SOPETRÁN — Alondra Metaute, a 38-year-old Colombian woman, wants to be mayor of this small town in northcentral Colombia. But she will face a hard fight to win the election next October— not just because she's a woman, but because she was born a boy.
When Fredy Armando Metaute Escudero was eight years old, he wore lipstick to his school's annual party, and dressed as the late Mexican singer Rocío Durcal. He did not go unnoticed. In this town, few people dared at any age to reveal a non-comforming sexual orientation, never mind a desire to change genders.
When he was 19, Metaute let his hair grow. Two years later he donned high heels and left the house dressed as a girl, and began asking people to call him by a new name, Alondra, which is Spanish for lark. "One teacher told me I sang like an Alondra," recalled Metaute. "So that's what I decided to call myself."
The men of Sopetrán were not ready to welcome a transgender in town. "They would catcall and wanted to touch me in public," says Metaute. "But right from the start I made sure I'd be respected. I had to slap one or two men in the face, and once got into a real fight with someone who tried to to pee on me."
Mataute was lucky to have a supportive family, even if they had their own preconceptions. "My dad would tell me, "It's fine if you want to be like this, but swear to me you won't be having sex with people on the street," she recalls.
Metaute inherited a taste for politics from her dad, and that's where the dream of governing Sopetrán was born. If she wins the vote, she would be the first transgender mayor in Colombia.
A global trend
"Society has consigned us transgender people to being hairdressers or prostitutes. But politics is my calling," Metaute says. She is the first transgender woman to have received political training from Politics for Women, an equal-opportunity
initiative started by the regional government.
Sopetrán, which is 60 kilometers from Medellín, has an economy driven by fruit, coffee and corn cultivation, as well as tourism, being part of a popular route called the Golden Triangle. Still, Metaute describes her hometown as "dormant" and "politically backward."
Last week in the U.S., Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner made waves when he reintroduced himself to the world as a woman named Caitlyn.
Alondra Metaute is part of the less visible trend of trangender people fighting their way into politics around the world. In 1995, Georgina Beyer
of Carterton, New Zealand became the world's first transgender mayor and then first parliamentarian. In 2014, Carlos Ramos Chumpitaz
— a.k.a. La Doctora
— ran for the mayor's office in San Luis, Peru. In January 2015, Madhu Bai Kinnar became the first transsexual mayor of Raigarh, in the Indian state of Shattisgarh.
"We have to turn the page of segregation," Metaute says, "especially when this is a growing population in our town."
Metaute looks and dresses like a woman, but she hasn't had sexual reassignment surgery and doesn't plan to. "I think I would lose my charm," she says. "Having a vagina wouldn't make me more of a woman."
Who will support her bid for mayor? At least some of the town's motorcycle taxi drivers. One of them Vianey Pérez says he believes in her because "she represents political change."
"A lot of people are jobless and hungry here," said another driver, Alfonso Osorio. "This is why we need a leader like her."
Metaute has held a number of different jobs, including dance teacher and youth coordinator in local government, but insists she has experienced the worst discrimination since beginning her political campaign.
"The traditional politicians are telling people, how can you vote for a faggot," she says. "I am telling them this faggot has more balls than they do. At least I have respect for the taxpayers' money."