Oscar Winner 'A Fantastic Woman' Galvanizes Support for Transgender Laws in Chile
President Michelle Bachelet welcomed home the film's star and crew and pushed the country's Senate to pass a bill that has been in limbo since 2013.
Chilean president Michelle Bachelet welcomed the team behind A Fantastic Woman at the presidential palace on Tuesday to congratulate them on the country's first Academy Award winner in the best foreign-language category. On the same day, she seized the momentum to push forward a gender identity bill that gives transgender people the right to legally change the name and gender on their ID.
Hours before meeting with breakout trans star Daniela Vega and the crew of the film produced by Fabula and Participant Media — including director Sebastian Lelio (Disobedience) and producer Pablo Larrain (Jackie), among others — Bachelet gave the bill "extreme urgency" status, which speeds up its path through the Senate. The bill had been going back and forth in the Chilean Congress ever since it was submitted in 2013, until last January, when it moved from Congress to the Senate.
"The growing consensus around Chile having a gender identity law must transform into concrete facts. Therefore, I have decided to give a 'extreme urgency' status to the bill, which is in its last stages in Congress. Transgender people shouldn't keep waiting!" she tweeted on Tuesday morning.
By pushing the initiative to an immediate debate, Bachelet forced the Senate to address the bill. As a result, the Senate sent the project to a mixed commission that will re-evaluate the modifications the bill suffered in Congress, which denied transgender minors the right to change their legal gender. A new Congress will handle the bill in its last stage, as conservative president-elect Sebastian Piñera's new government takes office next week.
"It was an honor to have the team of A Fantastic Woman here in La Moneda, the people's house. Like other great pieces of our art, this film has driven conversations on social advances Chile is demanding," Bachelet tweeted.
"The film has sprung this conversation everywhere it was screened, and I think the Oscar is a powerful impulse for a debate that is both urgent and irreversible," said Lelio after the meeting, adding that Vega has been "an ambassador between the film and reality."
Vega herself was recently a victim of this legislative void, as she was set to receive an "Illustrious Daughter" distinction from her neighborhood in Santiago de Chile. But the initiative fell through at the last minute. "We can't give this to a woman if her legal identity is that of a male," said the mayor of Ñuñoa.
"In my ID card there's a name that is not my name," Vega said after meeting with Bachelet. "Because the country where I was born hasn't given me that possibility yet. And the clock is ticking. And people keep waiting for this: change."