While Pride in Argentina is typically celebrated every November, World Pride Day takes place on June 28 in honor of the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous protests by New York City’s LGBTQ+ community following police raids that targeted its members.
In Argentina, LGBTQ+ rights have been lauded by many, including the World Health Organization, the Pew Research Center, and the United Nations, as some of the most advanced in the world. On July 15th, 2010, after fifteen hours of debate in the Senate, Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the second in the Americas (behind Canada), to legalize same-sex marriage. It was the tenth in the world to do so. The law grants married same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual unions, including key rights surrounding inheritance and adoption.
Argentina also has some of the most progressive trans rights in the world, in large part due to the 2012 Gender Identity law, under which transgender Argentines are able to identify with their chosen gender on official documents without first having to receive hormone therapy or reassignment surgery, or encounter barriers such as psychiatric counseling. The law also ensured that both public and private medical facilities must provide gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy to all those who seek it. Meanwhile, Argentina was ranked in 2013 as the country with the highest social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people Latin American by the Pew Research Center, with 74 percent of the country saying that homosexuality should be accepted, compared to just 60 percent in the US.
However, despite these key advancements, there is still a stark contrast between ideals espoused on paper and in policy statements and the real, everyday experiences of LGBTQ+ Argentines. While Buenos Aires has often been described as “Latin America’s gay capital,” narratives of discrimination due to sexual orientation are still common in the city. This is especially true for transgender Argentines and queer people of color in Argentina, who often face erasure in the gay community as white, thin, cisgender, and conventionally attractive members of the LGBTQ+ community are still touted as the most aspirational, desirable standard.
Meanwhile, the disconnect between the capital and surrounding provinces in terms of gay and transgender rights looms large. While there are protections against LGBTQ+ employment and housing discrimination in Buenos Aires and Santa Fe, no such policies exist in any other Argentine province. Meanwhile, while Buenos Aires and Rosario include sexual orientation under protections provided by civil rights laws, as of 2017 there are still no federal laws in Argentina that pertain specifically to discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s worth noting that attempts to change this landscape were made in 2010, 2013, 2015, and again in 2016, but they were ultimately either voted down, stalled, or outright ignored.
In 2015, Marcela Chocobar, Coty Olmos, and Diana Sacayan, all outspoken transgender activists, were murdered in the provinces of Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, and in Buenos Aires respectively, merely for their existence as transgender women. Meanwhile, according to a report by FALGBT, the Argentine LGBT Federation, there were 103 reported cases of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in Argentina in 2017 alone, 90 of which were cases of physical assaults. The majority of these crimes were reported in Buenos Aires (36.55 percent), likely given a combination of a wider prevalence of information and resources to denounce such incidents, as well as the comparatively high density of queer-identifying individuals in Buenos Aires due to the notable migration of Argentine LGBTQ+ individuals to the capital in search of a better quality of life.
These 103 hate crimes include the murder of 13 people, 12 of whom were transgender individuals, and represent a shocking 500 percent increase in cases of physical violence compared to the previous year. The majority of the murder victims were tortured before they were killed, and even mutilated after their deaths, showing that a visceral hatred for the LGBTQ+ community is still very much alive and well in Argentina. Furthermore, while these statistics are already alarming, activists stress that actual statistics relating to discrimination are likely much higher, as many victims do not report their experiences out of fear, intimidation, embarrassment. or a lack of knowledge about available resources, among other reasons.
In the face of these metrics, it’s crucial to emphasize that it is not only individuals, but also a number of institutions that have historically perpetrated violence against the LGBTQ+ community, and which continue to do so. The Catholic church in Argentina has played a large role in enforcing negative socio-cultural, as well as political, opinions toward homosexuality, resisting the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country as long as possible, and playing a key role in inciting the persecution, torture, and disappearance of queer citizens during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Many government entities, especially the military, police, and security forces, have also had a long and bloody history of engaging in violence against the Argentine LGBTQ+ community. Historically, police harassment spiked especially during times of political turmoil, notably during the “Infamous Decade” and the Dirty War, when members of Argentina’s first gay rights organizations, Nuestro Mundo and Safo, were targeted by the state along with others who were perceived as political threats by the right-wing dictatorship.
Today, police brutality against the local LGBTQ+ community is less common, but still very much present. A staggering 21 percent of the 103 reported crimes from 2017 were committed by security forces such as police officers, bouncers, and guards who, according to the FALGBT report, have “manifested particular fury and hatred toward trans women.”
In 2012, Ayelén Gomez alleged that she was raped and sexually assaulted by two policemen after being arbitrarily stopped and detained in Tucumán, a report which was ignored by authorities. Last year, she was found murdered, with signs of both physical and sexual assault, and repeatedly misgendered in media and police reports alike.
Two Argentine judges, Horacio Piombo and Benjamin Ramon Sal Llargues, severely reduced the sentence of Mario Tolosa in 2015, convicted of raping a six-year-old-boy, to a mere 38 months after ruling that the child had “homosexual orientations” and the crime was thus not, in legal terms, as “gravely outrageous” as it might have been otherwise.
Two years later after that, trans women Pamela Macedo Panduro, Angie Velázquez Ramírez, Brandy Bardales Sangama, and Damaris Becerra Jurado were victims of institutionalized, state-sponsored violence when they were denied proper nourishment and medical attention while in police detention, all four ultimately dying while in custody.
It is clear that— while Argentina’s legislations to protect sexual orientation and gender identity have been pivotal, one of the most progressive in the world, and have set an important example to other countries across the globe— it is far from solidifying a society that provides its LGBTQ+ citizens with fully equal rights to a life of fulfillment, economic opportunity, and dignity.
Yes, much progress has been made. Yet, if Argentina wishes to reinforce and sustain these key milestones, it is crucial to lead by example and continue to push for the rights of all its LGBTQ+ citizens, lest it fall into the trap of complacency— as we have seen in the recent anti-discrimination laws that have failed to pass or even be acknowledged, in rampant police violence against queer people, and in the blatant prejudice of many members of the state—and jeopardize all the gains that have been made thus far.