Philippines.

The 49-year-old member of a powerful political family has a strong chance to win a seat in the nation’s lower house in Monday’s elections, in what would be a remarkable breakthrough for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Conservative church dogma is a dominant force in Philippine politics: divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are illegal, while there are no openly gay politicians at the national level and an LGBT party has long struggled for influence.

Roman has been mocked and abused on the campaign trail in recent weeks but, after living as a woman for more than two decades, she refuses to be cowed.

“My life has not been a secret,” Roman told AFP in a rare interview after a day of campaigning in Bataan, a rural province just north of Manila where her mother has served as congresswoman for nine years and the family holds immense political sway.

“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 said she grew up being teased by classmates but her late father, a powerful politician, taught her to be confident.

She speaks three European languages, holds two master’s degrees and worked in Spain as senior editor of the Spanish News Agency, before returning four years ago to care for her ailing father.

Roman underwent sex realignment surgery, and legally changed her name and gender, in the 1990s. She has been involved in a relationship with a man for the past 18 years.

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