Forget everything you've learned about male and female gender, gender identity, sexuality and behavior. If some time ago being born with female genitalia was enough to define a woman for a lifetime, the same condition for those born in male bodies, now it is not so. There are women who identify as men, men who identify as women, and those who do not identify with anything or everything. There are those who undergo sexual readjustment surgery, there are those who do not. All of this has and does not have to do with sexuality. Did you understand?
Well, these and other ways of understanding gender identity and a different way of presenting yourself to the world are being thought of by some of the brightest minds today. The debate has already left specific communities and gained space in universities. But the issue is not limited only to the intellectual world. Families and schools are confronting the issue because of the presence of trans children and adolescents.
Transgenderism is an umbrella term. It encompasses diverse groups of people who have in common the non-identification with conventional behaviors or roles of the biological sex determined at birth. They are transvestites, drag queens, cross dressers, transsexuals. Data on this population are unofficial and vary widely. But it is estimated that the world is home to between 3,5% and 10% of transgender people. Non-transgender people are now called cisgender or cis, a Latin prefix meaning something like "on the same side." They may or may not be straight, but identify with their birth sex.
But what exactly is gender? For some, a social construction, an imposition of behaviors. Therefore, the transit between one and the other is a legitimate possibility. Others bet on the hypothesis of brain distinctions existing in the female and male organism to explain what leads a person to desire a body opposite to that of birth.
The matter is serious for philosophy. The American Judith Butler, one of the defenders of the so-called Queer theory – an English word that identified homosexuals in the 1970s –, brings the idea of thinking about the issue precisely from the point of view of people who deconstruct the coherence between anatomy, identity, desire and practice, expanding the concept of gender. The Spaniard Paul B. Preciado, also a philosopher and himself a trans man, shares the theory. In Contrassexual Manifesto, considered one of the most important works of this century on the subject, he defends the rupture of stereotypes man, woman, homo, straight, natural, artificial. Butler's and Preciado's proposals are evidently far from a consensus. The world of transsexuality still amazes, surprises and, not infrequently, arouses prejudice.
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The transsexual woman Assucena Assucena, 27, did not escape her first conflict: the family. She is still saddened when she tells her father's reactions to realizing that something different was happening to his daughter. “We started out saying I was gay, but he still stopped talking to me. It was like I was a sin.”
April data released by the City of São Paulo explains the impact of the loss of family support: up to 8,9% of the homeless population in the capital of São Paulo belongs to the LGBTT community, an acronym for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transvestites and transgenders.
Assucena still used the name Filipe and was a very androgynous figure when he left Vitória da Conquista, in Bahia, for the History course at the University of São Paulo. There she met Rafael, 27, gay, black, with long blonde braids and an impressive musical talent. The great empathy between them provided one of those soulful encounters, with deep discussions about history, feminism, gender and family that turned into songs. “While the lyrics and music were coming out, Assucena and Raquel Virgínia also came out”, says Assucena. In a short time, they had an album ready and the certainty that it was time to come out as transgender women. In November of last year, they released the album Mulher, the first by the band As Bahias e a Cozinha Mineira, with colleagues from the university, one of the most attractive novelties in the São Paulo music scene. A good schedule of shows in capitals of the country announces the future of the duo.
Black, born and raised in Grajaú, a neighborhood in the south of São Paulo, Raquel is a strong presence. “I'm from a reality that USP colleagues don't frequent and I'm usually the only transvestite in the places I go. I'm treated like someone exotic. I rarely go a week without being bothered by a racial and gender issue.”
In April, Raquel was assaulted by a young man at a bar in Vila Madalena, west of São Paulo. “He hit on me, we talked, kissed and it was over. But 15 minutes later he came back and said I should have told him I'm a 'male'. How could I warn you of something I'm not? And he had talked to me, seen me. In the life of a transvestite, nothing is simple. A kiss can turn into a case of death, you know? If I weren’t more and more focused and determined, I would go crazy.”
“USP has a strong core of transphobic feminists. So I only went to the ladies' room with a friend. I don't mind today"
“Visibility is a contentious area. Although coexistence with the theme of gender identity is more common, trans are still victims of violence and machismo. USP Philosophy student Gabriela Perini Bortoletto, 22, sometimes hides. “In college, it's easier because people have a strong political conscience. But there are times when I don't feel comfortable exposing myself as a woman, especially on the street at night.”
“I feel completely vulnerable. Guys bother me, they won't let me dance, talk. There's the T-lovers, cis man with a trans fetish. They want to know whether or not I had the sex reassignment surgery. No, I didn't. My gender fluctuates a lot, I don’t follow stereotypes.”
Even within USP, Gabriela avoids certain events. She does not risk, for example, participating in a party at Poli.
The world does not have a good relationship with transgender people. Between 2008 and 2014, 1.612 trans people were murdered in 62 countries, including Brazil, according to the UN. Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and regions of Nigeria and Somalia still today punish homosexual acts with death.
Gabriela bothers and knows it bothers. “I screw people over. My existence is a disturbance.” Aware of this, she frequently performs around São Paulo. In one of them, she occupied the Museum of Contemporary Art, MAC, without permission, and crossed the museum's spaces several times, walking as slowly as possible. “My idea was to show what a transgender body looks like inside a museum, disturbing the order in an unauthorized way.”
On a daily basis, Gabriela faces impasses, such as using the public bathroom. “I've already been bothered by this, mainly because USP has a strong core of transphobic feminists. For a while, I only went to the ladies' room with a friend. But I learned not to bother.”
