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Recognition of Trans and Non-Binary Identities: Argentina

Argentina's Gender Identity Law allows gender modification on official documents; recognizes third category, “X,” for non-binary identities (2012-ongoing)

June 2, 2023
Author: Laura Maria Rojas

Argentina’s Gender Identity Law of 2012 (Ley de Identidad de Género) aims to reduce the exclusion of trans and non-binary people by recognizing the right to self-define one’s gender identity. The law allows a name and/or gender modification on official documents through a simple administrative procedure. The law also guarantees access to appropriate trans health services. In 2021, a third category, “X,” was introduced to denote non-binary identities. From its passing to 2022, over 12,655 people have changed their official documents, improving access to public services.

In Argentina, trans communities face exclusion and stigma. Prior to 2012, judicial authorities approved or denied name and/or sex modifications following hormonal and genital procedures,1 which were performed clandestinely or through lengthy legal processes.2 Lack of legal gender recognition led to institutional discrimination and police harassment. It also increased barriers for trans and non-binary communities to exercise their rights and access public services, such as employment, education, and housing.3

The 2012 gender identity law recognizes the right to self-defined gender identity and to be treated accordingly. It allows all people over 18 years old to request the modification of the name, image, and gender of their official documents. The process is free and does not require any prior legal or medical intervention. Minors can request the procedure through their legal representatives.4 In addition, the 2021 amendment to the law includes a third gender category, “x,” as an alternative gender option for persons who are nonbinary or do not identify with feminine/masculine identities.5

The law also stipulates that all trans health services, such as surgical interventions and/or comprehensive hormonal treatments, must also be included in the National Compulsory Medical Program–the basic health services that public and private social insurance must guarantee.6


On May 9 of 2012, the Senate almost unanimously approved the National Gender Identity Law (55 voted in favor, none against, and just one abstention). The passing of the law was the result of decades of travesti, trans, gay, lesbian, and bisexual activism, and mobilization.7 Previously, LGBTQ+ organizations and activists grouped into coalitions, such as the National Front for Gender Identity Law (FNLID) to gain popular support. These coalitions lobbied executive and parliamentary powers, and provided technical support. Furthermore, a favorable political context contributed to the law’s approval–for instance, the President, who was committed to human rights, held a parliamentary majority. At the same time, the same-sex marriage law was passed in 2010, and social awareness of LGTBQ+ issues was growing.8


In 2023, the public budget assigned ARS 33,030 million (USD 161 million) for “Actions for Gender Identity” with a goal of 170,000 hormonal treatments.9


Argentina was the first country in the world to allow legal gender modification without a judge’s approval or medical intervention. The UN,10 human rights, and LGBTQ+11 organizations have endorsed the law. Maria Rachid, head of the Institute against Discrimination, reports that the law has been effective and sent a message to all public and private institutions to respect and protect trans identities.12 By March 2022, 12,655 people had changed their official documents and 354 IDs rectifications with “X” nomenclature were made.13

Studies of the impact of the law remain scarce. However, according to a qualitative study made by Fundación Huesped in 2014, transgender women perceive positive changes in their access to education, health care, work, security, and civil rights. The law also empowered the trans rights movement. They perceive an increase in freedom of expression in the streets and a decrease in police violence.14 The enactment of the law set a precedent.

Trans activism efforts led to new legislation to protect this population’s rights.15 In 2021, the president issued a decree to introduce the third “X” gender category, recognizing non-binary identities.

Despite progress, LGBTQ+ organizations have exposed implementation shortcomings. There is a lack of medical and vocational training regarding the particular needs of transgender people in accessing healthcare services; especially in rural and remote provinces where conservative health providers and public servants lack knowledge of the law.16 Additionally, while the law is an essential step forward, this has not directly translated into a change in material circumstances: 46 percent of trans people live in poverty, with a life expectancy of 40 years.17,18

Additional Information

In 2021, the Senate approved the trans employment quota law – establishing that the national public sector must reserve at least 1 percent of its positions for the trans community.19 According to the qualitative study made by Fundación Huesped in 2014, in which 21 activists participated, after the enactment of the Gender Identity Law, “three out of 10 women and six out of 10 men have resumed searching for job opportunities. Along the same lines, discrimination has diminished considerably from seven out of 10 to only three out of 10 cases reported.”20

All opinions and views expressed on this website solely represent the views of the authors and of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a program of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.