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In Argentina, gender identity law makes progress

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina's gay community has been aggressively campaigning for a new “gender identity” law for several years, and after the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage act of July 2010 they increased the pressure on the national government.

Under the motto “Let’s Go For More,” Argentina’s LGBT community have been campaigning for a gender identity law to enable individuals to change their gender on birth certificates and identity cards. The lack of a gender identity law has been causing transgendered Argentines difficulties when dealing with the government using documents that no longer matched their expressed gender.

The campaign’s visibility increased on the Saturday after the 2010 Gay Pride parade when thousands celebrated Argentina’s status as the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

The proposed law had been stuck in Argentina's Senate since 2007, but there was greater optimism following the passage of the gay marriage law.

“The gay marriage law helped open the doors to discuss LGBT issues in Argentina,” said Socialist Deputy Roy Cortina. “And that's going to be beneficial for the gender identity law.”

In November, a package of four bills, commonly referred to as the Gender Identity Law, successfully obtained a majority of votes during a joint meeting of the General Legislation and Justice committees of Argentina. Presented earlier this year with the full support of various LGBTQ and transgender organizations, the four bills together would make it easier for transgender people to obtain accurate government documentation and services.

Stating that gender identity is an internal and individual experience that may or may not correspond with that assigned at birth, the law would allow name and gender corrections on all documentation through a simple procedure at the National Registry of Persons. Additionally, the text does not set specific requirements for the change of gender, except for the applicant’s request, thus bypassing the need for costly and medical, psychiatric or surgical treatments.

Currently, transgender people who wish to correct their documentation must go through a lengthy legal process that includes medical and psychological examinations, with no guarantee of a favorable ruling.

“We hope for the rapid advance of the Identity Law in the National Chamber of Deputies, so that the right we currently obtain judicially can be a right for everyone throughout the country,” said Marcela Romero, Secretary General of the Argentine Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people (FALGBT) and President of the ATTTA (Asociación Trasvestis, Transexuales y Transgénero de la Argentina).

“We want equality and identity for the trans collective and the opportunity to advance strongly the guarantee of integral health care, which is one of the principal demands of our collective.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Lower House granted preliminary approval to the Gender Identity bill and sent it to the Upper House floor, where senators will continue to debate the new legislation. The much-debated gender identity bill, allows Argentina's citizens to officially change their name and sexual identity if they wish to do so, without the need to request a special permission from the courts.

The bill, drafted after four different bills coming from four caucuses in the Lower House, enables transvestites and transsexuals to officially change their name and gender identity no matter what their biological sex is.

As it became clear that the bill would receive preliminary approval, human rights activists and members of several homosexual, transvestite and transsexual rights organizations cheered as lawmakers voted in favour. Members of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (FALGBT) were present during the gender identity bill debate and celebrated its passage through the Lower House.

In neighboring Uruguay, a law on the right to gender identity was passed in 2009, but the name-change procedure requires the involvement of a family court and an evaluation of the person in question by a multidisciplinary team at the civil registry office.

"In Colombia, people can get their names changed on their documents, but not their gender, while in Brazil rulings are being handed down in favour of the identity card change, but only for transsexuals: in other words, people who have actually had surgery," Romero said.

Argentina continues to take positive steps towards equality for its LGBT citizens.

Roy Heale, a freelance writer who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is SDGLN's South America contributor. He writes about LGBT issues from the Latin American continent. To read more stories by Roy Heale, visit his website.