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After almost a year of twists and turns, little Luana, age 6, who was born a boy but according to her mother always felt like a girl, got a new ID card with the word "female" in the gender box.
Luana and her twin brother are the children of Gabriela Mansilla, a single mother who last year took the groundbreaking decision to fight all the way to change her son’s birth certificate and all other documentation that identified Luana as male.
“People don’t understand. You take the kid to the ER with an open chin to sew, or a bronchospasm, or fever, or chickenpox, and they tell you: 'It says here that this is a boy, but looks like a girl — does she have a penis?'" Mansilla said in the only one-on-one interview she has granted, to Pagina12.
"People think that this happens only to grown-up people, but all trans were children once."
“The DNI gives you identity, respect. (…) This is not a boy that wants to be a girl. She is a trans girl and has rights: to study, to play sports, go to a doctor and receive the treatment she needs," she added.
"She did not tell me 'I want to be a girl,' she told me 'I am a girl,'" she recalled.
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According to the Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA), this is the first case in the world in which a government authorizes a gender change to a minor without going to court.
"I want to thank all those who believed. Luana earned this DNI. This is her fight, I just stood by her side," said Mansilla while holding the document tightly against his chest, visibly moved. "The fear was there, I was afraid of the unknown, but I took strength from the love I feel for Lulu. The more I allowed her to be a girl, the happier we were.”
Luana, whose full name has not been disclosed to protect her identity, was born with male genitalia and was given a boy’s name, Manuel. But approximately at 18 months, the kid started expressing a female identity.
“She told me: Me, girl,’” the mom said.
After that, Luana underwent psychiatric, psychological and even neurological treatment for two years. Finally, last year her family decided to formally request the gender change.
Luana’s family received the plastic document Wednesday in a ceremony presided by the government of Buenos Aires’ chief of staff, Alberto Pérez, and the president of the CHA, César Cigliutti, among others. Luana, who stayed home rather than attend the ceremony, asked her mom to celebrate the event "with a cake and gifts," Mansilla told reporters afterward.
The request to rectify the gender in Luana’s birth certificate was refused at first, with officials saying that an order from the judge was needed in cases involving a minor. Next, Mansilla wrote a letter to President Cristina Fernandez and to the governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, who authorized the change after consulting with the Argentina Ministry of Children, Youth and Families.
"People think that this happens only to grown-up people, but all trans were children once," said Gabriela, who asked parents to "listen" and" respect their children."
Following the media coverage of Luana’s case, three mothers have contacted the CHA to inquire about cases of identity crisis affecting their children, Cigliutti told Efe.
According to the Argentinean newspaper Clarín, there have been 900 cases of identity change in the Province of Buenos Aires since a groundbreaking gender-identity law passed last year. But none at such young age.
"Parents need to listen to their children, they are who can best explain what they feel. Do not be afraid," said Mansilla.
EFE contributed to this report.