Transgender people take their place in Argentinean society – Global Issues

Florencia Guimarães, a transgender woman who two years ago got her first job in the public sector two years ago, takes part in a demonstration in defense of the rights of the LGBT collective. Lohana Berkins, whose photo she featured on the banner, was the founder of the Transvestite/Transgender Identity Association, who died in 2016. CREDIT: Courtesy of Florencia Guimares.
  • Daniel GutmanBuenos Aires)
  • Inter Press Service

new law passed by Congress in May 2012, was groundbreaking in the world as it allows people to change their gender, name, and photo on an 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 today. She was born a boy but felt like a girl from childhood, and for this reason, she said, she faced barriers to accessing education and the labor market, which led her to spend years in sex work to survive.

“There is nothing special about my story. The exception was a direct springboard to prostitution, which most of us started at a very young age. This is due to the lack of opportunities,” she told IPS.

“The law and our identity papers were the tools that gave us strength. True, it was not written anywhere before that we could not study, but we were considered “sick” and there were mechanisms that excluded us from the education system,” she added.

Official figures show that 62 percent of the 12,665 people who changed their National Identity Card (DNI) in the past 10 years chose a woman, while 35 percent chose a man. Thus, they began the slow path to regaining their rights in this South American country of 47 million people.

In addition, almost three percent (354 people) recently chose to mark with an “X” the box on their document corresponding to their gender, thanks to a decree signed in July 2021 by President Alberto Fernandez recognizing a “non-binary” gender.

Diego Watkins, 28-year-old transgender man who was a visible face Association of Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgenders of Argentina (ATTTA)says this confession marked “before” and “after”.

“I was a person with no identity, no future, no life plan. If I said that I had a toothache, they sent me to a psychologist. Knowing and being known for who I am gave meaning to my life,” he told IPS.

As a sign of their current strength, the group has appropriated the term “transvestite”, which is traditionally used in Argentina as an insult or derogatory term. Today, being a transvestite is a political identity, and the word is used precisely as a banner to protect the right to be transgender, community members say.

Slow road to change

Florencia Guimarães graduated with a degree in Gender and Politics from the National University. Generala Sarmiento, for the past two years has chaired the Access to Rights Program for Transvestites, Transsexuals and/or Transgender Persons at the Magistrates’ Council of the City of Buenos Aires, the body governing the judiciary of the Argentine capital.

“I got a job for the first time in my life, and this, of course, would not have been possible without the law,” she said.

She is also the President Casa de Lojana and Dianaself-governing center of the transvestite community in Laferrera, one of the most populous and poorest suburbs in Buenos Aires.

“We offer training seminars with employment opportunities, since most of them, despite the law, are still excluded and survive through prostitution,” says Florencia.

According to a 2019 study published by the Public Defense of Buenos Aires titled Butterfly revolutiononly nine percent of the transgender population is represented in the formal labor market, and the vast majority have never even been interviewed for a job.

LGBT rights organizations agree that the total number of transgender people in the country is 10 to 15 percent higher than the registered 12,665.

“The fact that transgender people have no alternative to sex work has been slowly changing since the passage of the law, which made visible a group that was discriminated against and went into hiding, but this is still very recent,” activist Esteban Paulon, who leads LGTB+ Public Policy Institutea civil society organization, Rosario City told IPS.

Paulón was Deputy Minister of Sexual Diversity Policy in the northwestern province of Santa Fe, whose main city is Rosario. In 2019, he conducted a vulnerability study there that covered nearly a third of the 1,200 transgender people in that province.

The study found that only 46 percent completed high school and only five percent completed a college or university education.

And the results were particularly revealing in terms of gender identity-related emotional distress: 75 percent said they self-harmed at varying rates and abused alcohol; 77 percent used other substances; and 79 percent had eating disorders.

Perhaps the harshest statistic is that LGBT organizations estimate life expectancy to be between 35 and 41 years.

Paulon said that of the 1,200 transgender people living in Santa Fe, only 30 are over 50.

And he explained: “The chain of isolation has deprived transvestites of the opportunity to take care of their health. Many first come to the hospital with an advanced infection caused by AIDS, a disease that today can be treated with drugs.”

Valeria Licciardi, a transgender woman who rose to prominence on the reality show Big Brother and now owns a brand of panties designed specifically for transvestites, believes the law is the starting point for social change.

“We have been given our place as citizens and our right to identity, to be who we want to be, has been recognized,” she told IPS.

But she warned of an undesirable effect of the law: “The more we advance in rights, the more hatred and discrimination against us from one sector grows.”

She gave the example of an arson reported this month at the so-called Gondolin Hotel, a shelter for a transvestite community that operates from a squat in the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

“It was early in the morning. The police told us that, according to security footage, two men started the fire from the street,” Solange Fabian, board member of the Gondolín Hotel, told IPS.

Overcoming barriers

In an effort to improve labor inclusion, a presidential decree issued in 2020 established that one percent of positions in the national public administration must be filled by transgender people, and a roster of applicants was created.

“We are making progress on implementation and there are already 300 transgender people employed, which we estimate represents 0.2 percent of total public sector jobs,” said Greta Peña, Undersecretary for Diversity Policy. Ministry of Women, Gender and DiversityIPS reported.

“We also have 6,007 people on the roster, indicating that there is a great desire among the trans community to get out and work,” she added.

This year, the Undersecretariat launched a one-time economic assistance plan for transgender people over 50, consisting of six minimum wages, as this group faces the most difficulties in entering the labor market.

“While no regulation by itself eliminates structural violence, the gender identity law was an important milestone in the democratic history of this country, which had an impact not only on transgender people, but on the entire population,” Peña said.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service

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