By Anthony Marten, Communication Officer Hivos Latin America

Jess Marquez has become the first trans person in Costa Rica to legally have his gender recognized.

“It’s not about me. It’s about guaranteeing rights for everyone,” Jess Márquez stated after becoming the first migrant trans person to have his chosen name and gender reflected on his ID for migrants in Costa Rica. Jess, a trans’ rights activist, was smiling from ear-to-ear on April 29, when he was finally able to pick up his new ID. As I accompanied him and his loved ones, he reflected on the journey he has embarked on in order to make this a reality.

On December 21, 2018, the Decree 41337, which includes the “Regulations for the Acknowledgement of the Right to Sexual Identity and Gender for Migrants on their ID,” was signed by Carlos Alvarado, the president of Costa Rica. This decree stems from the Consultative Opinion 24/17, published by the International Court for Human Rights in January of last year, which states that Costa Rica must recognize the identity of trans people, among other obligations.

Over the past year and a half, Jess, along with several organizations and collectives have been working toward ensuring the court’s opinion was translated into law. His work as an activist in the Transcendentes collective and with the organizing team of the ELLA Festival – Costa Rica, supported by Hivos, are part of these efforts. The lack of information on sexual rights, representation, and ever-present discrimination have made this task challenging. Hate speech was commonly heard during the latest presidential election period, held last year. Several political parties used anti-LGBTI+ rights rhetoric to grow their following, putting the safety of many on the line. Fortunately, in the past year, progress has been made, including the signing of six presidential decrees that seek to recognize the rights of LGBTIQ people.

The battle continues

Although I highly celebrate this achievement, and know that it can bring forward further change, I am aware that the discrimination will continue. For Jess, this has manifested every time he has needed to present himself to any government (and even non-governmental) entity. “Last time I went to the bank, it took me 45 minutes to cash a check. The teller didn’t believe I was the person on my ID. This is a common situation for me,” he said when asked about the challenges he had before having his new document. Employees would often pass his case on to someone else, make up procedures for him to follow, or even not help him. This is still the reality most trans people face in the country, as their legal documents still don’t reflect their sexual identity.

Same-sex marriage, adoption by LGBTIQ people, and several other rights are also being discussed. As a gay man myself, I am worried about how these situations and laws will play out. But, I am also hopeful. With people like Jess serving as inspiration, I foresee a place where people will be able to openly express their true identity. Whether this may take one year, one decade, or one century is still uncertain.

For now, I celebrate this wonderful accomplishment, and hope to keep applauding more cases of people having their identity officially recognized. But as a Hivos member, I am aware that I still need to keep pushing forward, because this is a fight that we all need to face together.