MEXICO CITY — Valeria Lorety Díaz recently made history when she launched her campaign to become the first trans municipal president in the conservative Mexican state of Tlaxcala.
Then, something strange happened.
Another political party in the state called Fuerza Por México quietly reregistered four of its candidates in early May as women even though they had initially identified as men. The reason for the change? The party said the four identify as trans.
Aligned with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Fuerza Por México appears to be attempting to skirt a gender parity law in Mexico that requires political parties to present an equal number of men and women candidates.
When the party first announced its slate in early May ahead of the June 6 midterm elections, it registered 25 men and 17 women as candidates for municipal presidents in Tlaxcala, a tiny state about two hours drive east of Mexico City.
After the gender discrepancy was pointed out, the state election institute gave the party 48 hours to substitute four of the candidates. Instead, without revealing their identities, four candidates changed their gender on the application to women in order to even the distribution to 21 women and 21 men.
The party did not stop with its candidates for municipal presidents, a position that is similar to a county mayor. Another 14 Fuerza Por México candidates for lower positions such as trustees or councilors also changed their gender from male to female at the same time.
“We, the trans women who have declared that we are women during the day and at night, it affects us a lot,” said Díaz, who is running for municipal president for Mexico’s Green Party in the small town of Zacatelco. “Truthfully, it hurts me so much to know that my own state, so small, accepts these kinds of lies.”
Díaz, who owns a beauty parlor in Zacatelco where she is one of the few trans people, said that “a lot of people have criticized me because it’s something new, because trans people didn’t exist here publicly until recently.”
But in an electoral contest filled with fraud, her experience will help, she said, “because I am an honest woman, a transparent woman, a woman who is committed to the excellent people of this town.”
“I hope that the authorities will solve this very soon, that they will thoroughly investigate the cases of these people who are posing as women,” she added.
Paola Jiménez, the coordinator for the Mexican Trans Women Network in Tlaxcala, called the whole incident “suspicious” and has been one of the principal activists calling out the Fuerza Por México party for potential election fraud.
She said that it was absurd that the identities of the four candidates who claimed to identify as trans were being kept secret, supposedly to protect data privacy under Mexico’s strict laws. “If they list themselves as women, then the logical thing is that they would have to go out to campaign as women, which is the gender identity that they feel identifies them.”
Fuerza Por México in Tlaxcala did not respond to interview requests from VICE World News. Speaking to Mexican news outlet Televisa, the party’s state president Luis Vargas said the gender changes “are not false.”
“In the trans issue there are three strands: transgender, transsexual and transvestite, and the issue of who is in the community is very broad,” he said.
Vargas used the word trasvesti in Spanish, which translates to transvestite. As in English, the word signifies someone who crossdresses in women's clothes and the word is considered offensive by many in the trans community. They argue that it does not represent someone who identifies as trans.
Although Vargas didn't clarify what he meant in the published interview, he appeared to be suggesting that the 18 local candidates may crossdress in their personal lives and that allowed them to register as women. He argued that “I can't enter into people's privacy and tell them, you, yes, and you, no.”
Jiménez called Vargas’s statement “a mockery because he does not even know the issue deeply. He's only clutching on to the issue so that his candidates can run their campaigns.”
“The issue is that ‘transvestite’ is not an identity, it is an expression,” she said. “In other words, you can be a transvestite once a week, but you are a woman 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They presented their candidates as women, not as transvestites, but as women.”
Growing up in Tlaxcala, Jiménez, 25, had to travel to Mexico City to officially change her gender in 2019. Together with other trans activists, she pressed to reform Tlaxcala’s laws later that year and the state now allows for trans people to legally change their gender.
The fight that she and other trans people have endured for years made her especially angry. Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the LGTBQ community and at least 35 trans people were murdered in the country in 2020, according to the Center for Support of Identities, a trans collective.
“In day-to-day life, in public life, they're not women, are they?” Jiménez said of the candidates. “And for those of us that are trans women and what we've lived, the discrimination, assaults, harassment in the streets. Well, it is really worrying because we live our identity every day and we live every day with violence and discrimination.”
The unknown candidates who now claim to be transgender “don't live it, they don't suffer it, endure it. Today, they only did it with the desire to become municipal presidents” or officials.
Dora Rodríguez Soriano, an advisor to the Tlaxcala election institute, was one of the first people to notice the discrepancy, but when she brought the issue to the seven person electoral board and requested a vote to approve the gender parity, she was the only one to vote against approving the party's candidates.
She acknowledged that Fuerza Por México seemed to have found a “loophole.”
"So we could face a situation of faking and that is a serious thing,” she said. “It seems to me that the rights of both the LGBTQ community and women are being harmed.”
After the alarm over the candidacies became public knowledge, the Tlaxcala electoral institute held a new session that revoked the candidacies of those who changed their gender. It then ruled early in the morning of June 1 that Fuerza Por México has 48 hours to either replace the men with women, or rearrange the municipalities to somehow meet the gender parity law.
“The ball is in the court of the political party so that once they make those adjustments and present them to the institute, we’ll again check if they meet gender parity or not,” said Rodríguez Soriano.
While it appears that Fuerza Por México’s plan to evade gender parity laws in Tlaxcala may have been stifled ahead of the June 6 elections, voters in Zacatelco still have the opportunity to vote for a trans candidate.
“Specifically in Tlaxcala, there already exists a trans candidate that's loyally committed to Tlaxcala,” said Valeria Lorety Díaz. “With all the legal documents.”