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Topics In the News
New Argentine Law Advances Transgender Rights
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/13/12
Last updated on: 05/14/12
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An Associated Press story run in the New York Times on May 11, 2012 says that Argentina's new gender rights law has established the country as the world's leader in transgender rights. The law gives individuals the freedom to change their legal and physical gender identity without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric, and medical procedures beforehand.

The law, which was passed by the Senate on a 55-0 vote on May 9, 2012, is the latest in a growing list of bold moves on social issues by the Argentine government, which also legalized gay marriage two years ago.

Although these changes primarily affect minority groups, President Cristina Fernández describes them as "fundamental." For a democratic society still shaking off the human rights violations of the 1976-1983 dictatorship and the long repression of the Roman Catholic Church, the changes are both remarkable and necessary.

Transgender activists have said that no other country has gone so far to embrace gender self-determination. In the United States and Europe, transgender people must submit to physical and mental health exams and get past a series of other obstacles before accessing sex-change treatments, including hormones as well as surgery.

Justus Eisfeld, co-director of Global Action for Trans Equality in New York, has hailed the fact that Argentina's law is the first to give citizens the right to change their legal gender without first changing their bodies.

"The fact that there are no medical requirements at all--no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis--is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries," said Eisfeld, who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe's human rights commission.

The law was drafted by the legal team of the Argentine Transvestite, Transsexual and Transgender Association, assisted by an international coalition of activist groups advocating that governments drop barriers to people determining their own gender identity.

"This law is saying that we're not going to require you to live as a man or a woman, or to change your anatomy in some way. They're saying that what you say you are is what you are. And that's extraordinary," said Katrina Karkazis, a Stanford University bioethicist and author of Fixing Sex, a study of the legal and medical boundaries around gender identity issues in the United States.

Predictably, the Catholic Church opposed the new gender law, just as they vigorously opposed the marriage equality law. But while most Argentines still identify as Catholics and Catholicism remains the nation's official religion, the Church has seen a massive loss of moral and political authority in the last few years, in part because the Catholic hierarchy has been closely linked with the military junta that killed as many as 30,000 people during the dictatorship.

The video below was produced as part of a transgender rights campaign in Argentina.

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