First transgender member of Congress
LIBERAL PARTY’S Geraldine Roman of Bataan province made history on Tuesday for being the first transgender woman politician to be elected for a seat in Congress.
Roman, 49, was proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as representative in the first congressional district, after garnering 106,015 votes against the 64,643 cast for Hermosa Mayor Danilo Malana of Aksyon Demokratiko.
“I expected to win because I felt that people [have] accepted me and I know they sympathize with me,” she said, after the mudslinging and the ridicule hurled at her in the course of the campaign.
“I was belittled, judged and mocked by my opponents, mainly because of my gender. My constituents felt sorry for me and I could see that,” said Roman, who belongs to a powerful political clan in Bataan.
She is the daughter of outgoing Bataan Rep. Herminia Roman, who represented the first district for nine years, and the late Antonino Roman Jr., who served as assemblyman for eight years and as congressman for nine years in the same district.
In a telephone interview shortly after her proclamation, Roman said, “I want to be known as a congresswoman of the first district of Bataan who happens to be a transgender person. That will define my whole being.”
She said her public service would center on socioeconomic programs.
She said she intended to modify the antidiscrimination bill that has been languishing in Congress for 16 years, to enforce equal rights for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Roman studied European languages at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and completed a master’s degree in journalism at Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea in Spain.
She returned to Bataan four years ago to look after her ailing father.
According to her, she had been studying parliamentary procedures to prepare for her work in Congress. As soon as her work starts, she said she would like to get to know her colleagues in Congress.
“My daughter is very intelligent,” her mother, Herminia, said. “Her concerns are how she would meet her promises and do her platform.”
“She is not worried [about which] comfort room (CR) to enter,” she said, referring to foul jokes dished out by her daughter’s opponents.
Reflecting on the controversy raised by the jokes, Roman said, “I know our country has a lot of problems that are much more important than choosing which CR to use.”
“Going to [the ladies’ room] has never been my problem. I have been living my life as a woman for the past 30 years and that has never been a concern of mine,” she said.
The campaign trail, Roman said, had been tough for a transgender woman like her. She said her opponents tried to make her sexuality and gender as campaign issues.
“They played politics [using] smear campaigns, discrimination, rage and lack of respect. But that kind of politics did not triumph,” she said. “What we want to promote is the politics of tolerance, acceptance and respect.”
She added: “My mother and other relatives are very happy. And as I said, we were already expecting a victory because my parents have already done so much for Bataan as public servants.” With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon