By Nayara Batschke
Sao Paulo, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- Isabella Souza has paid a steep price for being a transgender person in Brazil, having suffered beatings and abuse and feared for her life since she was a young girl.
Her experience is one shared by thousands of trans individuals in that South American country, the world’s deadliest for members of that community.
“My father always beat me because I’m trans. I wasn’t allowed to dress like a girl. He would take me to the living room to cut my hair and hit me every day. Once I had to go to school with glasses because of the bruises,” Isabella, now 23, said in an interview with Efe.
She was placed in an orphanage before reaching adulthood and lived there until the age of 17. But shortly before reaching legal age, she started living on the streets and became trapped in a web of drug addiction and prostitution, a spiral of destruction she escaped just a few months ago.
“I sold my body to buy drugs and used drugs so I could stay up all night in the streets, because being sober I couldn’t handle the cold or the idiots who come and cause problems,” Isabella said.
“There are people who come with boxes of rotten eggs and throw them at us, with fire extinguishers, glasses (filled) with urine. The police come and hit us. We’ve already gone through a lot,” said Isabella, who still manages a smile despite her trials and tribulations.
At least 175 trans individuals – all of them women – were killed in Brazil in 2020 alone, equivalent to one homicide every two days, according to figures released this week by the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra).
Those record-high figures confirm the South American country’s status as the world’s deadliest for the trans community.
“Being trans is a daily battle. You have to fight against everyone, against an entire society, against a policy that wants to exterminate you. You fight to merely exist,” 28-year-old Susy Muniz said.
Susy currently works as a social agent and owns her own home, but she lived from prostitution for several years.
According to Antra, nearly 90 percent of Brazilian trans women rely on prostitution as their sole means of survival.
“Society pushes them to the margins, and they’re so neglected, isolated, silenced and attacked that they end up accepting that it’s the only thing they can do,” said Andre Ribeiro, a psychologist at a shelter for trans women in central Sao Paulo.
The average life expectancy for trans women in Brazil is just 35. But violence is just one of the aggressions faced by members of that community, who struggle on a daily basis to be referred to by their chosen name and merely move about in public spaces.
“I was in the public restroom at the metro the other day, and a woman told me it was (female only). She complained to the security guard, who came and told me I couldn’t be there,” Elasarah Madalena said.
“If I go to the men’s restroom, what do you think they’ll do to me? They’ll harass me, try to abuse me. They may want to hit me. Anything could happen,” she said.
Despite coping with “daily prejudices,” Elasarah said she has finally discovered happiness. After trying to take her own life on multiple occasions – the first time at the age of 11 – she decided at age 32 to accept her essence as a woman and begin the gender transitioning process.
That path, however, has not been an easy one.
“Every human being who transitions suffers until they accept themselves. Many never manage to do so and take their lives beforehand, whether because of religion or their family,” she lamented.
According to Antra, suicides among the trans population have been steadily climbing year after year.