They are Kim, Victor, Elsa and Patrick. Their ages, origins and life circumstances are different but they have a point in common that has conditioned their lives: all four are trans people and have had to go through painful processes that they do not wish on anyone else. Along that path they have experienced, depending on the case, psychological tests, mandatory hormonal treatment to change their name and legal sex, operations and, above all, questioning, a lot of questioning.
Spain today takes a step that changes that history. The Government approved this Tuesday the “Law for the real and effective equality of trans people and for the guarantee of the rights of LGTBI people”, which, among others, recognizes gender self-determination: people can change their legal sex without submit medical or psychological reports, as currently required, and only with a request in the Civil Registry that will have to be ratified three months later.
The depathologization of transsexuality and the right to decide on one’s own identity are not new demands. This is witnessed by Kim Pérez, a historic trans activist who has turned 80 this year and who recounts a difficult journey of difficult decisions, fears and other people’s judgments. “I was born in the year 41, you can imagine that when I was 19 I lived in chaos. I went to a psychiatrist, who was the only thing there was. I could spend half an hour talking and in the end I was anxious for him to answer me. I needed an explanation, I needed words, and instead of that I found myself systematically: ‘Well, you are going to take this pill or this other, go to sleep and you will be able to assume it.’ There was nothing else, I was alone in the world in front of that”.
When he turned 50, Kim made a decision: “I said to myself: only reality can save me, only living this way as I am can save me, even if the world sinks, even if I lose my job, my living conditions, my power. help my mother … And that balanced me. ” The activist, an Ethics teacher in secondary education for decades, supported Carla Antonelli in her hunger strike to demand the Sexual Identity Law that was finally passed in 2007.
“The law came out, with defects, but the important thing was that it came out and there would be time to correct things. We have taken 13 years,” he says regarding the rule that is approved this Tuesday, about which he criticizes some nuances. Pérez believes that it would have been desirable to establish psychological support for trans people who so desired. “In the 2007 law, psychologists were considered judges, they ended up having the right to decide according to their vision of the people they were with. And if according to their criteria that person could not change sex, they could not do so and with we could not agree on that. Now it seems to me that it would have been convenient for the psychologists not to be judges but to accompany them and that the ultimate decision was, of course, up to the person, “he explains.
Psychologists were judges, they ended up having the right to decide according to their vision of the people they encountered. And if according to their criteria that person could not change sex, then they could not do so and with that we could not agree
The activist has witnessed the damage that these medical and psychological pilgrimages have had on many people. “If someone met a professional in Social Security who denied him the change and that person had no means to go to the private sector, he saw no way to get ahead. You were tied to the decision of third parties, with their criteria and their stereotypes. ”
Patrick got the DNI that he now proudly wears, with his name and legal gender changed, ten days before he turned 18, but it took him five years of fighting before the judges. His mother, Natalia Aventín, decided to take her case to the Supreme Court and achieved the Constitutional ruling that ruled already in 2019 that the exclusion of minors from the 2007 law, which allows registration rectification, is unconstitutional. He always says that with his son he realized what “being a second-class citizen” is, because seeing his identity recognized was a battle that has made him, like all families of trans minors, he says, “an activist for need”.
I know that my son was taking medication due to social pressure, the same pressure that makes us wax or go on a diet, and they can be early decisions, but it allows them to continue with their life
Patrick “has had no problem being who he is” because from a young age, both in education and in the family and his environment, “he was respected,” says his mother. But the law prevented that despite the fact that with 13 years already in his town, Benasque (Huesca), everyone knew him that way, his DNI reflected it: “It can make life impossible for them in many areas of their life, from going to to look for a package in the Post Office to get the card for any transport or even in the library “, says Natalia, who explains that they were” lucky “to be able to change the health card or find a favorable school environment. “It was an arbitrary question, if we had met people who had wanted to put him in trouble, they could have done it with the law in hand.”
For this reason, after their fight, they regret that the LGTBI legislation approved this Tuesday by the Council of Ministers has renounced to include minors under 12 years of age and that those between 12 and 14 must require judicial authorization to modify their legal sex: ” We know what it is like to be in front of a judge and it is a violent situation, there is no reason to make minors go through that, “criticizes Natalia. He believes that the norm “is not a significant advance in rights” for boys and girls and even “a setback” with respect to the Constitutional ruling, which ruled that minors “with sufficient maturity” and “in a stable situation of transsexuality” they should be able to change it.
