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The Life of Carla Antonelli

Transgender women are increasingly making waves around the world, breaking down barriers and fighting for equality and acceptance. Among these trailblazers is Carla Antonelli, a transgender activist, actress, and politician from Spain.

Her tireless work and dedication to the cause of transgender rights has earned her international recognition and made her one of the most important figures in the movement.

Antonelli’s impact has been felt both in Spain and beyond, where her activism has helped to raise awareness of the issues facing transgender people and bring about positive change.

In this article, we will explore her life and work, from her early years as an actress to her groundbreaking political career and ongoing advocacy for transgender rights.

Childhood and Background

Carla Antonelli was born on July 13, 1959, in Güímar, a town located on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. She was born Carlos Antonio, but later changed her name to Carla Antonelli after coming out as a transgender woman.

Carla Antonelli - 1979, Madrid
Instagram – @carla.antonelli

She grew up in a working-class family on the island of Gran Canaria and later moved to Madrid to pursue a degree in Fine Arts.

In 1977, at the age of 18, Antonelli left her hometown with only 300 pesetas in her pocket and moved to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. She hoped to live as the woman she was meant to be, but her early years in the city were marked by hardship, fear, and discrimination.

She faced police harassment, social rejection, and struggled to make ends meet. Despite these challenges, she continued to pursue her passion for acting and eventually moved to Madrid in 1979, where she began to make a name for herself in the world of entertainment.


In Madrid, she faced new challenges as an actress, as directors of the time were hesitant to cast trans actors. However, she continued to pursue her passion for acting and gradually became a recognized figure in Spanish media.

Carla Antonelli
Twitter – @CarlaAntonelli

In the 1980s, she made appearances in magazines, documentaries, and television programs, where she was interviewed and also served as a panelist.

Despite her growing success as an actress, her activism for transgender rights remained at the forefront of her life.


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Transgender Rights

In 1997, she became the Coordinator of the Transgender Area for the Federal LGBT Group of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), a position she held for ten years. Her affiliation with the PSOE allowed her to become a key player in the fight for transgender rights in Spain.

She was also involved in the creation of a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, which was included in the party’s 2004 election platform. After the PSOE won the elections, the proposal became law. Moreover, she also helped in the development of the Gender Identity Law for Trans People, which was approved in 2007.

Carla Antonelli
Instagram – @carla.antonelli

The first objective was achieved after the Socialist Party’s victory in the aforementioned elections, but the “Trans Law” was delayed, leading Antonelli, a combative and resilient force, to go on a hunger strike with other activists to expedite the law’s passage.

Antonelli considers herself “socialist, left-wing, and Zapaterista,” and has even stood up to her own party when her convictions and activism required it. On behalf of politician Mercedes Gallizo Llamas, a pioneer of feminism in Aragon, she worked on the law that allows trans women to be admitted to women’s prison wards even if they have not undergone surgery.

Balancing Entertainment and Politics

Throughout her career as a politician and activist, Carla has never abandoned the world of acting, and since the 1980s, when she made her debut in Rafael Gil’s film “Hijos de papá,” she has appeared in numerous films, documentaries, and television series.

Some of her most notable roles include her recurring role (the first obtained by a transgender woman) in the Antena 3 series “El síndrome de Ulises,” which premiered in 2007 and aired for three seasons.

Carla Antonelli
Instagram – @carla.antonelli

Carla played Gloria, a character who, in her own words (in an interview with El Mundo), received a “completely correct treatment that breaks all stereotypes” as a “transgender woman with a normalized life”

She also played the role of Corifea in Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” a production that enjoyed unprecedented success at the 2010 International Classical Theatre Festival of Merida, and with which she became the first transgender woman to play a character on the prestigious Merida stage.


Carla Antonelli has received numerous awards throughout her political and activist career, a fight that is not over as she still faces insults and hate today.

In light of confessions like those mentioned above, perhaps the recognitions granted in her hometown are the ones that have moved her the most (such as the Cardon Prize, which the Municipality of Güímar awards to outstanding residents, in 2009; being the pregonera of the patron saint festivals of her hometown in 2010, or having a street dedicated to her in Güímar in 2020).

Carla Antonelli receiving the Visibles 2022 price
Instagram – @carla.antonelli

This change in mentality, from the place that forced her to leave amidst incomprehension and harassment to the one that distinguishes her with such merits, is amplified by the general change in society thanks to figures like her.

As reflected in a conversation with a Canary Islands friend that was reproduced in the aforementioned interview with El País, Carla expressed:

How the story has changed, my dear: those who called us ‘faggots’ now call me ‘your honor.'”


In 2011, Antonelli ran for a seat in the Madrid Assembly and was elected as a deputy, becoming the first trans woman to hold a parliamentary position in Spain.

In 2016, she became a speaker in the aforementioned Madrid Assembly for the Comprehensive Transsexuality Law, which was approved on March 17.

In an emotional speech in which she remembered her late partner, activist and politician Pedro Zerolo, Antonelli acknowledged that this was a “step forward… so that they stop stigmatizing us” (Esther Sánchez, El País).

The law includes measures against school bullying and a temporary personal identification document for trans children, which allows them to be identified according to their gender identity.

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About the author

Amanda Valentine Dela Cruz
Amanda Valentine is a transgender woman who has written about trans topics for over 10 years for My Transgender Date. She is an author who made it on Amazon’s best-seller list by writing 5 books on trans women’s relationships. Her book “Dating Transgender Women for Gentlemen” peaked at #3 in the Transgender Studies category on Amazon. She started writing at the age of 10 and won a poetry contest in 4th grade which convinced her to pursue a career in literature. Her personal experiences as a transgender woman give her a unique perspective on trans topics.

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