An Indigenous travesti with jasmines in her dark hair smiles at the world from today’s Google Doodle. A ceibo, Argentina’s red national flower, wraps itself around her right hand. She is wearing a poncho lined with the transgender flag and there’s a multitude marching behind her under a rainbow. Her name is Amancay Diana Sacayán.
Unlike its direct English translation, travesti in Argentina is a gender identity with deep political roots that is worn with pride.
“The first thing that I put into the drawing was joy, but not a superficial happiness — I think there’s something vindicating about her joy,” said Juan Dellacha, the Argentine illustrator behind the Doodle, in an interview with the Herald. “I wanted to show her human warmth and her activism, you can’t separate the two because she was all of that.”
“It’s an honor to pay tribute to her, especially in these strange times that we’re living in,” said Dellacha, who identifies as a gay cisgender man. “I haven’t lived the transgender experience but this hits close to home for me.”
“It was doubly emotional to be chosen for the Google Doodle and then to be told who I would be drawing.”
Sacayán was a pillar of Argentina’s trans-travesti community. Eleven years ago today, she became the first travesti to receive a national identity card (DNI by its Spanish acronym) with her gender marker amended according to her identity. She had fought for the country’s new Gender Identity Law which allowed for that change— seminal legislation that defines gender identity as self-perceived, among other things.
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“We’ve had the Gender Identity Law for over 10 years, an avant-garde law that we shouldn’t take for granted,” Dellacha said. “It’s a law used as a reference for many other countries which don’t have anything similar. I think it’s a nice way to recognize her nationally and internationally as an eminence, a heroine of our country and our community.”
Sacayán’s legacy continues following her murder in 2015. In fact, her death was the first to be considered a “travesticide” and Argentina’s Travesti-Transgender Job Quota Law, mandating that one percent of public sector jobs should be held by travestis and transgender people, is named after her.
“Often representations of trans people are tied to violence and her story is a very tough one, which is why I thought it was important to vindicate her through her joy and the legacy she left us as an activist,” Dellacha said.
Over the course of his research into Sacayán, with whom he was already very familiar, Dellacha told the Herald that he found a poem she wrote on her blog that perfectly distilled what he was trying to convey with his tribute.
“When I go, I would wish for a mountain of flowers, the ones that those thousand loves I suffered for never knew to give me,” Sacayán wrote. “When I go, I hope to have made a small contribution to the fight for a world without gender or class inequality.”
“When this humble trava goes, I won’t have died…I will simply go to kiss the feet of Pacha Mama [Mother Earth].”