Transsexuals lined up Monday to be the first to take advantage of Argentina's groundbreaking gender-identity law, which enables people to change their names and sexes on official documents without first getting approval from a judge or doctor.
No other country in the world allows people to change their official identities based merely on how they feel.
Many other countries, including the United States, require people to pass barriers that sexual identity experts describe as painful or humiliating, such as hormone therapy or surgeries to physically change their sex organs and psychiatric visits to demonstrate they have "gender identity disorder" or other abnormalities.
Argentina's gender identity law won congressional approval with a 55-0 Senate vote last month and took effect Monday. A small group of transsexuals chose to assert their rights immediately at a civil registry in downtown Buenos Aires.
Silvana Daniela Sosa, who was born Miguel Angel Sosa, emerged with a form showing her new identity card is being processed.
Another transsexual, Maria Mara Brodos, said, "It's important to have the freedom to decide by myself and not have anyone deciding it instead of me."
She said she had struggled for years to persuade judges to allow her to get documents reflecting her change in gender.
"I had many legal experts, and every time it was them talking _ I wasn't able to say who I was," she recalled. "It was both funny and painful, because no one is authorized to say who I am, but me."
Associated Press journalists Gustavo Munoz and Natacha Pisarenko contributed to this report.