Argentina's Buenos Aires province passed a groundbreaking new law this week, believed to be the first of its kind worldwide.
The law requires the province fill at least 1 percent of government jobs with transgender people. The law only applies to Buenos Aires province, but USA Today reports that this sort of requirement is not in place anywhere else.
LGBT rights groups have expressed their support: "We are very happy because we did not think that we could get to such an important moment," said Diana Sacayan, secretary of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association in Buenos Aires, to a local news agency.
Argentina has passed other trans rights laws, including a historical gender identity law in 2012 that permits citizens to change their gender without any other requirements. All of this bolsters the progressive reputation of the very Catholic Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis.
Though often with many caveats and provisions, in the past few years several historically Roman Catholic countries have also passed laws to protect trans citizens.
in 2007 Spain was the first historically Roman Catholic country to pass a law allowing an offical change in one's gender identity. Uruguay followed in 2009, with harsh criticism from the country's Catholic Church. At the time, the archbishop of Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, told the Vatican Radio that the family institution was under widespread attack.
In 2010 Portugal passed a law allowing citizens to apply for a legal gender identity change as long as they also file a report signed signed by at least one doctor and one psychologist. In January, Portugal's parliament voted to unilaterally outlaw employment discrimination against trans people.
In April, Malta introduced legislation allowing citizens to apply for gender identity change without any stipulations. The law states: "The person shall not be required to provide proof of a surgical procedure for total or partial genital reassignment, hormonal therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment to make use of the right to gender identity."
In June, Colombia changed their gender identity laws, also removing requirements for bodily and psychological exams.
In July, Ireland passed the Gender Recognition Act 2015. The law allows any Irish citizen to apply for an official change in gender identity as long as they have "a settled and solemn intention" and apply of their own free will.
The New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer has posited that these changes may be piling on in South America at least because gender identity is not necessarily read as a conservative Catholic issue, unlike other LGBT issues such as same-sex marriage. Additionally, Pope Francis has caused shock throughout the Catholic world by being open to trans and other LGBT people in his travels. He has had lunch with trans prisoners in Italy, and in July 2013 said: “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
But all of this is not to say that trans discrimination is ended. Though Colombia has made it easier for citizens to change their official gender identity, A UN human rights representative told the International Busniess Times that almost 70 transgender people were murdered in Colombia over the past eight years. Brazil, the country with the most Roman Catholics in the world, is also maybe the most dangerous for trans people. A report on statistics collected by Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights stated that trans Brazilians were over 50 percent of the reported LGBT murder victims in the country last year.
From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International