CARACAS Venezuela's first transgender lawmaker says she will fight for gay rights and gender equality, drawing inspiration from a flurry of new laws on marriage and civil unions in the rest of traditionally Roman Catholic Latin America.
After her historic election to the National Assembly as part of an opposition triumph, lawyer and activist Tamara Adrian told Reuters she would seek to change Venezuela's often "macho" society.
"In Venezuela we don't have any rights," Adrian, 61, said of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement.
The lawmaker-elect had to register under her given name Thomas Adrian despite a 2002 sex change, for instance, because Venezuelan law does not allow anyone born male to legally become female or take a woman's name.
"There are some precarious and isolated rules on the issue of non-discrimination and in the labor sector, but nothing more. We hope to have a law on marriage equality very soon," she said in her book-filled Caracas office on Tuesday.
Argentina in 2010 became the first Latin American country to allow gay couples to marry and adopt children.
Several other countries have since legalized gay marriage or civil partnerships, defying opposition from the traditionally strong Catholic Church and the increasingly influential Evangelical lobby.
"We have to talk about what countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador have, and what they're discussing now in Bolivia," she said.
"In each of these there is the right to maternity, adoption, rights for couples, marriage, protection against discrimination, (or) recognition of transgender identity," added Adrian.
She also stressed the need for better sexual education and use of contraceptives in Venezuela, which has one of the region's highest rates of teenage pregnancy, especially in poor sectors.
But Adrian, who ran with the opposition party Popular Will, which includes some of the most outspoken critics of President Nicolas Maduro, stresses she is not a one-issue candidate.
"I have a lot to say in the economic area, about how to get Venezuela out of this deep crisis," said Adrian, who helped draw up economic laws in the 1990s and also worked as a Central Bank adviser.
Venezuelans are suffering severe shortages of goods ranging from rice to vaccines, income-destroying inflation, and a profound recession.
Long lines for scarce food and medicines have turned many against the ruling Socialist Party, and candidates like Adrian capitalized on the discontent.
The real "urgency" now is fixing the economy, Adrian said.
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Tom Brown)