In his case, his great journey was to find information and resources. “There was a great lack of knowledge, we did not know what to do or who to turn to and with puberty it began to worry us, but we could not get anyone to help us.” Patrick then began “to feel some discomfort with his body”, stopped going to sports competitions and began not wanting to go to school. He was able to access hormonal blockers at the beginning of his development “at my insistence” and thanks to a family friend who made an appointment at a hospital in Barcelona, albeit privately. “It was easier for them to give us anxiolytics than hormone blockers,” says Natalia, aware of the controversy generated by this type of treatment: “They offered us other drugs and psychiatric interventions and there was not the same question. I couldn’t explain it to myself.”
The law has also finally given up on homogenizing hormonal treatments for minors through the basic portfolio of services. This implies that they will continue to be subject to regulation by the communities, although the vast majority already offer them. “I know that my son was taking medication due to social pressure, the same that makes us wax or go on a diet, and they can be early decisions, but it allows them to continue with their life. It is not a decision that you make overnight. for another, it’s that you think your son is suffering. For us, always with a lot of information and knowledge, that was the important thing. ”
Víctor Gil, known by his stage name ‘Viruta’, tries these months to “survive 2020” after the drought of concerts and events in which to work due to restrictions due to the pandemic. Singer-songwriter and actor, it took between three and four years to achieve the gender dysphoria report and accredit two years of hormonal training to those that today are still required by law to modify their ID, conditions that the Trans Law provides for elimination. “What it implied was having to go through psychological consultations with archaic questions in which you had to lie to fit in the drawer, because if it was not easy for them to discard you. They were questions as tremendous as if you like football, flowers, sing … You had to fit into a very narrow mold, “he laments.
Then, ten years ago – today he will be 44 – non-binary gender identities “were not named”, so it was not something that Victor considered, but today it is recognized as such. With the new legislation, these people will be able to modify their name and legal sex without having to modify their body or take medication if they do not wish, however, the norm does not contemplate the recognition of non-binary identities. “In my case it was quite a documentary and bureaucratic journey, knocking on many doors and thanks to the fact that I knew people who ended up recommending a psychologist who could do the report for me, but those who do not have those facilities have it much more difficult”, acknowledges Víctor.
In my case it was quite a documentary and bureaucratic journey. How is someone, a doctor, a psychiatrist, to know if someone is really convinced that they are a trans person?
The singer explains that depathologizing the identity of trans people and eliminating medical requirements “implies no longer considering ourselves sick, as in his day happened with homosexuality”, but also highlights “the uselessness” of the “test” means such as the report psychological: “It is not possible to decide on the identity of other people and on their way of being in the world. How is someone, a doctor, a psychiatrist, to know if someone is really convinced that they are a trans person? It is impossible “.
We met Elsa in 2019, when at the age of eight she took the stage of the Extremadura Assembly during the fourth plenary session against bullying due to LGTBIphobia. “I am a transsexual girl, I live in Arroyo de San Serván [Badajoz] and in the last four years I have lived a very important path: the path to my happiness “, said the girl in an intervention that shook the audience. Today, her mother, Anabel Pastor, remembers the” very hard years “that passed until get her daughter’s name and legal sex changed.
“Until it’s close to you, you don’t understand it at all. It’s not easy, the first one who didn’t understand it was me, but you have to find out more, they say real atrocities”
“We were not paid much attention because our daughter was very young. We heard the typical phrases of ‘what if she is making a mistake?’. We have had to endure a lot of transphobia in doctors, many denials in court, they have forced us to provide evidence of psychiatrists, when my daughter is not ill, “explain Pastor, who is happy that, from today, trans people” do not have to go through these tests or “fight because a judge believes them.”
In their case, the judge called them periodically for two years and did not admit the change of sex for Elsa. “Finally she accepted what I was telling her, that she speak directly with the girl, that she knew perfectly who she is and that she was the one to explain that she was not a girl and that she had no right to be called Elsa. At the age of six she entered her office alone I think she was inside for half an hour or 45 minutes. When she came out, the judge told us that there was no option to a no, that Elsa was a girl from head to toe and that she knew very well who she was. ”
However, Anabel regrets the age limitations contained in the rule. “Until it is close to you, you do not understand it completely. It is not easy, the first one who did not understand it was me, but you have to learn more, they say real atrocities,” he says. Elsa’s mother explains, for example, that today her daughter does not get hormones and that in the future she will decide whether to do it or not. As a mother she tries, she continues, that her daughter accepts her body and loves herself as she is, and that there are “comments that are very strong to hear when you have a daughter in that situation and when your children hate their body”. Anabel Pastor is clear that this “goes beyond genitalia.” “It’s about who they are, and they are who they know who they are.”