Argentina: doing it right. After passing a groundbreaking gender identity law on Wednesday, Argentina, which became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, now leads the entire world when it comes to trans rights.
The new law, which was passed by 55-0 and is expected to be signed by president Cristina Fernandez, grants trans people the right to legally change their gender identity without having to get approval from doctors or judges–and, importantly, without having to change their bodies at all first. Not having a valid ID that matches your gender identity is a huge barrier to access to education, employment, health care, you name it. As Kalym Sori, an Argentinian trans man said, “This is why the law of identity is so important. It opens the door to the rest of our rights.”
But in most places in the world–and in the U.S.–trans people must show proof of a medical diagnosis and often major interventions, like surgery or hormone therapy, before they can get that legal recognition. (For example, in 17 European countries, trans people have to be willing to be sterilized just to change their ID) It’s a hurdle that many people can’t–or simply don’t want to–jump. And now they won’t have to in Argentina.
But, if trans Argentinians do want to change their bodies, thanks to the new law, insurance companies–both public and private–will now have to provide them with surgery or hormone therapy at no additional cost. I know, I know. That may seem strange to those of us in the U.S.–where trans rights are way back in the dark ages and the right to health care in general is not recognized. But, see, in Argentina they believe in things like human rights, and as Sen. Miguel Pichetto said during debate on the bill, “This is truly a human right: the right to happiness.”
Kudos to Argentina for standing up for the rights of their trans citizens “who also deserve the power to exist.” And let’s hope other countries will follow their lead.