Transgender Survival in Brazil

By Alinne Lopes Gomes

Transgender survival in Brazil and the lack of mechanisms of support to overcome institutional violence. 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Data by the LGBT National Union puts an average of 35 years of life to a trans person.

The life expectation can be caused by a series of factors born from an institutional disparity and prejudice against these individuals. Being transgender in Brazil means having to face several difficulties not suffered by most of the population living closer to the heteronormative behavior. The social structure in Brazilian society is not yet equipped to cater to these needs and struggles; the laws, public policies and the shape of the health, education and social security systems are not designed to welcome transsexual and transvestite citizens. 
Trans rights are a basic pillar of human rights and a fundamental principle of sexual dignity. The public health care system and the normative instruments created to empower its actions lack the understanding of the transsexual reality as a health problem of great extension. In the country, there are between 752 thousand and 2 million transgender people with precarious care to basic care in the Unified Health System (SUS). That happens because the procedures and the specialized clinics available to take care of these individuals are scarce, underfunded and understaffed. 
The possibility of gender reassignment surgery only became a reality in the public system in Brazil in 2006 and remains inaccessible to most of the population. The number of clinics that do measures related to the reassignment have increased to nine; only five of them have authorization to perform the surgical procedures. Specialists say that the entirety of the transition from one gender manifestation to the other could take up to 12 years. 
The struggles present themselves in other aspects of trans life; the parental rejection is the leading reason behind the numbers of trans youth living in the streets. There aren’t many available public mechanisms to combat and shelter the masses of people that have nowhere to turn; the civil society has consistently taken the responsibility of caring for the members of the community. A recent effort was the inauguration of the Casa1 (literal translation: house one) in São Paulo; it has become a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals. 
Precarious education, lack of political representation, legislative omission, health inefficiency and social intolerance are a few of the reasons why Brazil is a dangerous country for transsexuals and transvestites; despite the community’s determination to take care of itself, the State’s machine doesn’t offer enough mechanism to support a safe environment and means of existence for these individuals and the backlashes in extremely high mortality rates and an overall pessimism for improvement. 
As stated before, Brazil is the country with most reported murders of transgender people when it comes to absolute numbers. The NGO Transgender Europe has been keeping a record of the homicides worldwide since 2008. The last update, in April of 2016, shows that 2.115 deaths occurred; Brazil was responsible for 845 of them, followed by Mexico with 247 and the US with 141. In relative numbers, in a consideration of cases per million inhabitants, Brazil occupies fourth place with an average of 4.22; the first place belongs to Honduras with 9.68. 
Central and South America are responsible for the great majority of these occurrences, representing 78% of the total or 1.654 cases. Europe is accounted for 117, North America for 146, Asia for 183 and Africa for 10 and Oceania for only 5. The concentration of trans death in Latin America represents a worrisome precedent which can be considered a reflection of the social imbalance regarding these individuals. 
Brazil is the eighth country with the highest suicide rate; these numbers have been growing among LGBT, specifically inside the trans community. In the country, the focus groups with the biggest suicide rates are young women from the ages of 15 to 29. A research made by the Human Rights and LGBT Citizenship Center and the Department of Anthropology and Archeology in 2016 revealed that roughly 85% of transgender men have considered or attempted suicide. Another recent research by the University of Columbia shows that LGBT people are five times more likely to commit suicide. 
The numbers are worrying; the lack of public policies to protect and insert these individuals in society create an environment of despair and social stigmas that put life, safety and means of existence at risk. To fight the epidemic of suicide inside the LGBTQ+ community it is necessary to rethink the way legislation is drafted to accommodate the crucial necessities to which they are denied.

This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'LGBT Policies and Overall Safety in Brazil'  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation 'Safety First for Girls'.

The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis. 

The Safety Report Research paper is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:

  1. The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
  2. Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
  3. Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
  4. Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
  5. LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
  6. Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177)  by Steffica Warwick.
  7. America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.

SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.

This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.


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