When I consider where to travel, and where to take tour groups, I always pay attention to a destination’s attitudes on LGBT rights. Argentina has always been one of my favorites. It’s just refreshing, in terms of how many Argentinians see our rights as a no-brainer.
This year, Argentina passed legislation on gender identity – the most progressive in the world. Trans people can now change their legal gender, name, and image with no questions asked. There’s no hoping for a sympathetic doctor, bureaucrat or judge; it’s a simple administrative procedure. On top of that, insurance companies and the public health plan now have to cover sexual reassignment surgery and hormone treatment. It’s the law.
I remember when the push for this law started. High off the passage of marriage equality in May 2010, the Argentina LGBT Federation turned its attention to trans rights. When I was in in Buenos Aires that November, the cover of the Federation’s monthly magazine read, “Let’s Go For More! Gender identity law now!” It was so nice to see, I’ve kept a copy of it to this day.
But the victory here wasn’t just in passing the law. It’s in how it passed. The vote in the Argentinian Senate was 55-0. There were some absences and one abstention. But still – 55 to zero! And Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner personally presided over a ceremony awarding new ID cards to trans citizens. In her remarks, she described this change in the law as “reparación” – righting a wrong – and talked about her pride that Argentina is leading the world in LGBT rights.
She also offered a level of validation and solidarity I was shocked to hear. President Fernandez de Kirchner spoke eloquently about the full inclusion of queer citizens, saying, “I don’t believe in tolerance. Tolerating means, ‘I’ll endure your existence because I don’t have a choice.’ I want to speak of equality – of all of you who will now have the same rights that I did from the day I was born, and that so many millions of Argentinians had from the day they were born. And that’s the society we want.” She closed by apologizing that trans people had to wait so long for this law.
A Senate passing a trans rights bill unanimously? A president asking forgiveness that it didn’t happen sooner? That’s the society I want too.
(Check out video of the ceremony. The first half is the president giving people their new ID cards, and the second half is her speech. Note that the event also celebrated the closing of a legal loophole that kept some same-sex couples from both being recognized as a child’s legal parents. Also check out Blabbeando’s writeup for the best coverage I’ve seen.)
A version of this article was originally published in the monthly newsletter of allgo, a queer people of color organization in Texas.