Trans lawyer from Communist Party takes seat in Uruguay senate
Michelle Suarez speaks during a Senate session, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Oct. 10. | Matilde Campodonico / AP

Michelle Suarez, Uruguay’s first trans lawyer, plans to use her new position as a senator for the Communist Party of Uruguay to fight for LGBTQ rights. She is scheduled to become Uruguay’s first transgender senator, assuming the position as a substitute for Communist Senator Marcos Carambula.

Graduating from law school in 2010, the 34-year-old Suarez was also Uruguay’s first transgender lawyer in 2010 and was an active participant in drafting the country’s equal marriage law, which was passed and approved in 2013.

She is also a militant activist in and legal adviser for the organization Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep), an organization fighting for LGBTQ rights.

In 2014, she entered Uruguayan national politics as a member of the leading political coalition, Frente Amplio, and was elected as a substitute senator for the Communist Party of Uruguay.

Assuming the powers of senator on October 10, she says she plans to elevate the level of debate and action for LGBTQ rights within the Senate. Her first priority is to bring forward the draft of the Comprehensive Trans Act, which she co-authored. The law has the “objective of guaranteeing the rights of trans persons of all ages, of diverse sexual orientations and socio-economic conditions.”

The law is currently being reviewed by the Commission on Population, Development, and Inclusion of the Senate. It would let transgender people change their legal identities without having to get a judge’s approval. It would also mandate that 1 percent of government jobs be reserved for transgender people and establish a pension to compensate transgender people who were persecuted during Uruguay’s 1973-1985 military dictatorship.

“Uruguay has evolved, but it’s still a discriminatory country,” Suarez told the Associated Press.

Colette Richard, an activist from the LGTBQ community, said the legislation has several “thematic centers” covering education, job placement, and access to health services.

Richard said the most important aspect of the law was that “it speaks of transsexual people without considering it as a pathology.”

Uruguay’s trans community, which is officially about 900 individuals according to the last census, still faces many societal and economic difficulties. Discrimination often makes stable and sufficient employment difficult to impossible to find, pushing many into sex work.

This story features content from Telesur and the Associated Press.