This weekend saw LGBT electoral firsts in Australia and Venezuela.
Australia Saturday elected the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives, which is the lower house of the nation’s Parliament. Trent Zimmerman, a member of the Liberal Party, won election from North Sydney, reports the Star Observer, an Australian LGBT paper.
Venezuela elected Tamara Adrián as the first openly transgender member of its National Assembly, in a vote that took place Sunday, the Washington Blade reports. She is a member of Popular Will, a left-leaning party, and will represent the capital city, Caracas. She is reportedly the first trans person elected to such a high office anywhere in the Americas.
Australia’s Senate has had several out gay members, including three currently serving, but Zimmerman is the first in the House. He was elected to a seat that opened up when Joe Hockey retired.
Zimmerman, 47, is a political veteran, having served as an adviser to Hockey and to former Prime Minister John Howard. He also was a North Sydney Council member for two years, the Star Observer notes.
“I’m extraordinarily proud the electorate didn’t see [being gay] as an issue,” Zimmerman told the Star Observer. “For me, I’d love to see the day when sexuality wasn’t an issue, but I know it’s not there yet.”
He said he hopes his election will give hope to those who are struggling with coming out. While he will deal with a variety of issues in Parliament, such as encouraging economic development, he “inevitably” will address LGBT concerns, he told the paper.
Recently elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has taken the same stand as his predecessor, Tony Abbott, in calling for a national referendum on marriage equality instead of simply letting Parliament vote on it. Had Zimmerman been a member of Parliament when the issue was under discussion, he said, he would have pushed for Parliament to have a “free vote,” in which members can vote their conscience instead of the party’s position.
But “the path for plebiscite is set in stone now,” he said. “I want to work with marriage equality organizations to make sure we get a yes outcome.”
In Venezuela, Adrián said her top priority will be trying to solve the country’s economic problems, which have resulted in shortages of food and other necessities.
“Venezuela is going through the worst economic, social and cultural crisis ever recorded,” Adrián, a lawyer and activist, told our sibling publication Out in a Monday interview.
For instance, as she told the Blade in September, “People are standing in line for hours — eight, nine hours in order to buy a chicken or to buy some meat. It’s a very difficult environment from an economic point of view and it has to be addressed from the Parliament.”
She also has said that it would be easier to bring up LGBT issues if opposition parties took some seats in the assembly from the ruling United Socialist Party. And that’s just what happened Sunday, with the United Socialists losing their majority.
“In the past 17 years the topic of LGBT rights was never seriously discussed,” Adrián told Out. While economic issues must take priority, she said, she will advocate for LGBT causes as well.
“We have to talk about the rights of couples and families, about the gender identity act, about the mutilation of intersex children, and about discrimination, which includes hate crimes, bullying, workplace harassment, and access to housing and health care,” she said. She noted that she has put forth a marriage equality proposal, which no one ever addressed, and she has been unable to obtain recognition of her female identity under Venezuelan law. But she acknowledged that her election represents progress.
“Yesterday, Venezuela demolished its own Berlin Wall,” she told Out.
Luisa Revilla Urcia, the first openly trans elected official in Peru, also hailed Adrián’s victory. “We are very pleased with another trans woman in power,” Revilla told the Blade. “This is a great triumph.” Revilla is a member of the municipal council in the city of La Esperanza.