Gender & Sexuality
From Brazil to the US, Fight for Trans Rights
A trans Brazilian woman talks about the struggle for trans rights and the struggle for socialism in Brazil and in the US.
October 28, 2018
Pictured here, Virginia on the right at a rally against the murder of LGBT people.
A letter to my trans brothers, sisters and non gender conforming folks in the U.S.:
My name is Virginia Guitzel and I am a 25-year-old trans Brazilian. I’m a student worker, struggling to find employment in a worsening economy since much of Brazil’s GPD goes towards paying a foreign debt, most of it to U.S. corporations. I’m one of the few trans women in Brazil who hasn’t been forced into sex work by massive employment discrimination. I only recently got access to higher education. According to statistics, I have two years left. The average life expectancy of trans women in Brazil is 27.
All of this has convinced me that this capitalist system is beyond reforms. We have to tear it down; we have to organize all our pain and rage into a revolution. That’s why I joined the Movement of Revolutionary Workers.
The situation for trans people is likely to get worse. We are currently facing the probability that Jair Bolsonaro will be the next president of Brazil, as he is currently the frontrunner in the race., Bolsonaro is a conservative homophobe who said he would rather his son was dead than gay. But he is also an heir to the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for over twenty years, murdering and imprisoning LGBTQ people, especially trans women. He is an advocate of torture who has threatened to exterminate leftists. This extremism has already resulted in murders at the hands of Bolsonaro supporters: first, a capoeira instructor named Moa do Katendê, and then three trans women, one of them from my city. This week, we won a small but significant victory when the affirmative action admissions policy for trans applicants was approved at the UFABC university in São Paulo state. This will allow working class trans women like me more access to a university education. This is important because it comes during a moment of fear, despair and agony for LGBT Brazilians. We also won this small victory because of the organization of trans folks and leftists, both in the university and outside of it.
I’ve never been to the U.S., but I feel that we are connected in our struggle against oppression and exploitation. I feel an even deeper connection after watching the attacks by the Trump administration on oppressed people. In fact, Bolsonaro is called “The Trump of the Tropics.” Despite many differences, including the fact that the U.S. is imperialist and Brazil a semi-colony, I know we are facing many attacks in both countries.
I read this week about U.S. government’s proposal to erase trans identities and essentially create a federal registry of people’s genitalia. This will open to the door to more institutional discrimination against trans people, including further discrimination in housing and in employment. This is what I am experiencing here and what so many trans people all over the world experience, including in the U.S.
I am reminded of what Néstor Perlongher stated, in “Sexo y revolución”: “In order to imprison someone in alienated labor, it is necessary to mutilate them by reducing their sexuality to their genitals.” And what Trump wants to do is this… literally. This is what capitalism demands of us in Brazil, as well as in the U.S., increasingly so under the present economic crisis. Greater exploitation, more oppression, more misery for the masses, just to secure the capitalists’ profits. Less time to be human, less time with our lovers, friends and (chosen) family. In Brazil, most trans people who aren’t doing sex work are in telemarketing. The mutilation described by Perlongher feels so present in that alienating job, obsessed with speed, numbers and outcomes— so far from human, so far from pleasurable.
Since capitalism is global, our organization should also be global. That’s why I am writing this reflection.
So many of my trans friends in Brazil are so scared right now. I imagine many of you are scared too. But as a revolutionary, I have to fight the immobility of fear. Bolsonaro wants us to bow our heads and hide the pride in ourselves and each other that we fought so hard for. I think of Stonewall and I know that Marsha and Sylvia must have been scared too. But like them, I know the only way forward is to fight. Its time for more marches, more organized rage. It’s time for a new generation of Sylvias and Marshas: new leaders who will make history. We need a new LGBT movement that can come to terms with what has happened to the LGBT movement—the decimation of our community by the AIDS crisis, the unprecedented growth of Pink Money (gay capitalism) and the illusion of an LGBT-friendly capitalist system. It’s time to forge something new.
We need to take the best of the fights from the past for LGBT liberation. We have a proud and militant history. The combativeness of Stonewall, the class unity of the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, and the audacity of the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action sought to build an international revolutionary socialist party.
I send you solidarity in your struggle in the US,