Geraldine Roman: 'Just another politician who happens to be transgender'

Story highlights

  • Gender is less important than heart, ideas, Roman says
  • She hopes to pass anti-discrimination legislation as a member of Congress

(CNN)Geraldine Roman doesn't necessarily get what all the fuss is about.

She is, in her words, "just another politician who happens to be transgender."
    But even she will acknowledge the election of the first transgender woman to Congress in the Philippines is, at least, "technically historical."
    "I never expected so much media hype, but I am beginning to understand why they call it a breakthrough, given the conservative stance of, well, the people and the influence of the Catholic church," she told CNN's Kristie Lu Stout on Tuesday.
    Roman trounced her closest rival for the congressional district of Bataan in voting last week, winning 62% of the unofficial vote count with 99% of precincts reporting.
    It was a notable achievement in the Philippines, where the vast majority of people are Catholic and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have been subjects of ridicule for some politicians and public figures.
    She said the election shows the Philippines has "matured as a society."
    "Gender is not an important issue really," she said. "The capacity of a person to serve his or her country does not depend on our gender. It depends on what you have in your heart and your desire to serve others."
    She said that in addition to pressing for socioeconomic improvements for her constituents, she would seek anti-discrimination legislation to benefit the country's LGBT community.
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    "I want other people of the same condition to have this opportunity to change your legal gender and their legal name," Roman said.
    And while some see the influence of the church as a stumbling block, Roman -- a practicing Catholic -- says she doesn't believe that to be true.
    In fact, she says, the Jesuit priests at the Catholic school she attended gave their blessing to her decision to seek sex-reassignment surgery.
    "They told me, 'Geraldine, the body's just a shell'," she said. "'If you believe that by modifying the outside you can become a more loving, more generous, a happier person, go ahead. Because what is important is what you have in your heart, because God looks at the heart and not what you have in between your legs."