Mother hopes nine-year-old daughter's gender change will help others in Ecuador

MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The mother of a nine-year-old girl believed to be the first child in Ecuador to get official recognition for a gender change said she hoped this would set a precedent for other transgender youngsters.

Amada, who was born a boy, has been granted a new set of official documents marked female and with her chosen name by the Quito registry office in what LGBT+ activists described as a first for the South American country.

This followed a court battle that ended in October when a judge overturned a registry office decision from January that denied Amada the right to legally change her name and gender.

The move came at a time when many countries are being urged to review laws on when a child can choose their own gender.

Amada’s mother, Lorena Bonilla, said she hoped her daughter’s victory would help in Ecuador forward where she has set up the Love and Strength Foundation with her husband to help other trans children.

“This is a precedent,” Bonilla told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview from Quito.

“More than a document, the fact that families are talking about this issue, that’s what’s important.”

Human rights activists hailed the move as a major step forward for Ecuador’s LGBT+ community, which continues to face legal hurdles in the socially conservative country.

Although Ecuador decriminalized homosexuality 21 years ago, gay marriage is still illegal although civil unions have been recognized since 2008. Same-sex adoption is not allowed.

Ecuador is one of three nations - along with Brazil and Malta - to ban so-called gay conversion therapy, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, but campaigners say such clinics still exist.


Diane Rodriguez, president of the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations and the first trans woman elected to Ecuador’s National Assembly, said Amada’s gender change was an “incredibly important moment” for the future of her community.

“It represents a visionary future where we can dream that our future generations won’t suffer what transgender people like me, and others in my generation have suffered,” she said.

Prior to Amada’s case, transgender Ecuadorians had to wait until the age of 18 to officially change their gender according to a 2015 law that recognized the right of trans people to alter their name and gender on identification documents.

But the rights of transgender children have recently gained attention in the region after Chile approved a law in September letting people aged 14 change their gender in official records.

Bonilla said 14 was too late to allow recognition for many trans children as she accepted her child was a girl at age six.

“It should be from eight or six years old because that’s when a person has formed their gender identity,” she said.

She said there was still a lack of understanding in Ecuador about transgender people which led to ongoing discrimination and violence. Watchdog Trans Murder Monitoring said 28 transgender people were killed in Ecuador between 2008 and 2016.

Last year one Christian group called Con Mis Hijos No Te Metes - translated as Don’t Mess with My Kids - organized a protest against teaching gender studies in school.

Bonilla said when Amada first came out as trans, some psychologists suggested she be placed in a psychiatric facility, and she was turned away by 14 different colleges.

“There is still a lot of pain ... a lot of ignorance,” said Bonilla, but added the fight for her daughter was worth it.

“She said ‘Mommy, I finally have something that says my name’. That’s when you realize why these kinds of documents are so important.”