Posted by Ben Clapham on August 20, 2013
Patricia, ATTTA’s director (right), during the film shoot.
Argentina has gone through two landmark policy changes in
the past three years. In 2010, it became the first nation in Latin America to
legalize same sex marriage, and two years later, it passed a bill that promises
to legally protect all regardless of gender identity. Last week, I had the
pleasure of meeting with Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales, Transgéneros
Argentinas (ATTTA) in Mar del Plata,
Argentina, a beautiful coastal town outside of Buenos Aires. ATTTA is a
national network working to promote human rights in general, and particularly
to improve trans people’s access to health, education, and legal assistance.
amfAR is supporting ATTTA’s project to create a documentary
dedicated to Claudia Pia, who was known throughout Latin America as a trans
activist who would go from “city to city helping any small trans community with
the issue at hand,” as Patricia, the director of the Mar del Plata chapter of
ATTTA, told me. The goal of the documentary, titled Si Te Viera Tu Madre (If Your Mother Saw You) and directed by Andres Rubiño, is to highlight that even though legislation exists to protect and promote the rights of trans people in Argentina, they still face many
barriers to equal rights caused by strong societal rejection.
amfAR’s Ben Clapham (center) with ATTTA staff.
The film follows a few prominent trans activists as they
discuss their own experiences and how Pia touched their lives and inspired
them. It also includes interviews with several high-level leaders from
government ministries and from organizations including UNAIDS and UNDP, and makes
an appeal for more in-depth work among the Argentinian trans community.
Pia was instrumental in gaining traction for passage of the
gender identity law and she led many other activists through the trenches in
the years leading up to its approval. Dramatically, she died of a heart attack
just a few months before the law was passed. “On a day that should have been
full of celebration, we felt something very profound missing inside of all of
us,” said Patricia.
An ATTTA member speaks about trans rights at a meeting.
Patricia has been living with HIV for more than 15 years,
and as she recounted her story, I was reminded of the cruelties faced by so
many trans people, even in so-called progressive places like Argentina. She
told me she has already lived longer than most trans people, who have a life expectancy
of about 35 years globally, due to the persistent and systematic violence,
stigma, and discrimination they experience. She explained that so far this year at least 10 trans women have passed away in Argentina because they stopped taking their HIV medication. “They simply have had enough,” says Patricia of the women. “Some of
them even regard living with HIV as a blessing so that they don’t have to
suffer any longer.”
This imagery left me with chills and a lingering question in
my head: “What about trans people in other countries where they do not have
legal protections? Where does this leave them?”