BUENOS AIRES – Angeles Rojas strides down the hall of the Argentine state bank, passed portraits on the walls of past bank presidents who may have been shocked to see a young transgender person on its workforce.
The 23-year-old joined the human resources department of Banco Nación, Argentina's leading state bank, this year. In September, President Alberto Fernández signed a decree establishing a 1% employment quota for transgender people in the public sector.
Only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people, who face discrimination in the region. According to Argentina's LGBT community, 95% of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.
“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,“ said Rojas, who has long, black hair and intense dark eyes.
There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBT organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.
Argentina, a pioneer in transgender rights, in 2010 enacted a marriage equality law and in 2012 it adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex change surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.
Rojas' life story is similar to that faced by many other transgender people.
She came to Buenos Aires three years ago from a small town in northern Argentina, fleeing intolerance, but things were still tough in the capital and she was forced to prostitute herself.