Five days later she was dead. The police report said ‘cardiac arrest’. However the autopsy showed severe bruising and other signs of torture. She had been segregated at the police station so that others would not have to share with an HIV+ person.
Vanessa Piedrabuena, president of the ATUC, and Vanessa’s lover, signed an official complaint. Gay and trans activists demonstrated in Buenos Aires, which led to the provincial authorities saying that they would investigate. Vanessa Ledesma was recognized by Amnesty International as one of six cases to mark its 40th anniversary.
Vanessa Piedrabuena was then threatened at her home by police who broke down the front door, and put a gun to her head. They told her: "Keep your head down ... Mind your own business. No one is going to look out for you when something happens to you."
Subsequently a few police officers were charged, but they were never arrested or suspended. A few years later proceedings were quietly dropped.
- Amnesty International. Crimes of Hate, conspiracy of silence: Torture and ill-treatment based on sexual identity. Amnesty International, 2001. www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT40/016/2001/en/cd954618-d961-11dd-a057-592cb671dd8b/act400162001ar.pdf.
- “Argentina: Further information on Vanessa Piedrabuena Fear for Safety”. Amnesty International, 14 March 2001. www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR13/006/2001/en/b4eebedc-db73-11dd-af3c-1fd4bb8cf58e/amr130062001en.html.
- Patrick Califia. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2003.: xxxii
Argentina has come an enormous distance in the last 12 years:
2004 – the Gondolin Hotel, Buenos Aires was raided by 60 police officers and Monica León was shot eight times. She fled to Paris.
2006 - the Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling that had stated that transgender people did not have a legal right to organize and campaign for their rights.
2007 - the Supreme Court ruled that a 17 year old in Córdoba province had the legal right to go through the sex change process and have her legal documents changed.
2008 - Alejandra Portatadino was recognized by the Buenos Aires Legislature as one of 20 Argentinean women who ‘broke traditional moulds’.
2009 - Marcela Romero won the legal right to have her identity changed, and was given an honorary title by the government.
2010 – Argentina became the first country in Latin America to have equal marriage.
2012 - Argentina became the first country in Latin America to have a Gender Identity Law. Surgery to be available through the public health system. Approvals of neither doctor nor judge are required for a gender change.
However the police officers who killed Vanessa Ledesma are probably still in the police force.