Inter Press Service - March 23, 2006
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 23 (IPS) - Noelia Luna was born a man, but lives as a woman. She is unemployed, has lived with the same partner for 15 years and has three children. Her life seems fairly uneventful. But compared to other transvestites, transsexuals and transgenders in Argentina, she is a relative rarity: she is a survivor.
"I was able to go to school and have a family, but for the majority of us, life is extremely difficult," Luna told IPS.
"It's a cultural issue. For the typically 'macho' Latino male, 'fags' are something to look down on and laugh at from the time they are children, and this continues to be true later, in school or in hospitals, where we face discrimination," she said.
According to a report on the situation of transvestites, transsexuals and transgenders in Argentina, for which 302 people were interviewed in the cities of Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata and in outlying suburbs of the Argentine capital, the list of friends in the transgender community who have died in recent years totals 420, most of whom died at a young age.
The report reveals that 62 percent of the total died of AIDS, 17 percent were murdered, and the rest either committed suicide or died in car accidents, of drug overdoses, as the result of medical malpractice during plastic surgery or other procedures to change their physical appearance, or of cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and other diseases.
Almost 70 percent of these deaths occurred when the victims were between the ages of 22 and 41, adds the report, titled "La gesta del nombre propio" (which roughly translates as "the epic battle for one's own name").
The study was published this month by the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and coordinated by Lohana Berkins of the Association for the Struggle for Transvestite and Transsexual Identity.
Berkins was able to undertake tertiary level studies after successfully demanding official documentation in a name representing her chosen gender, which she achieved by filing a complaint through the Buenos Aires Ombudsman's Office. But it is because of obstacles like these that barely three percent of the women interviewed for the new study have had access to higher studies.
Of the 302 interview subjects, only 11 percent are currently undertaking studies of one kind or another. A full 64 percent have not even completed a primary school education, while 20 percent began but were unable to complete secondary school.
In almost all cases, the reason they dropped out of school is related to the conflict that emerged in childhood or adolescence with regard to their gender identity. . . .