by Abaki Beck
This week's Feminist Hero is Tamara Adrian, who recently became the first trans person elected to parliament in Venezuela, where she will represent the region around Caracas! She is one of the first trans people elected to a national position in South America (in 2014, Michelle Suarez, a trans woman, was elected in Uruguay). This is without a doubt big news for Venezuela and the trans community globally, so we thought we’d take a bit of time to get you acquainted with her work prior to being elected.
Adrian is a well known LGBT activist and law professor in Venezuela. She received her law degree from Paris University and is currently chair of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia Committee (celebrated on May 17 in 130 countries).
Before she was elected, she was active in politics and advocating for policy change to support and empower trans people in Venezuela. She believes there are three major issues facing trans people in Venezuela: they are not legally recognized without surgery or hormone requirements, there is no legal protection against discrimination, and there is no affirmative action to assist them socially or academically.
Since 1997, Venezuela has legally recognized the existence trans people. However, they do not allow for them to change their gender on their birth certificate, and are thus “legally” recognized as their gender assigned at birth, not as their gender identity. Adrian has been active in trying to change this. In 2004, she filed a request to the high court of Venezuela to change her identity legally from male to female, but they did not allow it. Today, birth certificates may be altered, but they will note that the person is trans, which could cause discrimination or other issues of privacy invasion for this person. In a 2014 interview, she noted some of the issues that trans people face in Venezuela.
“Trans women – and let’s not exclude trans men - are the more vulnerable portion of all the LGBTI population. Exclusion, segregation, violence, killings, lack of opportunities for schools, work, lodging, health care, etc., is the day-to-day reality faced by most of us. If you add, in the case of Venezuela, the lack of recognition of gender identity, and the non-existence of any affirmative action in their favor, you have there a very difficult situation to overcome without courageous actions from governments that are really committed to secure equal rights.” (read more here)
In addition to issues of gender based discrimination, Adrian has also challenged homophobic policies in Venezuela. Same-sex marriage is illegal, and it is illegal for same-sex couples to adopt. In 2014, she introduced a marriage equality policy proposal that was never addressed by the federal government.
As an activist, academic, and now politician, Adrian has challenged Venezuelans to think more critically about trans and queer inclusion and equality. The combination of her passion for equality for LGBT people in Venezuela with her scholarly skills that make her a force to be reckoned with.
In her own words:
“Some people are only academics, the other are only activists. I think that when you are able to combine both, you may propose ideas from the academic point of view, and may defend them in the field with your activism.” (read more here)
This quote resonates greatly with me, because it is why I believe spaces such as POC Online Classroom are so important. Engaging with and learning from scholars, theorists, artists, and activists of today and yesterday is both empowering and critical for activists of today. This quote also points to how marginalized peoples, though often rendered invisible or “disposable” in social thought and policy, are producers of critical knowledge. Until this knowledge is recognized and listened to, change and equality will be slow coming. It will be exciting to see how her new position will render her activism (and the activism of other trans people in Venezuela) more visible on the national level. Keep learning. Keep fighting. Keep winning.