Chile elects first trans woman to congress as presidential election puts LGBT+ rights ‘at stake’

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Emilia Schneider. (YouTube/CNN)

Chile has elected its first transgender official to its national legislature.

Emilia Schneider is the first out transgender person to be elected to the National Congress of Chile.

The 25-year-old activist previously gained prominence when she was elected to represent over 42,000 students as the president of the University of Chile Student Federation, where she led students to take part in Chile’s ‘Estallido Social’ (social outburst) protests between 2019 and 2021.

Schneider received over 26,000 votes in the nationwide election, and she will represent District 10 of Santiago de Chile. She will be sworn into the Chamber of Deputies in March 2022, where she hopes to “expand rights in a stable and dialoguing manner”.

Despite her historic victory, Schneider admitted having mixed feelings as Chile prepares to elect a new president. She fears a potential far-right victory that could harm the LGBT+ community.

“The security, dignity and integrity of the rights of the LGBTI community and women are at stake,” she said, according to Merco Press.

On 19 December, Chile will see a presidential run-off between far-right populist José Antonio Kast and left-wing candidate Gabriel Boric. Kast finished top after the first round of voting on 21 November, but no candidate won the required 50 per cent to win outright.

Previously, Kast has opposed marriage equality and abortion, and has defended the historic Pinochet dictatorship. Schneider is worried that hate crimes could soar under an ultraconservative government.

However, she still believes there is a chance for positive change.

“The far-right seeks fear to prevail, but we have to make hope prevail, the same one that led us to vote for a new Constitution [in 2020] and the one that has prevailed in this last decade of mobilisations,” she added.

Over the past decade, Chile has made significant progress on LGBT+ rights, with civil unions for same-sex couples being legalised in 2015. On 23 November, 2021, Chile’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approved a same-sex marriage bill, bringing the country closer to marriage equality.

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