BUENOS AIRES, Jun 23 (IPS) – “At 35 years old, with a document that says who I really am, I went back to school and finished my studies, which I had left at 14 because I couldn’t stand the bullying anymore.” and abuse,” said Florencia Guimaraes, a transgender woman whose life was changed by Argentina’s Gender Identity Law.
The new law approved by Congress in May 2012 was a first in the world, since it allows people to change their gender, name and photo on their identity document, without the need for medical tests, surgeries or hormonal treatments.
One of the 12,665 people who did so was Florencia, who is 42 years old today. She was born a boy, but from a young age she felt like a girl, which is why she says that she faced barriers in accessing education and the labor market, which led her to sex work for years in order to survive.
“There is nothing special about my story. Exclusion was a direct springboard to prostitution, which most of us started practicing from a very young age. It has to do with the lack of opportunities,” she told IPS.
“The law and our identity documents were tools that empowered us. It is true that before it was not written anywhere that we could not study, but they saw us as ‘sick’ and there were mechanisms that expelled us from the educational system”, she added.
Official figures indicate that 62 percent of the 12,665 people who changed their National Identity Document (DNI) in the last 10 years chose to be a woman and 35 percent chose to be a man. Thus they began the slow path towards the recovery of their rights in this South American country of 47 million inhabitants.
In addition, there are almost three percent (354 people) who recently chose to mark with an “X” the box on their document corresponding to their sex, thanks to a decree signed in July 2021 by President Alberto Fernández that recognizes “non-binary”. ” gender.
Diego Watkins, a 28-year-old trans man who has been the visible face of the Association of Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgender of Argentina (ATTTA), says that this recognition marked a before and after.
“I was a person with no identity, no future, no life project. If I said I had a toothache, they sent me to a psychologist. Knowing and being known gave my life meaning,” he told IPS.
As a symptom of its current strength, the group has appropriated the term transvestite, traditionally used in Argentina as an insult or in a derogatory manner. Today, being a transvestite is a political identity and the word is used, precisely, as a banner to claim the right to be trans, say members of the community.
The slow road to change
Florencia Guimaraes, a graduate in Gender and Politics from the National University of General Sarmiento, has headed for two years the Program for Access to Rights for Transvestites, Transsexuals and/or Transgenders of the Council of the Judiciary of the City of Buenos Aires, the body that administers the Judicial Power of the Argentine capital.
“This is the first time in my life that I have a job and this, of course, would not have been possible without the law,” he said.
She is also president of the Casa de Lohana y Diana, a self-managed center for the transvestite community in Laferrere, one of the most populous and poorest suburbs of Buenos Aires.
“We offer training workshops with job opportunities, since the majority, despite the law, are still excluded and survive from prostitution,” says Florencia.
According to a 2019 study published by the Public Defense of Buenos Aires, entitled The Butterfly Revolution, only nine percent of the trans population is inserted in the formal labor market and the vast majority have not even gotten a job interview.
LGTBI rights organizations agree that the total transgender population in the country is between 10 and 15 percent higher than the 12,665 people registered.
“The fact that transgender people have no alternative to sex work is slowly changing since the approval of the law, which gave visibility to a group that was discriminated against and hidden, but it is still very recent,” said activist Esteban Paulón, who He heads the LGBT+ Public Policy Institute, a civil society organization, he told IPS from the city of Rosario.
Paulón was undersecretary for Sexual Diversity Policies in the northwestern province of Santa Fe, of which Rosario is the main city. He conducted a vulnerability survey there in 2019, which reached almost a third of the 1,200 trans people in that province.
The study found that only 46 percent finished high school and only five percent completed college or university.
And the results were especially revealing in terms of emotional distress related to gender identity: 75 percent said they had self-harmed with varying frequency and had problematic alcohol use; 77 percent had used other substances; and 79 percent had eating disorders.
Perhaps the hardest statistic is that, according to estimates by LGBT organizations, the average lifespan is between 35 and 41 years.
Paulón said that of the 1,200 trans people who live in Santa Fe, only 30 are over 50 years old.
And he explained: “The chain of exclusion has made it impossible for transvestites to take care of their health. Many go to the hospital for the first time with an advanced infection caused by AIDS, a disease that today can be managed with medication.
Valeria Licciardi, a trans woman who became known through her participation in the reality show Big Brother and now owns a brand of panties designed especially for transvestites, believes that the law is a starting point for social change.
“We were given our place as citizens and our right to identity was recognized, to be who we want to be,” he told IPS.
But he warned about an unwanted effect of the law: “The more we advance in rights, the more hatred and discrimination towards us from a sector also grows.”
He cited the example of an arson attack reported this month at the so-called Hotel Gondolín, a shelter for the transvestite community that operates in a squat in the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
“It was at dawn. The police told us that, according to the images from the security cameras, two men started the fire from the street,” Solange Fabián, a member of the Hotel Gondolín board, told IPS.
Seeking to improve labor inclusion, a presidential decree issued in 2020 established that one percent of jobs in the national public administration must be held by trans people, and a registry of applicants was created.
“We are making progress in the implementation and there are already 300 trans people working, which we estimate is 0.2 percent of the total positions in the public sector”, Greta Peña, Undersecretary of Diversity Policies of the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity he told IPS.
“We also have 6,007 people on the registry, which indicates that there is a great desire among the trans community to go out to work,” he added.
This year, the Undersecretariat launched a one-time economic aid plan for trans people over 50 years of age, consisting of six minimum wages, since this is the group that faces the greatest difficulties in entering the labor market.
“Although no regulation solves structural violence by itself, the gender identity law has been a milestone in the democratic history of this country, which has not only impacted trans people, but the entire population,” Peña said. .
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service