A father of two in Ecuador has legally changed his gender in an attempt to get more favorable treatment from the courts in his custody case.

René Salinas Ramos, 47, is now listed as female on official documents in his native Ecuador — despite the fact he still identifies as a cisgender male in his everyday life.

The desperate dad claimed he made the drastic decision due to the justice system in his country which he said typically benefits mothers in custody cases.

“Being a father in this country, Ecuador, is punished and I’m only seen as a provider,” Ramos told local outlet La Voz del Tomebamba. “What I have been looking for is to give the love and protection that a mother can give her children.”…

“The laws say that the one who has the right is the woman. As of this moment, I am female. Now I’m also a mom, that’s how I consider myself,” Ramos told media assembled outside the city of Cuenca’s Civil Registry office on Dec. 30. “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.”

But a transgender activist and former lawmaker is not happy about the decision.

“This man’s private matter, to obtain custody of his daughters, isn’t the spirit of the law,” Diane Rodríguez, one of Ecuador’s most prominent trans activists and the national director of the Ecuadorian Federation of Organizations LGBTI, told VICE World News.

Rodríguez, who became Ecuador’s first trans Assembly person from 2018 to 2021 and also helped spearhead the 2015 law, said that with her understanding of the law, a judge would certainly not give custody because of a change of gender “because it does not make sense that you have changed your gender in the identity document without being a trans person, only with the objective of taking advantage to obtain custody.”

The concept seemed so outlandish at first that Rodríguez admitted that when she saw it in the local press, she thought it was “fake news.” But after realizing that the man had in fact legally changed his gender, the Ecuadorian Federation of Organizations LGBTI released a statement denouncing the change on Tuesday.

That statement goes on for 11 points arguing the obvious, i.e. Ramos isn’t trans:

…it is important to make it clear that the objective of this cisgender man is to have an advantage over other people, for the parental authority of his children.

Justice operators must be clear about the objective of this cisgender man, in light of the decision they make. When the law was made, it was made with the aforementioned background and under the criteria of the common good, not for the good of particular facts, which was never the spirit of the norm, neither for the optional change of gender nor for the change optional sex for trans people.

…We reaffirm that what the cisgender man himself said is taking advantage of other people for parental authority, which must be reviewed by justice operators.

Granted Ramos isn’t trans, meaning he doesn’t present himself as female, but apparently the law doesn’t say he has to do that. Indeed, I suspect these same activists would be unhappy if someone could be rejected on account of not looking enough like the sex they want on their documents.

The real issue is that Ramos admits he has no intent of being trans. But should it matter? If the law says you can change your gender on your documents because you feel that way, why should Ramos be excluded. He doesn’t feel feminine but he does say “now I am also a mom, that’s how I consider myself.” He added, “I can also give the love and protection of a mother.” So in his own limited way he is fighting a gender stereotype about dads and moms and trying to switch how he’s perceived from masculine to feminine. In other words, his reasons for the change may differ but he does have reasons that aren’t about mocking the law itself. I find myself thinking that if these activists were a bit smarter they’d welcome Ramos and use his example to backstop the idea that gender is malleable rather than trying to exclude him. But, hey, it’s not my battle.

Here’s a brief clip (in Spanish) where Ramos shows off the change of his gender in his documents.

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