The Philippines is a deeply Catholic country that still struggles with accepting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. In fact earlier this year, Manny Pacquiao, eight-time world boxing champion and politician, had drawn flak from the Philippines and from abroad, by saying that homosexuals were “worse than animals.” Despite such challenges, the Philippines it is taking baby steps in the right direction. During the 2016 Philippine elections, the people let their voice be heard and elected, for the very first time in the Philippines, a transgender woman to a seat in Congress.
Geraldine Roman was elected as the Representative of the 1st district of Bataan during the 2016 Philippine elections in a landslide victory. This makes her the first openly transgender woman to be elected in the Philippines, a truly huge leap in a country which doesn’t allow transgender people to change their gender and their name on their paperwork, to safely undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with medical supervision, and who may still face discrimination in allegedly inclusive workplaces.
Many people view Roman’s victory as a sign of great progress for the heavily Catholic Philippines. Roman had pledged to mount a challenge to overturn the rules surrounding gender change, as well as to fight for the equal rights in workplaces, schools, and government offices. She also intends to file her own version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to ensure that all documents required for public works projects were accessible to the people. Roman hopes that through this, irregularities caused by conniving between government officials and unscrupulous contractors in such projects will be avoided.
Roman has two master’s degrees and speaks five languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian. She had worked in Spain as a senior editor for the Spanish News Agency before coming home to the Philippines in 2012 to take care of her ailing father, Congressman Antonio Roman, Jr. With her victory, she will take the seat previously held by her mother, Herminia Roman.