Uruguay Has Massively Expanded Trans Rights

The new package of reforms, which includes gender confirmation surgery to be provided by the Uruguayan health care system, cements the nation's reputation as the most progressive country in Latin America.

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Oct 25 2018, 1:47pm

Photo by Marcel via Stocksy

As the Trump administration doubles down its assault on trans rights, Uruguay just introduced some of the world’s most comprehensive transgender laws. The package of reforms will cement the Latin American nation’s reputation on LGBTQ rights as one of the most socially advanced and progressive in the world.

The new law, approved by Uruguay's Congress on October 19, massively expands its protections for its transgender community. Trans people now have the right to self-identify and change their legal name without having to seek approval from a judge. The state healthcare system will offer free gender confirmation surgery as well as any necessary hormone treatments.

Quotas have also been introduced to ensure that trans people are able to participate fully in public life, with one percent of all government jobs to be given to trans people for the next 15 years.

Additionally, trans people who experienced persecution during the country’s brutal 1973-1985 military dictatorship are to receive a special pension as compensation.

Uruguay is known for its progressive social policies, and particularly for being a global leader on LGBTQ rights. In 2008, it became the first country in Latin America to introduce civil partnerships, and went on to legalize same-sex marriage five years later. Conversion therapy, which remains legal in many US states, was banned in Uruguay in 2017 for minors.

But LGBTQ people in Uruguay are still subject to high levels of discrimination, social exclusion, and hate. According to the World Bank, Uruguayan LGBT people are more susceptible to poverty, and have less access to education and housing. The situation is particularly dire for the trans community: According to Uruguay's State Health Services Administration, the average life expectancy for trans women is just 45 years old (32 years less than cis women), and two-thirds of trans people will be the victims of serious acts of violence at least once in their lifetime—meaning that Uruguay's new, comprehensive trans rights are very much needed.