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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Transgender, intersex leaders meet in Argentina, issue declaration

The Empty Closet

New York City and Buenos Aires) The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), responding to the needs of Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) transgender and intersex individuals, convened the first-ever Transgender and Intersex Training Institute to help plan for the future of the trans and intersex movements in LAC.

The two-week Training Institute took place in Cordoba, Argentina in October where a seven-member coordinating team and 19 activists and advocates from 14 countries trained together in the areas of human rights, transgender and intersex politics and activism, and organizational development. The participants shared experiences, successes, failures, and strategies to ensure full and equal social and political rights for trans and intersex individuals.

At the end of the Institute, participants issued an eight-point statement—La Falda Declaration— to serve as guiding principles for working on trans and intersex issues throughout LAC. With all participants signing La Falda Declaration, they stated, among other items, that together they all:

• Affirm and defend the right of all trans and intersex people to fully enjoy their fundamental human rights;

• Affirm the need to collectively build positive cultural representations of trans and intersex communities and individuals;

• Demand…protection for trans and intersex activists as human rights defenders;

• Commit to fight together against all forms of state and non-state violence.

“This meeting was a historic step for the trans and intersex communities in Latin American and the Caribbean,” stated Alejandra Sarda, program coordinator for IGLHRC’s Buenos Aires office for LAC. “The Institute can help form an intra-regional network for building the capacity of trans and intersex activists and the organizations for which they work. Even though these activists have worked individually on trans and intersex issues for years, many had never come face-to-face with other LAC activists working on the same issues. They were able to take the time to learn, reflect and challenge themselves and others to develop a fuller and more effective vision that will empower them to move forward.”

“This Institute was a key to open doors, to free ourselves from censorship, from the invisibility in which many times our bodies and identities have been placed by society,” said Dalia Daniela Romero, a participant from Colombia at the Training Institute. Andres Rivera from Chile attended the Cordoba meeting and commented, “To acknowledge each other’s existences, to learn how trans people live in other countries… those have been the first building rocks for creating a trans movement with its own agenda that is also able to discuss and exchange with other movements.”

Trans and intersex individuals are particularly vulnerable to abuse, violence, discrimination, harassment, torture, economic discrimination, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other human rights violations, which are over-looked and often perpetrated by the police and other government officials. The 7th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, 2005 served to memorialize those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. In 2004, IGLHRC documented 71 murders of LGBT people, including murders that were specifically targeted at trans people in Chile, Brazil, Honduras, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

• In La Plata, Buenos Aries, Argentina, Giselle, a trans sex worker, was brutally beaten to death by unidentified men while she was working. Her sister and a friend tried to launch an investigation, but abandoned the effort after receiving death threats from the police.

• In Lima, Peru, in November, police discovered the body of a young transvestite who had been tortured to death. Her body was then burnt. She has not yet been identified.

• In Santiago, Chile, in May, two skinheads beat a transgender woman, Cecilia Canto (45), in the street, near a police station. Police officers refused to even call an ambulance.

In Latin America and throughout the Caribbean, there are few laws that provide protection from discrimination for trans and intersex people. Laws in a number of countries prohibit or restrict access to sex reassignment surgery, and a wide array of countries have public laws that prohibit cross-dressing. To make matters worse, trans and intersex organizations, such as ALITT, one of the main trans organizations in Argentina, are denied official legal recognition and thereby, suffer from an increased lack of funding.

“IGLHRC is committed to working with LAC trans activists and organizations – to face head-on the injustices trans people face – and to advance broad social change and tolerance for all trans and intersex individuals, ” stated Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC.

Since the late 1990s, IGLHRC has had staff working directly in Latin America, but in the last year, the size of the staff in its Buenos Aires, Argentina office has doubled. The LAC Program is involved throughout the region working in collaboration with other human rights and LGBT organizations in documenting human rights abuses, playing a role in emergency response, and as a convener of meetings and human rights training.

For more information and a copy of La Falda Declaration, contact Geoffrey Knox at 212-229-0540 or

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is the only human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or murder because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists on the ground in countries around the world, by monitoring and documenting abuses, by engaging offending governments, and by educating international human rights officials. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco and Buenos Aires.


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