An activist in Trinidad and Tobago on Feb. 15 became the country’s first openly transgender senator.
Local media reports note Jowelle De Souza is filling-in for the ailing Sen. Jayanti Lutchmedial, a member the United National Congress, a center-left opposition party.
“Always happy to serve my country,” said De Souza in an Instagram post.
De Souza, who is also an animal rights activist, owns a beauty salon in San Fernando, the country’s second largest city.
De Souza in 1993 became the first person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery in Trinidad and Tobago.
Maykel González Vivero of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba who reported from Trinidad and Tobago in 2017 for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, noted De Souza in 1997 became the first trans person to file a lawsuit against the country’s government.
De Souza alleged the police officers who arrested her during a protest violated her constitutional rights when they harassed her because of her gender identity. De Souza settled her lawsuit out of court.
De Souza unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in 2015.
Trinidad and Tobago’s nondiscrimination laws do not include gender identity and sexual orientation. A High Court judge in 2018 struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy statute.