The Enactment of the Gender Identity Law, 10 Years Later: How Did This Legislation Come into Being?
On a day like today, in 2012, the Argentine Senate passed the Gender Identity Law with 55 votes in favour and 1 abstention. Since then, 12,655 people have received their corrected national ID cards expressing their self-perceived gender identities.
Tradoctas talked to lesbian sociologist and transfeminist activist Charo M. Ramos, member of the National Front for the Gender Identity Law. Alongside movement leaders such as Lohana Berkins, Diana Sacayán and Diana Maffia, Ramos participated in the elaboration process of the law that today sees its 10th anniversary.
How and when did you start participating in the Front for the Gender Identity Law?
Charo Ramos: —I actually started before the Front itself was created, when we were reading bill drafts around 2010 or 2011, I think, I keep mixing up the dates. Back then, I worked with Lohana Berkins at Diana Maffia's office in the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires. I was also part of the youth area of the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) and I did some activism in lesbian-feminist groups.
Lohana asked me to join them and of course I did. The CHA already had an important role in it, too, because lawyers Emiliano Litardo and Iñaki Regueiro de Giacomi—who currently work with ABOSEX—were in charge of the lawsuits against the State for gender registration rectifications and access to medical interventions. So little by little we created the Front, together with folks we knew from other experiences in activism, who had very different political beliefs: there were anarchists, peronists, communists. It was a really cross-cutting issue.
What do you remember of the draft meetings for the bill? What was your role in the process?
—Organizing those meetings was such a mess. It was very difficult to find a time and a date when all the people and organizations involved were able to attend. We tried to implement all kinds of rotation methods but it was hard. It was also very difficult to have folks from other parts of the country be able to effectively participate in them because back then virtual communications were not so widespread and we didn't have the money to pay for transportation. Not to mention, you either had to have a job that allowed you to travel for a meeting or you had to give up those days' pay. It was pretty challenging.
We tried to keep the conversation going through emails, we used a blog and a Facebook group but it wasn't easy. Neither was it to reach agreements about terminology, primary objectives, things we had to negotiate, methodologies for writing, representation, decision-making or parliamentary strategies. The future of lots of those people—and of people who weren't politically active but would of course make use of this right once won—depended on this bill. It was a huge responsibility.
Besides, as we had very different worldviews, we had to combine lots of things to successfully draft a reasonable, up-to-date, useful bill that covered all the most important needs and more. My role in that, my usual role, was that of a mediator, facilitator, coordinator, narrator; I didn't always succeed but I tried. I also participated in the communication and lobbying teams.
The bill was preliminary approved by the Chamber of Deputies on November 30, 2011. In the words of activist Marlene Wayar, who was then part of Futuro Trans: “Our representatives were very clear and reiterative regarding our community's stories of exclusion, mistreatment and marginalization. This might be the first step towards more widespread recognition of our identities.”
The way Charo Ramos remembers it, the voting session at the Chamber of Deputies was a highly emotional affair. "Some woman representatives played a key role during that session: Marcela Rodríguez, Checha Merchán, Diana Conti, Vilma Ibarra (some of them were going through their last few sessions in office, too). These four women had willingly offered their offices, their consultants and their own time to help this bill become a reality. It was a very moving night."
How was, for you, the moment when the Senate passed the bill into law?
—When we arrived at the Senate, I honestly wasn't all that nervous. I knew it was gonna be approved, we had important supporters like Daniel Filmus. There weren't tons of people outside, on either day. When the bill was passed by the Senate, ten years ago, we had a tiny stage. Then vice-president Amado Boudou, who had attended the session, climbed onto it and we were all crowded around him. There were a few hundred people, not thousands and thousands like there were for other parliamentary milestone achievements.
We were a group of very tired travestis, trans and intersex people, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and cishet allies. We had given it our all. Those were long months of very intense legislative work, with plenty of internal conflicts within the LGBTIQ+ movement, and we had successfully come up with a law that was and still is globally groundbreaking in matters of gender identity with a comprehensive approach. Although, once a law is enacted, the next battle begins, which is its reglamentation. There's still a lot to do in terms of that and it's so much longer, deeper and more detailed work.
Do you have any anecdotes from that time engraved in your mind?
—The most interesting memories from that time, for me, are the political and theoretical debates: we discussed among ourselves and with other people about very complex ideas such as depathologization and we truly managed to convince really conservative people that it was time for the State to take this step and legislate to expand rights in a comprehensive, open and deeply democratic way. I grew a lot and I was also left exhausted. The internal process was so taxing but I still believe it was worth it.
I'll also always remember how Lohana refused to request her corrected ID under the law and decided to push forward with her lawsuit against the State, that Diana Sacayán was the first one to receive her ID from the hands of president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner herself, and that fate stole them away from us too soon. We could never recover from that political orphanhood, I know I still haven't.
Another important thing was that we were empiric, definite proof that people with very different backgrounds and worldviews can share a political objective, get tangled together, organize as a group, broadly organize their resources to see their objective become a reality and then move on with other agendas; you can do that and it's fantastic. That might even be the future of political action.