42-year-old Deivis Ventura is the first openly gay man running for a seat as a diputado, or representative in the Dominican Republic's equivalent of the House of Representatives. His candidacy comes with the support of Ciudadanos Más, an initiative to position leaders from traditionally excluded minorities in the political field.
Ventura says he suffered bullying in school and was also fired for being gay. He can relate to the initial distrust of many Dominicans in his circle who felt alienated from the political process, but he believes that only through participation can true changes come to the country. Although he faced rejection when he came out, his family now stands beside him and is supporting his campaign.
"I've traveled a long path that has brought me to affirm and love myself fully as I am: a black man, a gay man, a son of a poor family, a person of deep faith and above all a being who believes that a better world is possible when the basis for peaceful co-existence is built on the premise of respecting differences and accepting human diversity."
According to Hope Will Prevail Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT People in the Dominican Republic, a report that Human Rights First released last year on the state of LGBT rights in the Dominican Republic,
"LGBT Dominicans face a range of human rights concerns including violence, discrimination, hate crimes, lack of access to justice, impunity for perpetrators, and societal homophobia and transphobia."
The report goes on to detail some of the challenges which include reports of police harassment and complicity with violence, lack of anti-discrimination laws and some outspoken religious leaders that regularly make homophobic comments.
The hopeful tone of the report is based on the activists working for change in the country (Ventura is a member of REVASA, a network of gay and lesbian activists. They have a sister organization called TRANSSA for trans women and men. These are two of the groups active amongst others). Ventura says the press has been respectful in covering his candidacy, and the opposition comes mostly from people from the conservative religious groups.
Throughout the region both in the US and internationally LGBT candidates have sought to address issues of equality by running for the chance to make the laws themselves. There have been victories in Peru, Colombia and most recently Venezuela in the past. In May we will be able to report whether we can add Ventura to the list of successful LGBT candidates.
Ventura champions the environment, poor workers, and women. He hopes to pass a gender identity law, a non-discrimination law and a hate crimes law amongst other priorities.