To Be Reborn: How Argentina's gender identity law gives people the freedom of identity.
Photo Editor's Note: After receiving the Helen M. Powell Traveling Fellowship through UT's College of Communication, former Daily Texan photographer Danielle Villasana spent the summer documenting how Argentina's recent gender identity law has affected the transgender community. Tuesday marks the 15th annual Transgender Day of Rememberance, which memorializes those killed by transphobia.
Born as female in Bolivia, 25-year-old Mateo Rodrigo spent his adolescence escaping the reality of living in the wrong body. “I would hurt myself because I hated my body,” said Rodrigo, who started drinking heavily at a young age. With a friend’s support, Rodrigo decided get a mastectomy on his 19th birthday. “I felt like it was a way of being reborn. It was the best birthday.” Because staying in Bolivia would be too hard for his family, Rodrigo moved to Argentina years before the country passed the world’s most progressive gender identity law. On May 9, Argentina’s Senate passed the Gender Identity Law, stating that people no longer have to receive a diagnosis, surgery or hormone therapy to change their gender or name on official documents.
For 45-year-old Yessica Daiana, these laws will give her a better life. Daiana, who dropped out of high school because of social ostrecism, has worked as a prostitute throughout her life. Like Daiana, many dropouts turn to the sex industry because of the inability to find work. “With this law, they are opening doors. We are seeing that they are including us [and] we are more visible. People will understand that we can do work that any man or woman can do.”
The son of a federal police officer, transgender woman Micaela Bayer, 35, considers herself lucky because she began working as a federal police officer after graduating from high school. Although she endured insults from her co-workers when she began to slowly transition from Marco to Micalea five years after entering the force, Bayer says she remained strong and showed them that she wasn’t going to change. “I’m the way I want to be.” With the passing of the Gender Identity Law, Bayer says that her work environment is more positive. “In this way, Argentina has advanced a lot. I’m very happy with their solution because it has helped me a lot and other people as well.”
Yessica Daiana, center, waits to be admitted into Argentina’s La Casa Rosada on Aug. 2 when President Kirchner will give the first identification cards under Argentina’s Gender Identity Law. Heralded as the world’s most progressive, under this law people do not have to receive diagnosis, surgery or hormone therapy to change their gender or name on official documents. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
According to the Transvestite, Transsexual and Transgender Association of Argentina (ATTTA) where Daiana works, because of struggles with identity, statistics show that many transgender people drop out of school and begin working as prostitutes. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
This is true for 41-year-old Daiana who has worked as a prostitute throughout her life and sees these laws as a new beginning. Argentina’s law also provides gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for free, surpassing laws passed in countries like Spain and Great Britain. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Daiana gathers with other ATTTA members in front of La Casa Rosada to support her friends who will be the first transgender people to receive ID cards with their chosen gender. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Daiana and ATTTA volunteers celebrate at a local restaurant after watching President Kirchner give the new ID cards. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
When 35-year-old Micaela Bayer decided to live her life as a woman, her family was supportive. However, as an employee of the federal police since she was 19-years-old, her co-workers, who always knew her as Marco, were not as understanding about her physical transitions. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Bayer, right, along with her mother, left, waits in line on Aug. 30 to begin the paperwork needed to receive an ID with her chosen name, a process that takes only about 15 days. “I’m very happy about everything that has helped better our country,” Bayer said. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
After receiving her ID, Bayer said she can now truly be Micaela Lorena Bayer with every single letter. “Now I feel much more comfortable, prettier and happier. I feel like me.” (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Bayer says her boyfriend, Nicolas Sarlinga, left, is different because he treats her as she is, a woman. “He treats me with great respect. He doesn’t hide me.” (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Though Bayer’s family supported her decision to transition, her brothers were scared that people would harass her and people often insulted her in public. Though most of her family members know about her past, her younger niece, left, was born after she began to transition. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Feeling trapped in the wrong body and comforted by self-mutilation, Mateo Rodrigo, 25, moved from Bolivia to Argentina to ease the challenge of physical transition and escape his parents’ disapproval to live as a man. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
After getting a mastectomy on his 19th birthday, Rodrigo decided that he wanted to study psychology in Buenos Aires. Rodrigo stands with fellow classmates during finals on Aug. 4. “I think the most important part of coming here was that I could feel free and nobody bothered me. I could start from zero.” (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Although Rodrigo said he hated everything about his life before and everything that happened to him, he is grateful for everything that he had to live. “What interests me now is teaching people and showing them that I can have a totally normal life like any other person.” (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
According to Rodrigo, a lot of people like him end their life through suicide, which he attempted many times as a teenager. He says he wants to be a psychologist so that he can help more people like him. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
After moving to Argentina, Rodrigo says the difference between who he was in Bolivia and who he is in Argentina is like night and day. Because his happiness increased, his relationship with his family also improved and now his mother, Heliana Solaris, visits him as much as she can. (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)
Taking hormone therapy increases Rodrigo’s confidence and happiness because his body now matches his mind. Though nervous to cut his hair for the first time while still living in Bolivia, he said, “I never thought I would feel something like that. I was so happy. It was one of the happiest days of my life.” (Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana)