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Ecuadorian transgender people on Sunday voted for the first time according to their chosen gender, in what activists say are signs of progress in the socially conservative and Catholic Andean nation.

Picture:Picture: (UAN CEVALLOS/GETTY

Men and women cast their ballots in separate lines, which for years created uncomfortable moments for transgender voters who had to queue up according to their biological sex.

'The rumours would start, and the looks,' said LGBT activist Mariasol Mite, 32, who changed her ID description from 'sex: male' to 'gender: female' last year.

After years of lobbying by the LGBT community and despite opposition by Catholic and increasingly powerful evangelical groups, Ecuador passed a law last year allowing people to choose a gender on their identity card.

But it's not just voting: 34-year-old psychologist Rodriguez was born biologically male and hopes to become the country's first transgender lawmaker.

If elected, the leftist ruling party candidate would push for legislation to counter bullying against transgender students, combat discrimination in the workplace, and eventually work towards legalising gay marriage and adoption.

The process for equality remains slow, but steady

In 2008 pro- LGBT group Proyecto-Transgenero successfully lobbied the government in helping to create the New Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, which guarantees equality under law without fear of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

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