Transgender figures in politics around the world

by Tom Haynes | @T_Haynesy | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 2 October 2020 17:30 GMT

New Belgian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Services and State-owned companies, Petra De Sutter is sworn in by Belgian King Philippe at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

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With LGBT+ rights becoming more accepted worldwide, gay and trans politicians have gained greater prominence in recent years

By Tom Haynes

LONDON, Oct 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Petra De Sutter, a gynecologist serving as a Green party member of the European Parliament, was named as deputy prime minister in Belgium this week - becoming the most senior transgender government official in Europe.

With LGBT+ rights becoming more accepted worldwide, gay and trans politicians have gained greater prominence in recent years, and Pauline Ngarmpring became Thailand's first trans candidate for prime minister last year.

Here are some trans people who serve in high-level politics and government around the world:

- Tamara Adrian, alternate deputy in Venezuela's National Assembly

Adrian, 66, a member of the small Popular Will party, became in 2015 the second trans woman to be elected to a national legislature in the Western Hemisphere.

A year before her election, she filed an appeal for recognition of her gender identity to the Supreme Court, but despite garnering more than 4,000 signatures, the case did not receive a response from the court.

As a result, Adrian was forced to campaign under the name on her birth certificate.

- Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, member of Thai parliament

Thailand's first-ever openly trans lawmaker, Sukkhapisit identifies as non-binary or someone who defines themselves as neither male or female.

Sukkhapisit was a film-maker before being elected in 2019 to the Thai parliament representing the opposition Future Forward Party.

In 2010, Sukkhapisit's film "Insects in the Backyard", which highlighted the life of a trans father in Thailand, was screened internationally but banned for domestic audiences by the country's courts until 2015.

Sukkhapisit later described the ordeal as having been a motivating force to enter politics, prioritising education reform and a change in marriage laws.

"Thai society is patriarchal and unequal and does not value all humans the same," Sukkhapisit told Britain's Guardian newspaper in 2019.

- Petra De Sutter, newly appointed Belgian deputy prime minister

De Sutter, 57, an activist for progressive legislation regarding trans issues and medically assisted reproduction, was named on Thursday as one of seven deputy prime ministers in Belgium's new coalition government.

Elected as a member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2019, De Sutter has chaired the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT+ rights and co-chaired the MEPs Against Cancer Group.

De Sutter is also minister for public service and public enterprises, and LGBT+ rights groups welcomed her appointment as an important step forward for trans politicians in Europe.

- Audrey Tang, Taiwan's digital minister

Tang, 39, became digital minister in 2016 and is the youngest person to hold a ministerial post in Taiwan.

Tang has said changing her gender identity informed her politics by giving her a greater understanding of what it is to be vulnerable.

As a minister, she has pledged to give preferential access to government contracts to social enterprises such as Agood, which helps people with Down's Syndrome.

In an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2019, she said finding "common value" was of utmost importance to governance.

- Diane Marie Rodriguez Zambrano, alternate member of Ecuador's National Assembly

Zambrano, 38, was the second-ever LGBT+ person to run for office in Ecuador. In 1998, protection from discrimination for gays and lesbians was written into the constitution, but not extended to trans people.

Zambrano, who was also an activist for more than two decades, has said she still receives death threats for her work.

In the National Assembly, she helped set a legal precedent for how trans people are represented in the media, winning a discrimination case against the makers of a programme that mocked trans people as "perverts".

"I've kept on fighting for LGBT rights because even if I don't get to benefit from those rights, other generations can live without discrimination or violence," she wrote on human rights website Frontline Defenders in 2015.

Related stories:

Belgium appoints Europe's first transgender deputy PM

Transgender people still criminalised in 13 U.N. member states, report finds

Transgender minister seeks to break barriers in Taiwan

(Reporting by Tom Haynes; Editing by Helen Popper and Hugo Greenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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