A man from Ecuador has legally changed his gender to female in a bid to gain custody of his two kids.
Local outlet La Voz del Tomebamba reported that René Salinas Ramos, 47, is now a female based on his updated records at the Civil Registry. He, however, uses the same birth name and identifies as a cisgender male as usual.
Salinas Ramos said he committed to the drastic move to circumvent the Ecuadorian legal system, which typically prefers mothers to fathers when it comes to children custody.
“I am very sure of my sexuality. What I have sought is that I want to be a mother, so that I can also give the love and protection of a mother," he told, La Voz del Tomebamba, noting he can do "motherly" activities like cooking and ironing.
Salinas Ramos claimed his daughters live in an abusive environment with their mother, his ex-wife. He also noted that he hasn't seen them in over five months, and that being a father in Ecuador is "punished," seen only as a "provider."
“The laws say that the one who has the right is the woman," he said. "As of this moment, I am female. Now I’m also a mom, that’s how I consider myself."
LGBTQ+ activists expressed concern over Salinas Ramos's move, especially since they'd fought hard for years in having a law promoting transgender rights.
Ecuador in 2015 passed the landmark law allowing citizens to state their gender identity instead of assigned sex at birth on legal documents. It's one of the few countries that recognize the right to gender self-determination.
Diane Rodriguez, national director of the Ecuadorian Federation of Organizations, told VICE World News that Salinas Ramos's move isn't the spirit of the law, though pointed out that the law created an unintended consequence.
While the 2015 law allows legally changing genders on Ecuadorian documents, it doesn't allow changing sex on government-issued documents recognized globally like passports. Trans people, then, would need two different legal documents.
Rodriguez also deemed Salinas Ramos' story as "fake news" at first because of how "outlandish" it is, but with it actually happening, she said they're afraid things will go backwards and the government will start legislating against them.
"What is happening at this moment could cause a change of criteria of some assembly members for the change of sex in the identity card of trans people,” she told VICE News Asia.
Rodriguez also doubted Salinas Ramos changing his gender will give him the upper hand in his custody battle. The 2015 law, she pointed out, doesn't say anything about the best interest of children.
“I understand that in his situation, in desperation, he chose to change the gender on the identity document," she said. "But no, it won't have any effect.”