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Argentina becomes the world’s most transgender friendly country

May 24, 2012

By Jack Harrison, Task Force policy analyst

Today, the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, signed into law the country’s gender identity bill, establishing Argentina as the most trans-friendly legal environment in the entire world. Under the new law, trans people will be able to change their legal gender and name without judicial permission or any requirement that they undergo surgeries. Further, once these changes are made, trans people will have access to the country’s socialized medical system for all their transition-related care for free including any desired surgeries. People will be able to legally change their IDs starting on June 4.

I, along with the entire National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, want to applaud the efforts of the trans, LGBT and allied activists in Argentina who made this happen. As a Latino trans ally in the U.S., it is important to me not just because of all the lives this will improve, but also because it shows the world that those countries with the most wealth are in fact not always the places that show the most respect for LGBT people. It emphatically counters this widely circulating racist and colonial narrative as Argentina joins its sister South American countries, Bolivia, Uruguay and Ecuador, in making strides for transgender equality.

For me it also underscores the importance of continuing to strive to do our work as trans and progressive activists here in the U.S., where our ID document policies must be modernized and where we must continue to strive for health care access for all trans people and all Americans broadly.

Two of the most important facets of this law are the lack of judicial permission and surgical requirements. In parts of the U.S., for example, the requirement that trans people get a court order to change their identity documents such as their birth certificate puts an unnecessary financial strain on the applicants and also opens them up to discrimination by the courts.

In terms of surgery, there are two kinds of surgical requirements prominent in different parts of the world. The first is what we have in many states in the United States – the requirement that trans people undergo costly and sometimes unwanted transition-related surgeries in order access accurate, updated ID. These policies are based on the idea that all trans people undergo a single “sex change surgery” and that this constitutes transition, whereas the truth is that trans people may choose to change their bodies in any number of ways in order to embody their gender identity and many choose not to undergo any at all because of the financial burden or because they are simply unwanted. The second type of surgical requirement is prominent in Europe and requires that trans people be surgically sterilized before they are able to access accurate, updated ID. This is, of course, a major violation of bodily sovereignty and contains implicit unconscionable judgments about trans people as parents.

Argentina’s new trans protections only add to a list of LGBT friendly policies the country has passed, including marriage equality, adoption by same-sex couples, open military service and nondiscrimination policies.

With the news that Argentinean law number Nº 26.743 had been promulgated, Mauro Cabral, co-director of GATE – Global Action for Trans* Equality, said:

This is a historical victory for all trans* activists, organizations and networks and their allies in Argentina – and everywhere, provided that legal change is always a collective process. Congratulations to all of us!

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