The election of right-wing libertarian Javier Milei as Argentina’s president has put LGBTQIA+ campaigners on alert in the country, long one of the most progressive in Latin America on gay and transgender rights.

Milei, a former TV pundit and self-proclaimed “anarcho-capitalist” who favors looser gun controls and is staunchly anti-abortion, has drawn comparisons to former far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump.

As the president-elect prepares to be sworn into office on Dec. 10, here’s what you need to know.

Is Milei anti-LGBTQIA+ rights?

Milei did not directly reference LGBTQIA+ rights during campaigning but said that, if elected, he would close down the ministry of women, gender and diversity, which addresses LGBTQIA+ equality, and has talked of waging a “cultural battle” against socialism and feminism.

He has also taken aim at comprehensive sex education in schools, calling it “a direct attack against the family”, comments that alarmed LGBTQIA+ campaigners who say such language is often used to sideline the community.

One of his newly elected lawmakers, Ricardo Bussi, has criticised a landmark 2020 law reserving a quota of state jobs for trans people.

“I don’t know why someone should be given a state job because they’re (trans),” said Bussi, who was among several Milei allies who made controversial statements on LGBTQIA+ issues during the campaign.

He also said LGBTQIA+ people deserve respect in the same way as “cripples, the blind and the deaf”.

Asked about same-sex marriage, which is legal in Argentina, Milei’s top foreign policy adviser, Diana Mondino, said: “If you prefer not to bathe and be covered in lice, and it’s your choice, fine, but then don’t complain if someone doesn’t like that you have lice.”

What has Argentina done on LGBTQIA+ rights?

Argentina has been a leader on LGBTQIA+ equality for years, becoming the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage in 2010 and passing the world’s first self-ID law for trans people in 2012.

This allows trans people to change their official documents, such as birth certificates, without the need for any medical diagnosis commonly required in other countries.

In 2021, it became the first Latin American country to issue non-binary ID cards, for people who do not identify as either male or female.

What does the LGBTQIA+ community think about Milei?

Milei’s election is a “jolt” to the LGBTQIA+ community, said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Washington-based think-tank Wilson Center’s Latin America Project.

Most activists and rights groups had backed his rival, center-left Economy Minister Sergio Massa, and they are anxious to defend the country’s progressive course.

“Milei proposes to destroy the state, the only guarantor of our rights,” said Flavia Massenzio, president of the Argentine LGBTQIA+ Federation.

“We don’t want setbacks in any of our achievements … We’re not going to remain immobile before a candidate who threatens our freedom.”

The hostile language used by Milei and some of his party members during campaigning has raised fears of an increase in homophobia and transphobia, said Andrea Rivas, president of the Argentine Association of Diverse Families (AFDA).

“We have a great deal of concern,” Rivas said. “Violence towards our community had already escalated during the campaign, and now we know we can expect even more aggression.”

Will Milei try to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ laws?

Milei could struggle to push legislation through Congress because he will only have seven seats out of 72 in the Senate and 38 out of 257 in the lower house, with the defeated Peronists remaining the largest minority bloc in both chambers.

As economic issues dominate – annual inflation is running at about 140%, he is unlikely to expend his limited legislative clout on other issues, said Gedan.

“He’s primarily animated by economic, rather than cultural, debates,” Gedan said, noting that in contrast to countries such as the United States, LGBTQIA+ rights had not been a significant campaign issue.

“Unsurprisingly, given Argentina’s immense economic challenges, voters focused mostly on inflation and economic stagnation,” he said.

Reporting by Gary Nunn.

GAY TIMES and Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation are working together to deliver leading LGBTQIA+ news to a global audience.