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Report documents anti-trans violence, bias in Brazil

Gay congressman said problem has ‘long history’ in country

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Jean Wyllys, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade
Jean Wyllys, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys (Photo courtesy of Jean de Wyllys)

A D.C.-based international human rights organization earlier this month released a report that documents violence and discrimination against transgender Brazilians of African descent.

The Global Rights report includes statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights that indicate trans Brazilians accounted for slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in the country last year. The group noted an estimated 52 percent of them were people of color.

Grupo Gay da Bahia, a Brazilian advocacy group that has tracked anti-LGBT violence in Brazil for nearly two decades, said it saw a 21 percent increase in LGBT murders in the country between 2011 and 2012. The organization reported 128 of the 338 reported LGBT homicide victims in Brazil in 2012 were trans.

Grupo Gay da Bahia further noted 250 LGBT Brazilians have been killed so far this year. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported 20 trans people were murdered in Brazil in August and September.

The Global Rights report also cites additional statistics that show the homicide rate among Brazilians of African descent rose 5.6 percent between 2002 and 2010, compared to the 24.8 percent decline in these crimes among white Brazilians during the same period.

The Global Rights report also documents pervasive discrimination against trans Brazilians of African descent in law enforcement and employment and in the country’s education and health care systems because of their gender identity and expression and race.

The organization says Brazilian police frequently force trans women of color to strip naked in public and use racial, transphobic and homophobic slurs against them. The Global Rights report also documents cases where authorities transport trans suspects and detainees in the trunks of police cars and other confined spaces.

It also cites a researcher who documents anti-trans discrimination in Brazil that concluded an estimated 90 percent of trans women in the country are functionally illiterate due to discrimination they experienced in the Brazilian education system. A 2012 study from the Latin American School of Social Sciences, which is an inter-governmental initiative that UNESCO founded in the late 1950s, found roughly 51 percent of Brazilians of African descent are functionally illiterate.

“With a reality marked by multiple forms of discrimination, the LGBT community in Brazil has struggled to ensure that the human rights to life and public policies reach these groups,” Naiara Leite of the Odara Black Woman’s Institute in the city of Salvador said during a hearing on violence against trans Brazilians of African descent that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights held in D.C. on Oct. 29. “Over the last few years, the Brazilian LGBT rights movement has been greatly concerned with the excessive increase of murders and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and most importantly with the increase in violence against trans people.”

Brazil is among the 15 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1997 created what became known as the Secretariat for Human Rights. Brazil in 2003 became the first country in the world to establish a government ministry specifically charged with promoting racial equality.

Brazilian Congressman Marco Feliciano in March became president of the Commission for Human Rights and Minorities in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress amid controversy over anti-gay and racist statements he posted to his Twitter account. Gay Congressman Jean Wyllys and other commission members resigned in protest of Feliciano’s election and formed a separate human rights caucus that lacks legislative authority.

The Commission for Human Rights and Minorities last week approved a measure that would suspend the National Council of Justice ruling in May that opened the door to same-sex marriage in South America’s largest country. Commissioners also backed a proposal that seeks to hold a national referendum on gay nuptials and rejected a bill that would have extended tax and legal benefits to same-sex couples and their dependents.

“If there is a country in the world that has made efforts in combating racial discrimination it is Brazil,” Carlos Quesada of Global First said during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing. “In spite of these efforts to promote human rights, the reality in the country is different.”

João Guilherme Maranhão of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations defended his country’s LGBT rights record during the hearing.

He noted Brazil and Uruguay were the first countries to introduce an LGBT rights resolution to the United Nations in 2007.

The Organization of American States during its 2008 general assembly adopted an anti-LGBT violence resolution that Brazil introduced. Maranhão noted to the commission it has subsequently been renewed and expanded.

“The situation of violence faced by transsexuals and transvestites in Brazil is an issue that merits the state’s attention,” he said.

Wyllys, who represents the state of Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress, told the Washington Blade earlier this month that discrimination against trans people of African descent has “a long history in Brazil.”

“The trans population is less educated and the most vulnerable to experience sexual and police violence,” he told the Blade during an interview from Brasilia, the country’s capital.

Wyllys added he feels President Dilma Rousseff has responded “shamefully” to the problem.

The Global Rights report specifically calls upon Rousseff to condemn “all incidents of discrimination, violence and human rights violations” against trans and other LGBT Brazilians of African descent. It also calls upon her government to develop a comprehensive plan to address the aforementioned issues.

The organization also urges Brazilian lawmakers to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and violence.

“We need more political and public discourse to increase understanding,” he said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kelli Anne Busey

    November 28, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Great article. Ummm, not one trans blog 'across the web'? just saying.

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World

Italian senators block bill to make anti-LGBTQ violence a hate crime

Advocacy group will hold protests across the country

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(Bigstock photo)

The Italian Senate on Wednesday blocked a bill that would have classified anti-LGBTQ violence as a hate crime in the country.

Senators by a 154-131 vote margin thwarted the measure that would have also classified violence against women and people with disabilities as a hate crime. The Italian Chamber of Deputies previously approved the bill, despite opposition from the Vatican and center-right political parties.

Arcigay, an Italian LGBTQ rights group, has announced it will hold a series of protests across the country on Friday.

“Now is the time for anger,” said Arcigay General Secretary Gabriele Piazzoni in a press release. “Yesterday’s vote will return like a curse on this political class: We will no longer be satisfied.”

ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel also condemned the vote.

“It is sad and extremely worrying to see the Italian Senate saying no to better protection against hate for women, LGBTI people and disabled people,” said Hugendubel in a tweet. “Have you asked yourselves what signal that sends to haters and more importantly to the concerned communities?”

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Local

17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens

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34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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