Tamara Adrián said her voice was hoarse from tear gas. But it did not stop her from laughing. From smiling. From speaking out.

She began her talk at the World OutGames Miami with a brief history of the political turmoil in Venezuela, where she serves on the National Assembly. Although Adrián was elected to the assembly last year, she and her colleagues have yet to successfully pass any new LGBTI rights legislation under the current president Nicolás Maduro. 

“President is a big word,” Adrián said. “Let’s call it what it is, it’s a dictatorship.” Adrián is a member of Voluntad Popular(VP). 

Maduro, a member of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela(PSUV) socialist party has effectively declared all sessions of the National Assembly null and void. A process Adrián described in a column in April:

When the Chavist party acquired power in 1998, it began to change all the relevant rules concerning separation of powers, elections, accountability, and democratic rights and guarantees. It took over private businesses, severely harming production, which led to exports concentrated almost entirely on oil. When oil prices dropped, the entire system began to fall apart. We could no longer import the products we needed, and inflation rose to an estimated 1,700 percent just this year.

Adrián has worked as a lawyer, law professor and LGBT activist, serving on the board of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and the organizing committee of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. And she was elated to be elected to office, but Adrián wrote that joy was short-lived:

Among this chaos, the opposition won a supermajority of seats in the National Assembly during the 2015 elections, yet the victory was immediately blocked by the government. New members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice were appointed unlawfully, and they suspended four of the elected members of parliament to destroy the supermajority. Since then, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice has rendered more than 40 decisions aimed at annulling the powers of the National Assembly. Budgeted funds were cut. MPs no longer received salaries, and we are now “volunteers for the country’s sake.”

She has spent her life and living, convincing and educating people. Now, unable to make change in a position where she’s been elected to do so, she has another big word to sum it up. Frustrated.

Adrián, who is transgender, ran for office under her assigned male name because Venezuelan law does not allow for name changes on legal documents. 

Since taking office, she has sought to amend the country’s Civil Registry Law. If passed, these amendments would effectively legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by gay people, recognize the appropriate name and gender of transgender and intersex people, and recognize marriages or gender changes done abroad. And she has introduced an act that would institute a hate-crimes law covering LGBTI people. But legislation has yet to move beyond the Assembly. 

When the history and politics lesson had ended, she opened things up for questions. And she reminded the audience of the importance of keeping an international perspective in the fight for equal rights. 

Adrián’s voice showed no signs of cracking as she addressed those gathered in the ballroom. 

“The governments are homophobic, the revolutions are homophobic, homophobia is everywhere, homophobia is learned, the same way as racism, the same way as misogyny – but acceptance, acceptance spreads.”