Director of International Relations, ULTRA
I am Lua, which means “moon” in English. I chose this name during my gender transition in 2016 because people always called me ‘a person that lives on the moon’ – very distracted or absent-minded. When I chose my own name, I finally found my essence and learned to fully express myself. That was when I came down to earth and saw my role in this society – as a trans activist and transfeminist.
Growing up, the people in my life were oppressive and violent. I could feel something was wrong, even without understanding yet that I was transgender, and I struggled silently under their oppression. When I turned 17, I had the opportunity to take a scholarship in Germany, where I learned what it felt like to be accepted as a person and I realized not everywhere is the same as Brazil! I came to understand my identity as a trans person whilst I was at university, surrounded by other LGBTQI+ people who were experiencing similar feelings to me. I realized my identity was real and it was valid and that I was not alone.
I envision a future where we no longer have to explain our existence.
The turning point for my own trans activism came in 2016 when my university refused to recognize my chosen name in my graduation ceremony (the right to legally change one’s gender was not guaranteed in Brazil until 2018). To have this right guaranteed for me and for other trans people, I had to lead a dispute against my university. I won my case, an achievement not only for me but also for the entire trans community of the Federal District of Brazil, who could finally demand that their names be recognized in public spaces. It was then that I understood I had a responsibility to fight for trans rights.
Brazil is the deadliest country in the world for trans people. To live as a trans person in Brazil is to resist, every single minute of every single day. We are forever creating strategies to survive. We have even created our own language – Pajubá, a mix of African descended languages like Yoruba and Brazilian Portuguese – to describe our feelings, our struggles, our fight… our oppressors. We live under constant threat from the institutions – the police, the government – of this deeply patriarchal society. We will only survive if we stick together and create spaces in which we can trust one another.
The trans community is vibrant and powerful. The people within it have so much potential. We could use this potential in a better way – to develop the country, join the labor market… Sex work is a valid means to earn income and to survive in our community, but it should not be the only option. We should have the right to choose what kind of work we do, to go to university, to choose our names, to be respected for our gender identity and to have our rights guaranteed – just like everyone else! Societal cissexist views of trans people objectify us in ways we do not choose.
The trans rights organization I work for, ULTRA, works with government institutions in Brasilia on vital issues such as the depathologization of trans identities and access to healthcare. During the pandemic we created an emergency fund to provide food and financial support to trans and gender diverse people, though our government’s response to the pandemic made it almost impossible to operate. Every trans person should be happy; they should have food and housing, and someone who loves them – without violence, without taking their mental and bodily autonomy.
I think it’s very important to have LGBTQI+ people in decision making spaces, as well as our allies, to make sure our issues are taken into consideration. So much is being decided about our community without our community. I want to change perceptions of trans people that we have nothing to contribute or that our contributions don’t matter. For me it’s the opposite – I have learned so much, not just being trans but having trans people in my life.
The fight for the acceptance of all LGBTQI+ rights was always raised by trans and gender non-conforming people, particularly those from the global south, people of color, migrants, sex workers and those on low incomes. People need to know that these are the people who fought for all queer people. Yet these groups are still the most marginalized and rendered invisible in our community; they are more likely to be killed. The representation of trans people is still very unequal in the mainstream fight for LGBTQI+ rights. We need to bring visibility back to the people who started this movement.
I do think though that lot has changed in last 10 years. We are on the way! I see this in the strength of our community, how we are reaching new spaces. At the last election we voted in more than twenty trans people for city councils and legislative houses. In Sao Paolo, we have two Black trans women in parliament. Our voices are being legitimized by the people who voted for us and that is powerful.
If you are supporter of LGBTQI+ rights, support the fight in every situation. If you have a company, if you employ people, if you have high income… please support LGBTQI+ civil society and our movements, especially those led by the most marginalized communities. Challenge people in every situation – in every family, every religious setting. And employ trans people – see how they can contribute to our economy!
If you are a trans person reading this, I want you to know that you are valid. You deserve love, respect and all the best things. Love yourself, not just for your happiness but because you are part of a bigger collective of people like you who all deserve to be happy.