By David T. Valentin
Despite the growing Transphobia within the U.K. and the U.S., trans people have continued to make active strides in LGBTQ+ history by taking charge and fighting for change and equity for the trans community.
Just this year, Rachel Levine, an American pediatrician who previously served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, served as the Pennsylvania physician general from 2015 to 2017, and currently a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, became the first openly transgender person confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Health Secretary in President Joe Biden’s administration.
In an interview with NPR, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. said, “I’ve always said the people in our government should reflect the people it serves, and today we will take a new historic step towards making that a reality. I’m proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today.”
Senator Murray is right; without LGBTQ+ people in government, LGBTQ+ specific health needs will not be met and specific studies on LGBTQ+ people’s health will not be conducted. For those who are unaware of the many ways LGBTQ+ individuals, you can begin to educate yourself with a resource kit provided by SAMHSA, The Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
But Levine isn’t the only transgender government official to be making headlines today. Transgender government officials from around the world are making history, pushing for progressive legislation to protect LGBTQ+ citizens, and transgender citizens specifically.
In Venezuela, 67-year-old Tamara Adrian became the first transgender person elected to office in Venezuela, and only the second transgender member of a national legislature in the Western Hemisphere. She has served since 2015.
Adrian continues to push for protective and equal LGBTQ+ legislation since being elected in to office, more specifically she has pushed for amending Venezuela’s Civil Registry Law, a law that “would legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by LGBTQ+ people, recognize the appropriate name and gender of transgender and intersex people and recognize marriages or gender changes done abroad.” She has also introduced acts that would protect LGBTQ+ people from hate-crimes.
In Belgium, Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter elected just last year made headlines as the first openly transgender minister in Europe. As a doctor and former gynecology professor at Ghent University and former head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University Hospital, De Sutter has actively fought for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, improving and protecting the lives of refugees and the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite the history De Sutter made as the first openly transgender government official in Europe, headlines were quiet about De Sutter’s identity. As one Politico article notes, “…it’s a milestone that went almost unremarked upon…” The article also notes that much of the news coverage surrounding De Sutter focused on her achievements and her work as a person, which “sends a powerful positive signal to trans people across the world.”
Over in Taiwan, Audrey Tang, a child prodigy-turned civic hacker, became the first transgender, nonbinary official in the top executive cabinet. Showing her genius at a young age, after dropping out of school to learn through the resources of the digital age, Tang caught the attention of Prime Minister Tsai Lng-wen, who asked Tang in 2016to join her cabinet as Digital Minister. The role was created to establish government agencies communicate policy goals and manage information published by the government.
With Tang being brought on to the Taiwanese cabinet, she became the youngest minister without a portfolio at just the age of 35.
As a firm believer of open data, open governance and civil society-government collaboration, Tang put her philosophy and genius to work to secure Taiwan as the first Asian country to contain the Coronavirus. Through the use of software programming, Tang created an easy-access digital map to Taiwanese citizens informing them of where they could purchase mask.
These are only a few of many influential and inspiring political officials throughout the world, but still their life stories and their accomplishments are inspirations to any LGBTQ+ person that they could achieve and thrive, given the support and the resources to do so.