Voters in Colombia elected 21 openly LGBTQ leaders during this year’s October elections, tripling the number of out elected officials in the country at the local level. Most notably, Claudia Lopez won election as the new Mayor of Bogota, becoming the first woman and first openly LGBTQ candidate elected to the position.
This local election saw a record number of out candidates in Colombia, with 67 LGBTQ people seeking a local office, almost doubling the number of the 2015 elections, with 37 out candidates. Overcoming barriers and stigma, this group of leaders ran across the country, representing the whole political spectrum.
Lopez, a former senator and presidential candidate, has become the first LGBTQ mayor of a major city in Latin America. With over 7 million people, she is considered the second most important official in Colombia, only after the president himself. But Lopez is not the only leader who broke barriers when elected – Taliana Gomez was the first trans woman elected in the Caribbean coast.
“The growing number of LGBTQ people running for office is a significant milestone for equality and shows the willingness of our populations to build more inclusive societies,” declared Wilson Castañeda, Director of Caribe Afirmativo, one of the main LGBTQ organizations in Colombia and local partner of the LGBTQ Victory Institute.
Both organizations have been working since 2012 to increase the political participation of the LGBTQ community in Colombia. Through trainings, technical assistance and dialogues with the political parties, Victory Institute and Caribe Afirmativo have been contributing to the success of these courageous leaders. Out of the 67 out candidates, a third of them attended our campaign trainings. In addition, over half of the total candidates received technical assistance ahead of the elections.
As part of that continuous support, Victory Institute and Caribe Afirmativo just finished a three-day governance training for the newly elected officials, providing them with key tools to carry out their duties successfully. The training covered their main responsibilities as elected officials, learning the steps on the budget process of the institutions where they got elected, and a workshop on personal branding and communications.
To finish that training, three of the six LGBTQ elected officials from the previous period chatted with the new elected officials around key learnings and strategies to overcome the barriers that they may encounter. One of these three leaders was Julián Bedoya, outgoing Mayor of Toro, and the first gay mayor in Colombia.