September 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender Brazilians ‘afraid for our lives’
From left: Bruna Benevides of Associação Nacional dos Travestis e Transsexuais (ANTRA) and Alessandra Ramos, co-founder of Forum Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais Negras e Negros (FONATRANS), speak about transgender issues in Brazil at an International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights panel in D.C. on Sept. 13, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Two transgender activists from Brazil who spoke in D.C. last week said their country has become even more dangerous for trans Brazilians since anti-LGBTI President Jair Bolsonaro took office.

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights hosted Alessandra Ramos, co-founder of Forum Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais Negras e Negros (FONATRANS), and Bruna Benevides of Associação Nacional dos Travestis e Transsexuais (ANTRA) on Sept. 13.

Benevides highlighted a report her organization released with the Instituto Brasileiro Trans de Educação (IBTE) released that notes 163 trans people were reported murdered in Brazil in 2018. This figure represents 47 percent of all reported murders of trans people in the world.

Benevides said a trans person is killed in Brazil every 48 hours. The ANTRA and IBTE report notes 83 percent of these murders had “characteristics of extreme cruelty, such as excessive use of dismemberment, drowning and other brutal forms of violence” that include stonings and beheadings.

“We see news of severely mutilated bodies with objects introduced into the anus of the victims and bodies burned, dismembered and repeatedly beaten,” reads the report.

The report notes police arrested suspects in only 9 percent of these cases. It also indicates 82 percent of the trans people who were reported killed in Brazil in 2018 were of African descent.

“Black transvestis and transsexuals are the majority in street population,” reads the report. “Proportionately, these are the ones with the highest rates of violence and murder.”

The report also notes the average life expectancy of a trans Brazilian is 35 years. It does not specifically mention Bolsonaro, but Benevides and Ramos both said the country has grown more dangerous for trans Brazilians since he took office in 2018.

“We are afraid for our lives,” said Ramos.

Bolsonaro stressed opposition to ‘gender identity’ at White House

Bolsonaro is a former Brazilian Army captain who previously represented Rio de Janeiro in the country’s Congress. Bolsonaro, who defeated former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party in the country’s 2017 presidential election, continues to face widespread criticism over his rhetoric against LGBTI Brazilians and other underrepresented groups.

Ramos said Bolsonaro had a list of the names of LGBTI activists that “he thought were against family and pro-destruction of Brazil” on his office door when he was a member of the Brazilian congress.

“He had photographs of us and he kept a list of all of us,” noted Ramos.

“We believe that list still exists of course and we’re still on there as part of this list of people who are not welcome as part of his agenda,” she added.

Bolsonaro in March spoke about his government’s “respect of traditional family values” and opposition to “gender identity” when he appeared with President Trump at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Bolsonaro during his trip to D.C. also met Pat Robertson and other evangelical Christians.

Julia Katharine, a trans actress and director, is among those who publicly criticized Bolsonaro last month for his decision to suspend public funding of LGBTI-specific television projects and films.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The ANTRA and IBTE report, among other things, notes 56 percent of Brazilians did not finish elementary school. Ramos said discrimination based on gender identity has increased in Brazil since Bolsonaro’s election, noting Uber drivers have kicked activists out of their vehicles because they are trans.

“[Bolsonaro] really reached the men of Brazil: The cab drivers, the police officers, the firemen,” said Ramos. “All of those people voted Bolsonaro.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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