Aldo Iván Dávila Morales is poised to take up a seat in Guatemala’s congress in January, making history as the first openly gay man elected to the country’s legislature. Proudly gay and living with HIV, the 41-year-old activist says the rainbow flag will not be his only cause. He intends to begin his congressional career with three main agenda points: Fighting endemic corruption, ensuring Guatemalans’ right to health care and defending human rights, with a focus on the LGBTQ community.
“I’m happy, with a lot of mixed feelings,” Dávila said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The worry is I’m putting myself in a snake pit. But at the same time I’m no slouch, and I’m ready and able to fight when it needs to be done.”
While it hasn’t been officially confirmed by electoral authorities, experts say Dávila’s left-wing Winaq party won four congressional seats in Sunday’s general election, and he is set to represent a Guatemala City district.
Guatemala has taken baby steps toward guaranteeing LGBTQ rights, such as adopting measures to identify hate crimes against members of the community and allowing people to change their legal names and choose how they appear in photos on official IDs, which let transgender people better express their identity. It remains a socially conservative society, however, with the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant faiths dominant. Prejudice and fears over HIV are deeply rooted, and LGTBQ people have historically been the targets of discrimination and sometimes assault, although such treatment is slowly becoming less socially acceptable.
Neither Dávila’s name nor photo was on the ballot — only the name of his party — and he didn’t emphasize his sexuality during the campaign. So Gabriela Tuch, a lawyer and former human rights prosecutor focusing on the LGBTQ community, said his election can’t be attributed to any significant shift in attitudes.
“It’s not that society has said, ‘A gay man, affirmative action, let’s vote for him,’” Tuch said. “He was favored by the votes and the position he was in. Now the challenge begins.”
One of the congressman-elect’s first battles will be opposing a bill proposed by the conservative party that would criminalize abortion and codify into law that same-sex couples are barred from marrying or adopting children. He also intends to propose a new commission that would report and investigate all kinds of discrimination.
“You cannot be a spectator when your country is falling apart,” Dávila said. “You have to take a leading role.”