President laments mislabeling trans lawmaker ‘gentleman dressed as woman’
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador apologized on Tuesday to a transgender lawmaker whom he previously described as a “gentleman dressed as a woman,” while denying speculation that he was secretly transphobic.
Lopez Obrador made the gaffe a day earlier, while commenting on a kiss he gave transgender lawmaker Salma Luevano at a public event. In his apology, he stressed that she identifies as a woman and said: “I consider that love has no sex, it is above everything. It’s like freedom.”
Luevano, a member of the Chamber of Deputies elected in 2021 from the president’s Morena party, appreciated his words on X (formerly Twitter). She noted that it highlighted the decades-long fight for trans rights in Mexico and stressed: “I am a woman… and it’s not up for debate.”
The misgendering incident occurred earlier this month during an encounter between the president, who is usually dubbed AMLO in his home country, and Luevano.
During the filmed interaction, the Mexican leader kissed the lawmaker on the cheek and held her hands for a short time. Some commentators claimed the 70-year-old appeared to be trying to break contact after realizing Luevano’s identity, implying that he was transphobic.
She said AMLO was well aware that she was transgender, undermining the narrative. Nevertheless, the president chose to dismiss the accusations personally during a press conference on Monday, declaring that there was nothing wrong about kissing a man, and that he did so often. It was in that context that he described Luevano as a “gentleman dressed as a woman.”
The gaffe resonated particularly strongly in Mexico due to a scandal in 2022 involving Luevano and conservative politician Gabriel Quadri. He was disciplined by the country’s election authority for remarks that it deemed transphobic, such as calling transgender individuals “transfascists” and “men dressed as women.”
Quadri made a point of addressing Luevano as “sir” during a debate on trans rights in the Mexican Congress. She called his refusal to refer to her as a woman “clear gender violence.”
Luevano and Maria Clemente Garcia, another transgender deputy, led a protest in the chamber, paralyzing the session. Clemente Garcia also announced that she would leave the Morena party, accusing its members of a hypocritical attitude to the trans community.