Thursday, December 16, 2010

Argentina: Alejandro Iglesias shocks the viewers of "Big Brother 2011"

While a new season of "Big Brother" won't be in the air in the United States until the summer of 2011, the Argentinean version of the reality show just began its new season over the weekend.

The format is basically similar as that of the US version: Put a bunch of strangers inside a heavily monitored house and turn the cameras on 24/7. House members participate in challenges that give them immunity or the power to vote off cast members. Last person standing wins a pot of money. The "Gran Hermano 2011" website offers free live feeds all day long. Which might pique your interest... or not.

As with most shows of this nature, producers have thrown in a couple of gay participants: Emiliano Boscatto, who holds the title of Mr. Gay Cordoba 2008, and Luz Ríos, who producers describe as having "changed her sexual orientation" - sigh! - and is now proud to be a lesbian.

Announced as well, before the season started, was a "mystery houseguest". His identity was revealed in the season's opening episode. Meet 26 year old Alejandro Iglesias...

...and now you know why the producers kept his identity hidden.

YouTube video goes viral: I am incredibly struck by the public reaction to his very public declaration of being a transgender man.

I posted the video above on YouTube on December 12th and added English-language subtitles later. A couple of days ago, it became the 4th most watched YouTube video in Argentina that day. Today, four days later, the view count is 15,000+ and the 'likes' to 'dislikes' ratio is 25-3. I do moderate comments but I have been just amazed by the level of support people are expressing for Alejandro. There is only one extremely homophobic comment I rejected and the second worst comment the video has received was for the quality of my translation (I still think it's pretty accurate).

The fact that it has gone viral in itself has made news. "The video has been seen almost 10,000 times in 72 hours" says El Dia, "The video was translated to several languages" says Jornada (it's one language, but you get the point), Impulso says the video is what fans of the show search for the most, Lubfal says the video has traveled around the world, etc.

By all reports, though, Alejandro has emerged as the public favorite to win "Gran Hermano" this year - if only he can survive the first house vote.

In the first few days at the Big Brother house, Alejandro is said to be having a tough time ingratiating himself with other guests and, particularly, other male contestants. He's been described as shy and withdrawn. But...

Telling the other Big Brother houseguests: On tonight's show, Alejandro shared his "secret" with a few of the other houseguests (go to minute 2:44). He eventually tells them "I am trans" even as one of the women first cheers him and then confesses she doesn't know what that means. I'm not sure if that will change voting dynamics. But I am certain that, whether Alejandro leaves the show this week or early in the season, he has already moved the ground on the understanding of trans issues in Argentina.

Transgender identity law: Interestingly enough, even though I doubt it's been mentioned in the show, Alejandro's participation in the show comes at a time when LGBT advocates in Argentina have been pushing for a national law that would allow transgender individuals to change their name and identity in personal identification papers.

On September of 2008 an Argentinean court allowed a transgender woman, Tania Luna, to officially change her name without requiring gender reassignment surgery - the first in Latin America - and earlier this month the Argentinean newspapers ran stories about transgender rights advocate Luisa Paz and her own efforts to do the same and, just this week, transgender actress Florencia de la V became the second trans woman to be granted a new ID card without being required to prove she'd undergone gender reassignment surgery (here is video of the press conference that took place after she was granted her new ID card).

LGBT rights advocates, including Maria Rachid, the former president of the Argentinean LGBT Federation (FALGBT) - who was so instrumental in the passage of a marriage equality law in Argentina - are now turning their eye to passage of a national transgender rights bill which includes the right to change one's ID papers.

I truly believe that the Argentinean public's embrace of Alejandro Iglesias in "Gran Hermano" will do wonders to humanize the issue before the community at large.


1 comment:

vir de argentina said...

unfortunely, many people who watch big brother in argentina, think that alejandro wanted to be victimize himself in order to win the "game". and that idea was "implanted" by a popular gamer and housemate of alejandro.
if you go to the big brother official forum, you can read many of them insulting alejandro and call him by his female name.
and all this behavior is in the name of the "game" (the big brother game)... it was ok for alejandro to go to the house, but there's a housemate who became popular in a few weeks who doesn't have any comprehension on the subject and he's selfish.
i wanted to see alejandro as a winner of big brother. but, i hope at least he could get what he wants: to let people know that this is important to many other people.

sorry about my english.
greetings from argentina.