Argentina’s first ever non-binary march calls for true inclusion

'Non-binary people aren’t just stuck between being a man or a woman.'

Today is International Non-Binary People’s Day and Argentina will see its first-ever Non-Binary March. In the streets of downtown Buenos Aires, activists will call for true recognition of non-binary identities and freedom to write their gender identities on their ID cards. 

In a country renowned for progressive gender legislation, today’s march is an invitation to show up and demand real inclusion.

“The general goal is to stop using sex as a factor to define someone’s identity, including internationally,” said Valentine Luy Machado, a trans-non-binary activist on the march’s organizational commission — the Comisión Organizadora Marcha No Binarie (COMNBi).

This is the first march dedicated exclusively to the non-binary community in the region, with Mexico City set to have its own tomorrow. In fact, COMNBi believes it is the first non-binary march in the world.

The event starts at 3 p.m. with stands and a stage with live performances until 9:30 p.m. The march around Argentina’s Congress building and the plaza outside starts at 5:30 p.m. There will be seats for disabled protesters close to the stage, sign-language interpreters, and low-stimulation spaces for people who need to recharge. 

“There isn’t much space for non-binary people [at other LGBTQIA+ marches] and often it’s hard to even have non-binary identities recognized within the community,” Ari Lorenzo, another COMNBi member, told the Herald. They composed the march’s official song with their folklore group Invisibles, who will be performing later this evening.

“Non-binary” is an umbrella term for someone who identifies outside the gender binary. The non-binary community is usually grouped with the transgender community, particularly regarding human rights demands. However, not all non-binary people identify as transgender and some issues are specific to them — issues today’s protest seeks to showcase.

“The binary erases us”

“Many of our problems are those of the transgender community but with the added complication that the binary erases us,” said Machado.

In July 2021, Argentina became the first country in the region to create a “non-binary” national ID (DNI, by its Spanish initials) via presidential decree, where the “sex” field is marked with an “X”. Machado was among the first to receive the new IDs at a presidential ceremony, where they protested the “X” as a catch-all. Today, marchers will demand the field be made optional, and that holders be allowed to write in their own identities, such as “trans woman” or “non-binary.” COMNBi is also calling for computer systems to be updated to allow access to services — online forms often offer only “male” or “female” as options. 

Ari Lorenzo (left) and Valentine Luy Machado (right). Photo: Valen Iricibar. Cover image: Lorenzo on stage. Source: COMNBi Facebook

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“Someone being neither a boy nor a girl doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re an X without a name who doesn’t know their identity,” said Machado, pointing out that identities such as travestis and marikas were “reclaimed from a slur.” Those monikers are very important in reflecting the person’s history, as well as their individual identity. 

“Non-binary people have their own gender identity and aren’t just stuck between being a man or a woman.”

Unlike its direct English translation, travesti is a gender identity with deep political roots that is worn with pride — they have been key in the wider community’s fight for human rights for decades.

Today’s protesters are also demanding proper implementation of the Integral Sexual Education Law (Ley de Educación Sexual Integral or ESI). This establishes that sex ed classes should go beyond sexual intercourse to tackle topics including emotional regulation and reproductive rights. It is designed to raise awareness of diverse gender identities from an early age, and considered vital to combating discrimination on a societal level. The law is supposed to be implemented at all levels of schooling, in both public and private systems, but in practice it is not properly implemented.

“ESI is being totally binarized,” said Lorenzo, contending that schools are more likely to teach gender identity from a binary perspective rather than as a spectrum. 

Inclusive language

The City of Buenos Aires banned inclusive language in public schools in 2022. This involves the Spanish gender-neutral pronoun “elle”, using -e instead of the masculine -o or feminine -a for words with gendered endings, and changes in collective nouns which are masculine by default, so amigos becomes amigues. The ban means “a non-binary child wouldn’t even be able to name themself,” Lorenzo said. 

“The idea is to show the rest of Latin America and the world that there are people here making these demands so that others can have the courage to do the same in their own communities,” Machado said. 

Both Lorenzo and Machado recognized Argentina’s existing legislation in terms of gender identity, emphasizing that the trans-travesti community paved the way for those rights and today’s march. The idea is to follow today’s demonstration by incorporating non-binary-specific demands into other LGBTQIA+ protests.

“In other countries there isn’t even recognition of the ‘X’ in their IDs and there’s much more invisibility,” said Lorenzo. “The ‘X’ wasn’t good, but it was a step and we need to keep taking steps.”

“The important thing is that everyone dares to show themselves.”

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All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald