Monday, September 22, 2008

Argentina: Court allows transgender woman to legally change name w/out requiring gender reassignment surgery

Pictured above: Tania Luna, second from left, with her sister Verónica, legal team member Pedro Paradiso Sottile (left) and director Cesar Cigliutti, all members of the Argentinean Homosexual Community (CHA)

A judge in the Argentinian province of Mar de Plata has ruled in favor of a 25 year old transgender woman and allowed her to officially change her name to Tania without requiring gender-reassignment surgery.

"This ruling brings resolution to my life but I don't want it to be an isolated case" said Tania Luna to Clarin in an article posted online yesterday ("Born a man and will have a woman's name in his ID without having surgery").

Tania, who received legal assistance from members of the Argentinean Homosexual Community (CHA) including her sister Verónica Luna who is a lawyer, said that she always felt like a woman and had been using her chosen name since she was sixteen. She said that she would not mention her name of birth because it did not represent her but said that she had always counted with the full support of her parents, her three sister and a brother.

She began hormone treatments at fifteen and underwent silicone injections at eighteen. As a gift for her 21st birthday, her family pulled together enough money for her to be able to get breast implants but she has yet to undertake gender-reassignment surgery for which she says she is unprepared. "Before I felt ashamed of my body as if I was wearing a disguise, but these changes allow me to like the way I am," she said.

In the ruling, Judge Pedro Hooft specifically stated that gender-reassignment should not be a requirement for transgender individuals seeking to legally change their name and called it a "serious incongruence."

"It would be to once again remain in a reductionist vision which equalizes sex as gender with only one of its external characteristics, in this case the presence of male genital organs, giving less value to personal identity," said the judge [in a side note the paper notes that the judge is among those who have been accused by human rights organizations of collaborating with previous dictators].

To date, says Clarin, transgender women had been able to change their birth certificates and ID cards if they underwent gender-reassignment surgery in Argentina or in the exterior. Pedro Paradiso Sottile, from the CHA's legal department, explained that the desicion puts Tania and other women on equal ground. "For example," he said, "she can marry through the Civil Matrimony Law even if she does not seek gender reassignment surgery."

In other general terms Verónica, Luna's sister, says that it means that she will not be surrounded by members of police when she is at the airport because the name and photo on her ID does not match her appearance, it means she doesn't have to wonder whether she would cast a vote in a voting table designated for male voters or at another designated for female voters, it means that hospitals will not discriminate against her when she seeks treatment (as the Lunas claim happened once when hospital workers segregated her from other patients), and it means that she will probably not be turned away when seeking employment.

It's a tremendously progressive ruling. Laws allowing transgender individuals to officially change their names in birth certificates and personal identity documents vary all over the map but even in the United States when it's been allowed, one precondition has always been that the person demonstrate that he or she has had gender-reassignment surgery.

A 2006 proposal, which would have made New York City the only place in the United State to allow these changes without requiring proof of a gender reassignment surgery was scrapped at the last minute when issues of federal security were raised.

7 comments:

Lake said...

We're soooo advanced...

libhom said...

South America sure is surpassing the US on queer issues.

Anonymous said...

The US doesn't allow it? What about Thomas Beatie? I was under the impression that he is legally a man - papers and all - despite not having undergone surgery below his waist. Is the ruling different for female-to-male transpeople because the surgery is more complicated?

Andrés Duque said...

Hm, you got a point. Let me try to track that down

AJ said...

anon: Correct, trans men (FTM) in the U.S. can usually change their legal gender without undergoing bottom surgery. Typically top surgery (chest reconstruction) is enough.

Some trans men were actually angry at Mr. Beatie for, in their view, drawing attention to the rare bit of U.S. law that is currently favorable to transsexuals. They feared the presumed public attention could lead to it being attacked as a loophole.

Of course it is absurd to require ANY sort of surgery (much less a prohibitively expensive, unwanted, or otherwise problematic one) to have the government officially recognize an individual's deeply felt identity, but that's another topic.

libhom said...

aj: You are definitely right about the absurdity of requiring any surgery. It's not like transgender people are trying to trick or defraud anyone.

Anonymous said...

I think this article confuses the difference between changing a name on legal documentation and changing the gender marker. You can change your name legally to a female or male name, or anything else (i.e. remember Ochocinco, the NFL player?) by petitioning the court for a legal name change. Proof of genital reconstruction surgery is not required to have a female or male name change in any of the US states that I am aware of. However, changing your gender marker on your birth certificate requires proof of genital reconstruction in most states, and having an updated birth certificate is a prerequisite for changing the gender marker on driver's licenses in most states, but not all. An example is Colorado, which allows you to change your gender marker on your driver's license based on your full time gender identity with a letter from your doctor, either prior to or after completing genital reconstruction surgery, regardless of birth certificate gender indication. Each state has their own laws for birth certificate and drivers license changes.