MIAMI — Donna Milo — a Cuban-American, conservative Republican, transgender woman running for Congress — says she doesn't like labels.
"I'm an American. I make my way on the basis of ability. My triumphs are based on my abilities, not on a label or a crutch," said Milo, a Miami Planning Advisory Board member running to replace U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, one of the House's most liberal Democrats.
Milo, 48, will speak Monday night at Fort Lauderdale City Hall, a guest at the monthly meeting of the Sunshine Republicans club, a conservative group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender South Floridians.
"Donna is a very unique individual," Sunshine Republicans President Benjamin Lewis said. "She brings a story with her candidacy. The story is of overcoming obstacles and desires to become the person she has wanted to be."
Milo — formerly named Ed — was born in Cuba, the youngest of nine children. The Milo family immigrated to Miami in 1964 and moved to Fort Lauderdale four years later. Prior to graduation from Stranahan High School, Ed Milo quit school.
"I got a GED three months before graduation my senior year. My dad [an auto mechanic] was starting to get ill. I don't come from a wealthy family, so I needed to help."
Milo enrolled in contractor school and eventually became a home-builder.
At age 19, Ed Milo married his high school sweetheart, Isabel. They have two children, Michael, now 25 and studying in Coral Springs to be a paramedic, and Emily, now 22 and a recent University of South Florida public relations grad.
"Donna is very blessed because she has a very supportive family," Emily said. "I call her dad. She's my dad. I have a mom. Donna's my dad."
Emily, who returned to South Florida and is helping Milo's campaign, says they "have a normal life like anyone else."
"People should be less focused on who Donna is and more on what she has to offer," Emily said. "She's very driven, honest and motivated, and very open to other people and what they have to say."
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