Alejandra Soto, President of Chile’s Amanda Jofré Trans Organization questions Parliament’s proposed law would that require people to change documents in court and not in the registry. “If it stays like that, it will be a bad law, “said Soto, who criticized gay organizations who are working feverishly to enact it. “Once President Bachelet enacts the Gender Identity Law, equal marriage will be next. So, for them, the law may come out as it is, if possible, tomorrow. Because it does not influence them, the changing of names, they are homosexuals, not transsexuals.”
However bad it might be she reiterated the importance of the law, “According to (current) papers, we are men, vague, single, without value today,” says Soto.
At age 10, in her childhood, Alejandra Soto could not restrain her impulse: she dressed as a girl and went to school. She was in basic studies. It was the last day she went to school. “The director said I made a revolution in school and I was expelled. They send me to my father who beat me. It cost him to accept me,” says Alejandra. From then on, she could not be inserted at another school and began her transition. Thus began her long path that lead her to be considered today as one of the major trans activists in Chile.
Soto is president of the Amanda Jofré Organization and represents Red Trans Chile, a group of associations that fight for the rights of those who identify with the opposite sex of the one labeled at birth, and in many cases undergo hormone treatment to change their appearance according to the gender with which they identify. This does not necessarily implies they change their sex or their sexual orientation.
Currently, transgender people have a serious problem in Chile: they look, dress, talk and live their daily lives with a gender, but their passports and names reflect other. Therefore, since 2013 is pending in the Congress a Gender Identity Law, which aims to achieve “effective regulation” to enable people to change their legal name and sex on their identity cards.
The initiative now passed to a Senate Committee and is marked as urgent. However, there is one point that bothers the trans community: the bill implies that the procedure must be done in a family court, not in the registry as the rest of the name changes.
“One should not stand before a judge. The procedure should be done in the Civil Registry and be an administrative formality, as anyone does. We are not criminals to go to court and pay a lawyer just to change our name”, Soto says. “In Colombia, for example, you go to a notary and the procedure is simple. In several countries is like that. Instead here is a risk that the judge is transphobic and reject the change,” she adds.
“What happens is that as they want the law to come out as quickly as possible, they don’t mind how the name change is made. But if it stays like that, it will be a bad law, “said Soto, who criticizes organizations towards sexual diversity calling for the project to go as soon as possible:” The gay organizations want the law to come out and say that the discussion is being expanded, because they have the promise that once Bachelet enacts the Gender Identity Law, equal marriage will be processed. So, for them, the law may come out as it is, if possible, tomorrow. Because it does not influence them the changing of names; they are homosexuals, not transsexuals.”
Alejandra had to work as a waitress, done shows and currently runs the same fate as most of the Trans: she is a sex worker. Although there is no official record of how many trans women are in Chile, what they do for a living, or where they live, Soto says that most of them live in extreme poverty and their life expectancy is around 35 or 40 years. “Your chances as a sex worker start to finish, you don’t have your own home, you don’t have a chance to work on something else, so many end up on the streets, they get drunk, they are victims of transphobic attacks, they get killed, they die of cold or hunger or HIV. Or they get a pulmonary edema because of treatments and injections, “she says.
Soto believes a Gender Identity Law well planned could help solve this situation. “The main problem we have today is our education. Most of us only have some years of school. What happens is that we have to stop studying because when we begin to feminize ourselves, we are thrown out of schools or we are victims of bullying and we have to get out. And with no studies, we have no profession, and our only option is to be a sex worker. There are some trans women that can qualify for other jobs, but the photo on the identity card will difficult all the process, ” she says.
“If we could have from the beginning the name and gender with which we identify, it would solve future problems,” she emphasized, adding, “We aren’t recognized as transgender. We do not exist. The people who lease apartments charge us the triple and without contracts. In social protection forms, we don’t appear as transsexuals. So we can’t choose where to live or anything that we need due to our social condition. People don’t see sex work as a job, so they see us like lazy men, single and young. We do not exist in this country. “
In the next weeks the text must be reviewed. The issue of whether to allow the procedure in the registry, as demanded by the trans community, is still pending.