March 3, 2018 at 8:39 am EDT | by Felipe Alface
Brazil transgender groups welcome landmark court rulings

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Transgender rights advocates in Brazil this week celebrated two landmark court rulings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SÃO PAULO — Thursday was a historic day for Brazil’s transgender community because it saw two huge legal victories.

First, The Superior Electoral Court ruled trans candidates are now authorized to run using their preferred name that will appear on electronic ballot boxes across the country. The ruling couldn’t have come at a more perfect time since this is an election year in Brazil in which voters will elect a president, state governors, senators and members of the country’s Congress.

It might seem simple as an electoral ruling but the country has the highest number of trans murders in the world. Knowing there could be a candidate like you who is running to govern for you is pretty big deal. Just to give an overview of where Brazil is today on trans issues, here are a few known facts:

– Brazil is still the country with the highest rate of hate crimes against crossdressers and trans people.

– in 2017 alone, 179 crossdressers and trans people were brutally killed, with one homicide happening every 48 hours, according to data from the National Association of Transvestites and Transgender People (ANTRA).

But the truly shocking fact for the groups that fight and protect trans people in Brazil is this number: Trans people and crossdressers have a life expectancy of only 35 years, while the general population of Brazil is expected to live up to 75 years, according to numbers the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics released last December.

But Thursday also had a few more good surprises for the trans population in Brazil.

Trans Brazilians since 2016 have been allowed to have their preferred name on their identification documents as long as they had undergone sex-reassignment surgery. The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled people can have their preferred name on their civil documents without surgery or hormonal therapy. The ruling takes away the litigation process through which trans people sometimes had to go, and also the necessity of presenting health professionals with an assessment in the process of getting their preferred names on documents.

Even though the ruling was unanimous, there were a few differences among the judges.

All of the judges recognized the right of trans people — including those who have opted not to have surgery — to have their name altered in documents. The point where there was a difference between the judges was the way to get those new documents.

Marco Aurélio, the proponent of the Supreme Court ruling, was one of the judges who proposed a judicial authorization before people could go to a civil registry and change the name and gender in their documents. But the vast majority of judges understood there shouldn’t be the need of a judge’s approval to get the new documents.

In the end, the ruling was approved on the basis that any trans person can present themselves and order the change of name and gender at a registry post across the country without the need of a judicial document or medical report.

According to ANTRA President Keila Simpson, the decisions by the Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court give voice to people and associations like ANTRA in the fight to safeguard the rights and citizenship of trans people in Brazil. But she understands the change will only be absorbed by the transphobic Brazilian society over time.

“We have only now guaranteed a minimum of citizenship to transgender people with both of these rulings but there are still a lot of challenges to overcome,” said Simpson. “We believe that even if we had a law approved by the Congress criminalizing acts of violence against LGBT people, we would still have this many deaths, because we live in a country where it is allowed to kill, where religious fanaticism sharpens its knife daily to decimate our community, where the prejudice faced by transgender people starts inside their homes.”

“So it is important to say that for a marginalized community like ours, that comes from having no rights, no nothing, being able to decide our name is a lot, but we are yet to conquer our right to safe living,” Simpson concluded.

Felipe Alface is a Brazilian author of the novel "Cicatrizes e Tatuagens" ("Scars and Tattoos") and digital content specialist.

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