In Brazil, bathrooms meet the traditional male-female division, and if this still goes unnoticed, in the world it is already a subject of dispute. In the United States, Barack Obama recently caused controversy by asking for shared bathrooms in schools. The guidance is clear: transgender people can use bathrooms that match their gender identity, regardless of anatomy. Conservative lawmakers, of course, reacted.
Like Assucena, Márcia Dailyn Oliveira da Silva, 38, also found herself rejected by her father when adolescence brought out her feminine identity. The atmosphere got so bad that her mother, Selma (a former maid who became an aerobics teacher in the late 1970s), put a stop to the marriage. The family lived in Jales, in the interior of São Paulo. “I owe a lot to my mother. I never had to prostitute myself or steal. Her courage in standing by my side showed me that I could be worthy and respected.” In addition to her invaluable support, Márcia is proud to be the first trans woman to graduate in classical ballet at the traditional Escola de Dança de São Paulo, from Fundação Theatro Municipal. “There were teachers who called me Márcio. Some choreographers encouraged me to participate in a casting, but at the time they despised me. They said I was ugly and poor. But I went all the way.”
She intends to move on. Since 2011, she has been attending the Transdisciplinary Outpatient Clinic for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation at Hospital das Clínicas, in São Paulo, where she receives hormonal treatment and undergoes psychotherapy, two prerequisites for performing the sex change operation. She is the corollary of a transformation process that began at age 13, when she started taking birth control pills on the recommendation of older transsexuals. “I am waiting for the surgery with 17 other people. However, Hospital das Clínicas makes one a month. Now it's time to wait.”
Meanwhile, he takes his life between his work in a compounding pharmacy, in the central region of the city, and his passion for the platform, today limited to the classes he teaches at the Nice Leite Ilara Lopes Dance Center, his participation in the Uirapuru dance company. and rehearsals for a show with songs by the singer Maysa, his muse. “The art world is unstable, even more so for me, and I need to survive.”
“I owe a lot to my mother. her courage in standing by my side showed me that I could be worthy and respected”
Marcia is lucky. The search for a place in the labor market governed by the CLT, which is getting smaller every day, is another difficulty for transgender people. To interfere in this scenario, the City of São Paulo launched, in January of last year, the Transcidadania program, praised throughout the world. The initiative prioritizes education, with citizenship and general education classes, and an incentive to complete primary and secondary education. After a year, the program managed to employ nine transsexuals in partner companies, doubled the number of vacancies (from 100 to 200) and readjusted the value of the scholarship granted for two years to those who commit to studying, which is now R$910.
The portfolio's budget will also be 130% higher than in the previous year, reaching R$ 8,8 million. “We implemented this policy in the country that most murders transvestites and homosexuals in the world. It is a serious public policy, a courageous and risky option, which can change people's lives, serving as an example for other municipalities and states”, says Alessandro Melchior, coordinator of LGBTT Public Policies. Recently, the city of João Pessoa, in Paraíba, launched a program with the same name and there are already initiatives in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro.
the target sex
Until 1997, sex reassignment surgeries were prohibited in Brazil. Those who wanted to undergo the process had to resort to clandestine clinics or doctors in countries such as Spain, Thailand and Morocco. In 2008, the Brazilian government only made sex reassignment surgery from men to women official. In six years, until 2014, 243 surgical procedures of this type were performed in four services authorized by the SUS.
Three years ago, the public network also began to offer women-to-man surgery, which is much more complex. For both genders, the minimum age for outpatient procedures, which include multiprofessional monitoring and hormone therapy, is 18 years and for surgical patients, 21 – in this case, it is necessary to have a diagnosis of transsexuality and a favorable psychological/psychiatric report – a document that is the target of criticism and many discussions.
Léo Moreira Sá does not reveal his age. He says he's only over 50 years old. It seems less. “I have my tricks.” However, he does not hide his past. “I went to Lu from the Expendables, remember?” From post-punk band drummer to actor, lighting designer and activist journalist, Léo has a rich life story. The youngest of eight siblings, mother a housewife and father a civil servant, he says that he realized his gender identity as a child, at the age of 7, in São Simão, in the interior of São Paulo, where he lived with his family.
In 1980, Léo began to study Social Sciences at USP and to frequent the São Paulo music scene. It was at the university that he had the first theoretical information about transsexuality. “I read the French philosophers, which gave me the tools to deal with the whole arsenal of emotions I felt. That feeling of not belonging. It was a period of drugs and a lot of madness,” he says. In 1984, he left the band, bet on the opening of a nightclub in São Paulo, became a drug dealer and married, “in civil and everything”, with the transvestite Gabriela. “We were famous, a different couple.” In 2004, the party ended. Leo was arrested and spent five years in the closed regime. Gabriela flew to Europe.
Back in freedom, Leo already had a beard and mustache thanks to the hormones he was taking. Masculinizing mammoplasty (breast removal), performed at SUS, took place three years ago. “It was the only operation I had, and it made me the happiest. I don't want to mess with the rest. I have no obsession with having a penis. Not worth it."
Winner in 2011 of the Shell Award for lighting the show Cabaret Stravaganza, by Cia de Teatro Os Satyros, Léo has been away from drugs for 12 years. “I only take testosterone.” He has not changed his given name on the documents and when he presents himself with them, he is astonished. “People get panicked, they look at me like that, they don't believe because they see that man with the beard, bald, and they ask themselves: 'What do you mean?' But it's important for that person to see a transsexual because if they look at me and think I'm cis, they won't learn. And I think people need to understand that we exist, that we are normal and that we deserve respect.” For sure, nothing will be like before.
“The masculinizing mammoplasty was the only operation I had, and it made me happier. I have no obsession with having a penis”