For the first time in the country’s history, two trans women have been elected to Congress in Mexico. Maria Clemente Garcia and Salma Luevano are members of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party and will be seated in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Mexico’s Congress. Both women have long histories of LGBTQ+ activism. Also known as the Movement Of National Regeneration, MORENA is a left-wing party that came to power in 2018, promising to prioritize working-class citizens; support ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity, and further environmental justice. Both Garcia and Luevano say they are committed to pushing for affirmative-action policies that will benefit LGBTQ+ people. “There’s really a lot of poverty… extreme poverty within our trans population,” Luevano told Reuters on Wednesday. “I’ll take this fight proudly… for our people who are vulnerable.” Luevano, 52, owns a beauty salon in the central state of Aguascalientes and is also the director of a collective called Together for the Way of Diversity. She became an activist after she was detained by police for wearing women’s clothing more than three decades ago, but sadly, little has changed since. 2019 was the deadliest year for LGBTQ+ people in Mexico in the last 5 years, with more than half the victims being transgender women and a third being gay men. “Thirty years have passed and we still have the same discrimination, we still have the same fight,” she said. In Mexico, the Chamber of Deputies has 500 members. Three hundred are directly elected, while the other 200 are assigned through what’s called “proportional representation,” a closed-list system that allocates seats to political parties based on percentage of the national vote. Garcia and Luevano will take two of the latter seats in September, when the new Congress convenes, and serve three-year terms. Luevano’s nonprofit was part of the push for new rules that allow for a minimum number of candidates from underrepresented groups to be part of that closed list. As a result, more than 100 LGBTQ+ candidates took part in the June 6 election, the largest number in the country’s history. As for Garcia, she hopes to use her new position to advocate for tax breaks for companies that hire LGBTQ+ staff, as well as pushing to amend Article 1 of Mexico’s constitution. As written now, Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination solely based on “sexual preference,” meaning that trans people lack non-discrimination protection at the federal level.
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