The LGBTQ community in Argentina, and the region at large continues to mourn the loss of one of its most vocal and compassionate leaders. Lohana Berkins, founding president of The Association for the Fight for Travesti and Transexual Identity (ALITT) passed away last week after a long period of hospitalization.
Born in the town of Pocitos, located in the Salta province, Berkins would grow up to found the ALITT, one of the organizations credited with increasing the visibility of trans people and helped Argentina’s landmark gender identity policy pass into law in 2012.
Another moment of admirable resistance came in 2002 when Berkins enrolled in a training and licensing program to become a teacher in Buenos Aires. Upon hearing that she would not be able to do so under her name and self asserted gender identity, she filed a formal appeal to the government of Buenos Aires and won, paving the way for countless trans men and women to receive an education and employment while having their identities respected.
In what would become her last letter to her colleagues and fellow activists at ALITT, Berkins wrote:
“The time for revolution is now, because we are never going to return to those prison cells. I am convinced that the engine of change is love. The love they denied us is now the drive that pushes us to change the world. All challenges and contempt that I suffered, do not compare with the infinite love that surrounds me right now.”
In addition to a powerful legacy, Lohana Berkins left us with a poignant and articulate reminder that the “engines of change” can run on love just as easily as hate. I can think of no better way to honor Berkins’ life than by making it our prerogative to put the former into the worlds and communities we inhabit.
For a look back at Berkins’ trademark ability to break down stale stereotypes while sticking it to the patriarchal man see the video (in Spanish) below.