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Chile's First Transgender Congressional Candidate Steps Down

Valentina Verbal campaigned to make history as Chile’s first transgendered congresswoman. Had she won, Chile’s LGBT community would have representation in the national Congress before most other countries around the world.

Verbal learned that she would have to run under her legal male name or pull out of the race. Verbal decided to step down.

She tweeted (@valeverbal) [es]:

@valeverbal: Confirmado: por tema de plazos, con recurso protección no alcanzo a salvar candidatura con mi nombre social. La bajo hoy ante Servel. :-).

@valeverbal: Confirmed: Due to deadlines, having appealed I wasn’t able to save my candidacy under my social name. I will withdraw today before Servel (Chile’s election agency) :-).”

Verbal’s candidacy steps among Chile’s recent strides towards sexual equality. Chile elected its first openly gay politician, a municipal councilman, last fall. A civil-union bill is in the works. A freshly minted anti-discrimination law forbids violence and discrimination toward the LGBT community and others. But hate crimes continue. The way out of this is to get more LGBT representatives in government, according to Verbal.

So Verbal ran for a seat representing northern Santiago’s Recoleta-Independencia district. She focused her message on achieving equality, rather than her district’s specific needs.

Verbal's campaign poster, shared on Twitter via @valeverbal

Verbal's campaign poster, shared on Twitter via @valeverbal

“My mission was going to be to generate national laws. I promised my district to work for the rights of anyone who feels discriminated against; I also wanted equality for economic and social development.”

The transgender woman ran for office having applied for — but without having secured — a legal name change. Verbal – who was born a man, but said she always felt like a woman — prefers to keep her birth name a secret. She said that the name not only misidentifies her, but has tangled her identity since childhood.

“I thought, perhaps naively, that given the vacuum of electoral laws, and filling in that space with the anti-discrimination law, there wouldn’t be trouble getting what I asked,” she said.

Verbal explained that voters wouldn’t recognize her birth name on the ballot. The campaign would be a wash with her having been in politics for years as Valentina Verbal.

She belongs to Chile’s center-right National Renewal Party (RN) and spent the past years fighting for an anti-discrimination law.

Verbal found a surprising ally in a fellow RN member, Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera.

He is pushing for a law that legalizes civil unions. The president also signed the first anti-discrimination law into effect.

That legislation, previously stagnating in Congress, was fast tracked after four attackers beat gay 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio to death before carving swastika into his skin. LGBT victims of hate crimes have had the “Zamudio Law” to protect them since May 2012.

Under the Zamudio Law, a lesbian pair brought their neighbors to court two weeks ago, according to the Homosexual Integration and Liberation blog (Movilh [es]).

The blog [es] reads:

Un matrimonio y su hijo hacen turnos de día y noche en las afueras del domicilio de la pareja lésbica para agredirla física y verbalmente y someterlas a constantes y graves humillaciones.

A married couple and their son take turns day and night outside the lesbian pair’s home to physically and verbally assault them, subjecting them to constant and severe humiliation.

Although Valentina said that fellow politicians are generally accepting of transgendered status, she’s encountered pushback in her political career and especially on social media. She recently tweeted about her frustration with transphobia.

@valeverbal: Pensando en cerrar mi cuenta de Twitter. Me cansa bastante el nivel de intolerancia de much@s en esta red.

@valeverbal: I’m thinking about shutting down my Twitter account. I’m fed up with the level of intolerance many have on this network.

She didn’t close her account, a platform she uses to defend her political ideas and LGBT rights.

While Verbal won’t be elected this time around, she said, “I’m sure of one thing: I will continue in politics.” She added, “In order to get strong social changes, it’s necessary to make them from a position of power, in particular from Parliament. Because Chile is a very legalistic country, it’s important to have laws to provoke these changes.”

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