While most governments regulate what trans people can do with our bodies and identity documents, Argentina is taking off the transgender training wheels. We’re big kids now.
Last week, Argentina gave citizens the freedom to change their legal and physical gender without having to undergo medical, psychiatric, or judicial procedures. Along with eliminating patronizing barriers to swapping an “M” for an “F” on a driver’s license, the law gives Argentinians a freedom you won’t find anywhere else: gender self-determination.
In the United States, changing a gender marker on a birth certificate usually requires proof of hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, and/or a psychological evaluation. These stipulations unfairly prevent many transgender people from changing the gender markers on their birth certificates because they require costly and sometimes unwanted medical procedures. Similar legal barriers exist in Canada, where the legal gender status of Miss Universe hopeful Jenna Talackova recently sparked a global debate. In 17 European countries, trans people have to agree to be sterilized in order to change gender markers on legal identification.
Argentinians won’t have to undergo any kind of medical treatment to legally change their gender. But for those who do want to change their bodies, hormone therapy and surgery will be covered by both public and private insurance.
In addition to granting unprecedented rights to trans Argentinians, the Argentinian government implicitly recognizes changing one’s gender identity and/or expression as a rational choice. That choice doesn’t have be pathologized or approved by a judge to be legitimate, and that’s a first for a world that’s lightyears behind Argentina.
So how will Argentinians take advantage of gender self-determination? Will its freshly liberated citizens plunge into a full-fledged genderpocalypse? Given the freedom to change their bodies whenever and however they want to, will Argentinians express an even broader range of gender identities? Will cisgender Argentinians begin to see gender differently?
For now, we’ll just have to watch and wait, looking forward to a future that puts gender identity in our own hands.