Agustín Barletta is a trans man, a father, and an activist in the Trans Argentinxs organization.
He collaborates and shares his experiences so that trans children, adolescents, and youth have the support that he did not have.
Trans people are those who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
In Argentina, almost all trans people live in poverty and destitution. Many of them were expelled from their homes during their youth because their families rejected their gender identity.
A report prepared by the Association of Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgender of Argentina (ATTTA) and the Fundación Host, which collects data from 452 trans women and 46 trans men in seven regions of Argentina, shows the high incidence of suicidal ideations in people of this group during their adolescence, which highlights the lack of socio-family support and access to mental health services suffered by this group.
The trans population is structurally poor because it is systematically excluded from formal education systems, excluding formal and informal labor markets. As a direct consequence of this fact, 90% of trans women subsist practicing sex work. As sex workers, these women are predominantly exposed to male violence, which often takes the form of police violence. Subjected to three dimensions of oppression due to their status as women, sex workers, and trans, this group has a life expectancy of between 35 and 41 years.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — I lived for twenty-four years as a woman, not knowing who I truly was. In 2011, I saw a trans man on television.
It was the first time I became aware trans men even existed.
It was a revelation; I was a trans man. Living as a woman, I felt sad and angry, but today, I am a happy father.
Being transgender is not difficult; what is difficult is society.
You can be trans and happy. There is a way.
I was transgender and did not know it
For as long as I can remember, I knew I was not a woman. When I played, I took on male roles. I liked playing the red Power Ranger and in the Sims, I only created male characters.
Children express themselves a lot when playing; it is the space where they feel the most free.
I have a twin brother, and I always envied him because they gave him the toys and clothes I wanted while they dressed me in skirts and ruffles.
For a long time, I was angry with him, but it was not his fault; he was very open, and always lent me his things.
I imagined becoming a doctor, a mechanic, or a dad. It was always my dream to be a father, but I was supposed to be a girl and I was told this was wrong and gross.
My sister, who was 11 years older, would do my hair and I would cry and say no until eventually I gave in, stood still, and let her finish.
Afterward, I would run out of the bathroom, crying, and take everything off.
She didn’t want to hurt me, but she didn’t understand why this was happening. Women tend to want to beautify themselves, but I hated it.
I never made an effort to feminize my body.
Facing discrimination and ignorance
When you are not well, life is more difficult because everything irritates you. I found it hard to even say my name.
I worked in a call center and had to say it every two minutes. It was torture. At work, they did not respect me even after I had my identification changed to my current name.
They forced me to go to the bathroom for disabled people because neither my male nor female colleagues wanted to share the bathroom with me.
Finally, I realized I did not have to put up with this mistreatment and I denounced them.
Ignorance leads to bullying. They gave me defamatory nicknames and called me a tomboy, but I was very adept at making friends. I found friends and avoided the teasing.
My mom always predicted I would like girls. Years ago, the only information we had was that if you have a vulva and you liked girls, you were a lesbian. We didn’t know what I was.
My family didn’t have evil intentions; they simply did not have information.
After my transition, my mother apologized many times and cried because she did not know I was transgender. People didn’t know how to raise a trans child in the 1990s. There was no internet or tools to investigate like we have today.
The anguish of looking in the mirror and not seeing a reflection that matches your perception was unbearable.
Acceptance,surgery, and rebirth
When I saw a trans man on television, I felt represented.
My girlfriend at the time, who is my current partner and the mother of my son, was the first to support me. She was clear, she fell in love with the person, not the gender. She understood that I had to start this path to be happy.
Immediately, she began to address me with male pronouns. For her acceptance, I will love her for life.
Although I was afraid, I began my transition. My breasts always bothered me, and I covered them with loose clothing. When I found out an operation could remove my breasts, I did not hesitate.
I had a bilateral mastectomy. It was a very physically painful process, but it was also healing and necessary for me.
After the intervention, I was born again. My first twenty-four years were wasted time.
With my transition, I could live as who I am. To allow my mother to participate in my “new birth,” I gave her three options of names I liked. She selected Agustin.
Being a father for the last three years has been the purest happiness. Being a dad shows me that anything is possible. My partner and I do a lot of parenting from the perspective of freedom: we listen to our son.
All I want is for my son to trust me and, for that, I have to trust him. I want to be an understanding father and to acknowledge that he is a person, independent from me. He is not my property.
We accompany him through life, and we educate him from love to responsibility. I do not project on my son. On the contrary, I want to be surprised by him; to be unafraid of the unknown.
What I want most in the world is for my son to be happy.
Supporting trans youth in Argentina
The standard unemployment rate for trans people in Argentina is 96 percent. Only 4 percent of trans people in our country have a formal job.
The life of a trans person is an endless cycle that starts in childhood.
The family may throw them out of their home. They cannot finish school, which leads to lack of employment and resorting to marginal work. They develop very low prospects for their life.
If a trans person found a place of safety in their family, their story would be different. I am a member of Trans Argentinxs [a non-governmental organization]. We work with children, adolescents, and trans youth and their families.
The boys come to the organization to play and to express themselves freely. In some cases, it is only about games and not a trans identity. For others, it is all about their identity.
We advise families online and provide talks and training.
Trans children must have visibility in society so that those who are going through it, feel represented. I did not know that trans men existed; one cannot identify with something that he is unaware of.
Today, I insist on visibility more than anything, especially for trans men.
When I opened my account on Instagram, @unpapahipster, I didn’t do it as a trans man. I just wanted to reflect on my parenting journey. That was when I realized I could make a difference by telling people about my life and showing them, trans guys can be dads too.
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