By Josefina Salomon
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 17 (Openly) - A popular soap opera in Argentina with a groundbreaking love scene between a transgender woman and man has helped break down stereotypes and negative views about gender diversity, supporters say.
Running every weekday evening, "Pequena Victoria," translated as "Little Victory," has portrayed fictional trans women and touched on issues such as non-traditional families and surrogate births.
The series finale on Dec. 11, which local media reported was watched by more than a million people, has helped to challenge views of trans women, said supporters.
"I never thought things were going to change so much in our society," Jesica Gomez, a trans advocate in Argentina, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"A few years ago, we weren't able to walk on the streets in daylight, police would just arrest us, people would discriminate us. Now we are on TV and that has helped change the way people see us," she said.
The story, told over 51 episodes, linked four women by the birth of a child. It was shown on Telefe, one of Argentina's most widely viewed free television channels.
It kicked off with a female cab driver rushing a pregnant woman to a hospital to give birth. The pregnant woman was a surrogate mother for a successful businesswoman.
When the baby, named Victoria, developed a health complication, doctors tracked down the sperm donor, who was a trans woman living in a shelter for people who suffered abuse because of their gender identity.
The soap featured, for the first time on national television, an intimate scene between a trans woman and the baby's doctor, played by well-known Argentine actor Facundo Arana.
One of the soap's writers, Erika Halvorsen, said the show aimed to educate people against prejudices.
"Fiction can help create hope that another future is possible," she wrote on Twitter.
"In times of terrifying dystopia, to bet on a more loving and inclusive world was our 'Little Victory.'"
A holiday comedy on Netflix in Brazil, meanwhile, depicting Jesus as a gay man, has prompted almost two million people to sign a petition demanding it be removed.
Argentina's LGBT+ community has won other rights victories as well.
In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to let gay couples marry and adopt children.
It is also one of the few countries in the world that allow people to change their gender on official identification documents and other records without physical or psychological tests, following a law passed in 2012.
In addition, trans men and women can get access to free sex-change surgery and hormone therapy in public hospitals.
But trans people say they still find it hard to get jobs, and violence against trans women and men remains a concern.
At least 59 trans men and women were killed in Argentina in 2018, according to the National Observatory of Crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People, a local watchdog.
"Things are changing but there's still a long way to go," Gomez said. (Reporting by Josefina Salomon; Editing by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota and Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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