seven years after the death of Lohana Berkins
“I am a transvestite, even though my ID says ‘woman’. I am Lohana Berkins: transvestite. Otherwise we continue to accept that the genitals give us identity. Cross-dressing breaks with that. we build ourselves”
Seven years have passed since the death of this key activist for the history of sexual diversity in Argentina and also for the women’s movement. Why was she and is it so important? In this note we tell you.
Lohana with her scarf from the National Campaign for the Right to Abortion
The life of a transvestite is never easy, it is not easy because it breaks with what has been imposed since we were born. The Church is in charge of maintaining that gender binary where the only destiny that people have for their identity is to be male or female. Governments, active and economic accomplices of this institution, allow reactionary speeches to be the order of the day. Like Bergoglio who calls trans people “nuclear bombs”.
Also read: Lohana Berkins: “If I could be born again, I would choose to be a transvestite”
This violence is reproduced in other aspects of life, the media is in charge of positioning us in the “police” part and linking transvestites and trans people as the dregs of society.
Yes, there is an average life of between 35 and 40 years, there is no easy job access and the vast majority do not finish high school. But that doesn’t mean that people who choose to build their identity outside the heteronorm belt can’t make their dreams come true and fight for them.
“We must not accept our condition as victims. I understand that we are victims of a system, that is why we have to change the system, through a collective struggle because we share inequality and oppression,” said Lohana, I have written down the phrase from a talk she gave at one of the Women’s Meetings I don’t remember if the one in Posadas or Paraná, but it doesn’t matter much either.
With these words, many young butterflies understood that all the problems that trans people have can be overcome, that each tear they shed, each blow received, each “no”, can be banished by our strength, especially if they unite.
“In a world of capitalist worms, you have to have courage to be a butterfly”, was the phrase that Lohana Berkins held high and that is a flag of Argentine sexual diversity.
In addition to being a member of the Association to Fight for Travesti and Transsexual Identity (ALITT), he was in charge of the Office of Justice, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation of the Justice Gender Observatory. Every year she gave an internal fight against the Organizing Commission of the National Meeting of Women to be able to participate.
Until her last days, she was a militant for trans people, promoter of the Identity Law and creator of Recognizing is repairing, she was a pioneer in giving a great fight so that transvestites and transsexuals could participate in Women’s Meetings.
The story of the butterfly
“My struggle began when I was a girl, I felt that I wanted to be someone that my family, society and school told me not to.” This is how her fight also began, the story of the resistance of one of the most recognized transvestite activists in our country.
He was born in Salta in the 1960s, at the age of 14 he came to Buenos Aires to try his luck since he ran away from home. Like 80% of the transvestites in Argentina, she had to subsist by prostituting herself.
It was in the Federal Capital that he met the militants of the Association of Argentine Transvestites (ATA), when he participated -as a member of the Association of Prostitutes of Argentina- in the III Pride March of 1994. It was through them and Carlos Jáuregui –known leader of the gay movement- who began to recognize the importance of organizing around their gender identity and fighting for the visibility and recognition of trans people. Thus they founded, together with other colleagues, the Association for the Fight for Transvestite and Transsexual Identity (ALITT).
Lohana was also an adviser to Buenos Aires legislator Diana Maffía and was a candidate for national deputy in 2001 in the Communist Party. “The system has always excluded us and we don’t want it to integrate us from the morbidity of the talk shaw. We want to enter the system. That people can also vote for a transvestite would be the healthiest thing that could happen to this rarefied policy, ”she declared at the time.
Lohana and Jauregui
“In that fight between justicialistas and radicals we were left as the wedding duck. It is unfortunate that a man, to satisfy the average and hypocritical morality of a society, to be thanked for it at the polls, maintains a position at the expense of the imprisonment of many people and the crime of the police. Because of that speech and that position, the police will continue with the same levels of corruption, putting us in jail and bribing us to get the extra income they always had, ”he said about De La Rúa.
It was also that year that through a letter from her, she stated that taking to the streets was essential. “When I sang that they all go away, she was one more citizen”, revealing how she not only fought for the rights of trans people, but also that her militancy was fully understood.
In 2008, he created the Nadia Echazú Textile Cooperative. In 2010, along with other activists from various organizations, she formed the National Front for the Gender Identity Law, which promoted the national sanction of the law approved two years later. This was the first Cooperative School for transvestites and transsexuals.
Lohana, together with Nora Cortiñas, Patricia Walsh, Andrea D’Atri and founding partners of the National Campaign for the Right to Abortion during the first presentation of the bill to the National Congress, 2007
In 2011, she was awarded as Outstanding Personality of Human Rights, in the Buenos Aires Legislature. In 2013, she was appointed to preside over the Office of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, which works under the orbit of the Observatory of Gender in Justice of the City of Buenos Aires.
In 2013, she was appointed head of the Office of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, which works under the orbit of the Observatory of Gender in Justice of the City of Buenos Aires.
an eternal disobedient
“We are traitors to the patriarchy and many times we pay for this with our lives. (…). The patriarchy punishes us for ‘denying’ the privileges of domination that the genitals with which we are born assign us. Women often feel a feeling of invasion, of identity usurpation. On the other hand, we suffer institutional violence, applied in order to safeguard morality, good customs, family, religion. This violence is the consequence of another, the social one, and it is applied to us for daring to challenge the social mandate of what we have to be and do. Unlike gays and lesbians, transvestites have no choice in terms of our visibility. We cannot choose not to tell our families what we are or want to be, we cannot choose when to come out of the closet”, she points out in her article “A political itinerary of transvestism”, published by Diana Maffía in the compilation Migrant Sexualities, gender and transgender.
Despite the political and ideological differences, her fight was not minor, she was a pioneer in the fight for the historical democratic demands of sexual diversity.
In a survey carried out by Lohana Berkins, among 600 transvestites from the suburbs, it was found that 83.3% acknowledged having suffered abuse by the police, 82.7 were illegally detained at some time, 57.9 were beaten by police personnel and half of those surveyed were raped. It is worth remembering that it is the figure that was applied in the case of Santiago Maldonado, that of flagrante delicto is the one that is still in force in the current Contravention Codes.
The persecution of the repressive forces against the LGBTI community is not new, it has decades of history. It was maintained during Kirchnerism, and the macrismo that flaunts the “inclusion” policy with events dedicated to gay-friendly tourism entrepreneurs, deepened it as part of controlling the sectors that will be most affected by its adjustment plan. and reforms at the service of large companies.
We must rescue the fight that Lohana gave, the teaching that rights are not begged for but are won in the streets, we continue to fight because health, education and housing are our priorities; for the effective implementation of the trans labor quota, among many other things. We remember this day knowing that “you have to have courage, to be a butterfly in a world of capitalist worms.”