Asia

Geraldine Roman: First transgender politician elected in the Philippines

  • 10 May 2016
  • From the section Asia
Geraldine Roman delivers a speech as she campaigns in Bataan province Image copyright AFP
Image caption Philippine politician Geraldine Roman campaigned hard for a seat in her native Bataan province

Controversial candidate Rodrigo Duterte may be dominating headlines in the Philippines, but another politician is also being celebrated.

The Liberal Party's Geraldine Roman is set to be the predominantly Catholic nation's first public transgender politician. Polls indicate she will win the lower house seat for Bataan province, north of the capital Manila.

She grew up in a political family

Like many politicians in the Philippines Ms Roman, 49, has a powerful political pedigree. The seat Ms Roman will take up was previously held by her mother.

She spent several years in Spain where she mastered other languages and worked as an editor at a Spanish news agency.

In 2012, she returned home to her native Bataan province to care for her ageing parents, promising to continue their political legacy.

'Remain confident' in the face of bullying

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Fighting for LGBT rights has always been a huge priority for Ms Roman

During the campaign trail Ms Roman shared that her family always remained supportive of her, and her father advised her to "remain confident" despite being bullied for her gender identity in school.

"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," Ms Roman told the AFP news agency during her campaign.

She will be an LGBT rights champion

There are no openly gay politicians in the Philippines. Boxing legend and politician Manny Pacquiao also famously made headlines for saying homosexuals were "worse than animals". He later apologised.

Throughout her political career LGBT rights remained a huge priority for Ms Roman, in a country where the religious majority still plays a powerful role.

She said: "If Jesus Christ was alive today, he would not approve of discrimination. I firmly believe that."

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Ms Roman has also said her life after transitioning has "not been secret" to those who know her in her native Bataan province.

"Gender only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret. I'm so happy so why should I be ashamed?"

'She's our new hero' says Philippine social media

Filipino netizens celebrated the news of Ms Roman's election win, calling it a "huge breakthrough" in a country where transgender people face widespread discrimination and violence.

"Geraldine Roman is my new hero, the first transgender person to be elected in the Philippines," tweeted Ashley Policarpio from the capital Manila.

Image copyright Twitter: Alessandra Guballa

"Congrats to our first-ever transgender congresswoman, Geraldine Roman," said dentist Andre Mortel. "Finally someone who can fight for LGBT rights in congress."

"A great historic victory today: The first transgender in congress. Congratulations to the fabulous Geraldine Roman," said Alessandra Guballa in a tweet that was liked by more than 1,500 Twitter users.

Image copyright Twitter: Ate Quitz

Other users described her win as "good news" for the nation.

"Opening doors for future transgender leaders," said one user.

A Facebook post by Geena Rocero also drew more than a thousand reactions on the social networking site.

Image copyright Facebook: Geena Rocero

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