by Ben Clapham on August 20, 2013
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 You Saw Your Mother) and directed by Andres Rubi?o, 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.
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?"