by. Lohana Berkins, Lohana Berkins (Pocitos, – Buenos Aires, ) fue una activista transgénero argentina,12 defensora e impulsora de la identidad. The late afternoon sun casts a golden glow over children playing in the little park where Lohana Berkins has suggested we should meet. AWID is an international, feminist, membership organisation committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights.
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The late afternoon sun casts a golden glow over children playing in the little park where Lohana Berkins has suggested we should meet. She speaks in a clear, rather deep voice. Straight talking and fiercely analytical, she comes across as a woman who knows exactly who she is.
Lohana has been a transgender activist since the s. She has played a key role in bringing about legal and social changes in Argentina that can only be described as revolutionary. Killings and assaults were common, often at the hands of the police. And in the worst male prisons, containing the most violent criminals. But to start, Lohana is determined to set out the reality faced by transsexual or travesti people.
We are the poorest sisters of the movement. I have lost hundreds of friends, through violence, because the police killed them, through illegal surgery, HIV, suicide At the root of this shockingly low life expectancy is discrimination and all that emanates from it: Lohana paints an emblematic picture of the trans experience: Loss of self-esteem is a major problem.
So you go into a discourse of internal misery that nothing will change, that nothing will make any difference, whatever happens. Of prison she says: We are raped, tortured.
We have known all sorts of violence. During the years of military dictatorship, travestis were routinely killed and imprisoned. The return of democracy in brought no change. But trans activists like Lohana were drawing international attention to the appalling abuse. International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International began reporting their plight.
InLohana publicly announced that she was leaving prostitution — and that she wanted a job. She became the first ever trans person in Argentina to obtain a job in the public sector. His approach has been continued by his widow, Cristina, culminating in the passage of the landmark gender law in May This makes gender reassignment surgery, paid for by the state, freely available.
Changing legal and social gender ID without medical intervention has also become possible.
The law applies to anyone aged 18 and over. But unders are allowed to have their name changed and be recognized according to their own gender identity. The bill was not just fought for by transgender people; it berkin shaped by them.
Tight definitions of transgender are avoided — allowing for the possibility of new identities in future — and it bears not a trace of the pathologizing language that so often surrounds the issue. Named after an activist who died aged 33, the co-op is run berins trans people and provides training and employment.
They make items such as the berins children wear in state schools. For its members, the co-op is an alternative to prostitution and life on the streets. Because trans people become accustomed to a high level of violence, Lohana says: The co-op now has 20 members, down from 60 — but for the best possible reasons.
Those who have left bsrkins set up other co-ops. There are now around travestis working in co-ops in the Buenos Aires area.
She is keen that trans people obtain jobs outside the co-ops, too. That status marks out Latin American travestis from many in other parts of the world. We have a more revolutionary character. We do not exist in a ghetto of trans activists. We are very much involved in the wider political struggles At the heart of her own approach is feminism. She is a big fan of gender theorist Judith Butler.
You do not have to conform to a strict stereotype. You can push your tits out if you like. Or you have a deep voice and big feet — so what?
As people gain rights and acceptance, and the rigid binary definitions of female and male are challenged and become more fluid, so the need for surgical intervention decreases. They can be women without surgery. There is still prejudice and abuse. When the gender law was passed there was euphoria among the wide range of social movements that backed it. But we were also asking ourselves: Today, Lohana looks at young trans people with pride and pleasure.
They are so much more confident than those of her generation. I think this is the best legacy we could have left. Lohana Berkins has made it — but the personal price she and her comrades have had to pay was shockingly high.
This article is from the June issue of New Internationalist. You can access the entire archive of over issues with a digital subscription. New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism.
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Today Argentina leads the world in recognizing the rights of transgender people. But it hasn’t always been that way. Help us keep this site free for all New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. X New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism.
Trans revolutionary | New Internationalist
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