Having become the first country in South America to allow gay couples to marry, Argentina has passed a bill giving transgender citizens the right to have their gender recognised in law.

Hormone therapy and reassignment surgery will also become available by law for transgender citizens who will be able to change their officially recorded gender without prior medical or judicial approval.

The Gender Identity law was approved by the senate 55-0, with over a dozen absent senators and one abstention, FirstPost.com reports.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to sign the bill into law, having supported its passage.

In 2010, the president oversaw the implementation of the South American country’s gay marriage laws.

Senator Osvaldo Lopez of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina’s sole gay lawmaker at the National Congress, said: “This law is going to enable many of us to have light, to come out of the darkness, to appear. There are many people in our country who also deserve the power to exist.”

Katrina Karkazis, a Stanford University medical anthropologist told FirstPost.com: “It’s saying you can change your gender legally without having to change your body at all. That’s unheard of [...] this gives the individual an extraordinary amount of authority for how they want to live. It’s really incredible.”

Transgender people under the age of 18 may also take advantage of the laws with the consent of their guardians.