Shane Cienfuegos, the first non-binary person to receive a gender-neutral identity document in Chile, says she feels a “great weight” of responsibility despite overcoming centuries of discrimination.
“It’s difficult to be the first,” the 29-year-old told AFP 10 days after receiving his new identity card from a civil registry in Santiago.
In the gender section, the card is marked with an X instead of an “F” for female or an “M” for male.
With long, flowing black hair, a neatly trimmed beard, red lipstick, a flowery dress and wedge heels, Cienfuegos chooses the gender-neutral Spanish pronoun “she(“they”) and describes herself as transgender and non-binary.
Cienfuegos fought a nine-year legal battle to finally receive, on October 14, an identity document that reflects how they see themselves.
It was the first identity card issued in Chile to identify its holder as neither “male” nor “female”.
“It’s not Shane’s victory, it’s a collective victory,” Cienfuegos said of non-binary and transgender people in a conservative, Catholic-majority country where they still face discrimination and violence.
“We do not die of diabetes”
Cienfuegos said he was bullied from an early age and suffered several violent attacks over the years.
“I had to fight for my life on the streets, I don’t know how many times,” they said at the Las Condes Cultural Center in Santiago at the launch of a book they had written about a hectic life.
“I survived. I made myself strong to survive a cruel and dehumanizing system,” they said between signings.
“The main cause of trans death is murder; we don’t die from diabetes or heart attacks, we die because we are killed, because we kill ourselves because of this violence,” Cienfuegos said.
They have been advocating for the rights of non-binary people since high school and paid for a social work qualification by selling sex.
Today, Cienfuegos is a senior member of the advocacy group Organizando Trans Diversidades (“Organizing Trans Diversities”).
Over the past decade, Chile has moved away from the conservatism inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and the influence of the Catholic Church.
Yet last year, 1,114 complaints of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people were registered in Chile – 127 from transgender people – according to gender activist group Movilh.
In 2012, Congress passed the Anti-Discrimination Act and three years later legalized same-sex civil unions.
In 2018, a law was passed that allows a change of sex from the age of 14, and last year Chile approved same-sex marriage and adoption.
In July, a Santiago appeals court finally recognized Cienfuegos’ non-binary gender.
But the fight is not over.
Chile still does not legally recognize genders other than male or female and anyone else who wants an “X” on their ID will likely face a similar legal battle as Cienfuegos.
“The non-binary ID card is one step in a series of steps for the advancement of fundamental rights,” Cienfuegos said.
“But conservatism is about enduring daily discrimination against…sexual diversity,” they added.
In July last year, Argentina, neighboring Chile, became the first country in Latin America to allow a gender other than male or female to be written on a person’s identity document, following in the footsteps of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, among others. countries.
by Miguel Sanchez, AFP
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