Natalia, a migrant trans sex worker
Transcript from an online event Q&A with Natalia, a trans woman from Brazil in the ECP network.
Before we start taking questions, can you introduce yourself and say what term you use to describe your gender identity.
My name is Natalia, I am a woman or a transsexual woman, whichever you like. I use also the term travesti. This is the culture of trans women I come from. The dictatorship in Brazil, they align this word with prostitution and crime, and it becomes a slur, We reclaim it. it is also important for the trans struggle, to fight the legacy of colonialism which enforces the binary sex and gender. This is now what still polices our bodies and criminalizes us. I use it for these reasons. It is political.
Where did you grow up, what that was like? Can you say a bit about your family?
I was born during the 1980s into the Complexo do Alemão, in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro. This is where I was raised and lived most of my life. My mother was deeply religious, Catholic. Like many she left her family in the Northeast to search for work and she ends up in Rio. For many years she works as a maid to a family in Copacabana, and at the weekends has a stall selling flowers in a higher-class neighbourhood, and cleaning at a local church.
My mother leaves my father soon after I was born, after years she had endured of beatings, It took much for her to leave him as she had five children and she said it was better to live a bad life with him than to have nothing at all – the choice for many mothers. She raised us alone for many years until she re-married a man from Bahia.
In Complexo do Alemão it is home to around 80,000 people, many Pardo and Black. It can be very dangerous to outsiders. The poorer you are, the higher you live. We had a small concrete home, very high. Six of us shared a small bedroom, like many we did not have clean water, many times no electricity, sewage runs in the streets. A lot of people living with hunger and illness their whole lives. My mother she works hard to try to give us a good life. My brothers they have no choice but to join the gangs, this gives us the money we need.
There was a lot of problems from the police. This is where Nova Brasilia massacres happened in 1994 and 1995 when the police and military operation raided the favela to “fight drug trafficking” and they kill twenty-six people, torturing and rape others, including children. There have been many raids since to “pacify” this area, in the World Cup and Olympics we suffer more. Drugs are all over Rio, yet the police come here many times into the favelas for shootouts, to wage war. Brazil is at war with the poor.
The armed forces “pacification” brings no peace, only terror. Assassinations they are justified as the “war on drugs” but it is a racist genocide in this country. People they are scared to speak because they fear the reprisals.
There is danger in the favela but there is also a rich culture, love, community, and generosity. That is the side people do not see. The media spread only negative perceptions. There is the reputation of violence and that is what the outside world sees. But they do not see the strength and kindness. The favelas they are more than violence and drugs.
When I am back now I live in the favela of Rocinha, in the south of Rio. It is much safer. But Complexo do Alemão is still my home.
When and what made you choose to transition? How did that affect your family life?
Most of us, we start to take on this identity from ages 8-12. I start to live as a girl when I was 10 which I hide from family. When I was discovered my mother threw me to the streets. Like most transsexuals and travestis my life as a woman started on the street, many of us stay here and where our life it will probably end.
I was suffering violence age 12, sexual, physical from many men. It was a very traumatic time. There is no choice but to work as a prostitute, this is one of the many sacrifices and payments we make to change ourselves.
I lived for many years in a discarded building with 20 travestis and transsexuals. We call it “Casa das Mulheres” From here I learn to survive and find love. The older women. they struggled and work hard to keep us safe and not have to go to the streets. They sacrificed much to care for me and others. We are complete strangers. Yet they did this, and they did it in hope of a better life for us so that we may not suffer the lives they did.
You learn soon all you have is each other. Carmella is who I call mother. She has lived a terrible hard life, suffering much violence and discrimination, yet her heart remained warm. She would give all to others. I often cry when I think of how she is discarded by society her whole life, like she means nothing. Someone so caring who protected us and raised us like we are her own.
The roles, they have turned now. I care for her since five years ago when she was beaten badly. They damage her back and she is now paralysed and cannot work. The nerves in her face, they are severed, she cannot speak well. Yet she remains with so much love and hope. Carmella says she survived a military dictatorship and torture, she will survive more intolerance. Not many of the women from Casa das Mulheres, have lived. Some, they die of HIV complication. Not many die of natural cause. Murder, suicide, overdose, complications of silicone pumping.
Many people they talk of this as a choice. Changing is not a choice, but a necessary thing. Who would choose such a life? There is nothing to gain. I make the transition to survive from myself, to be free. I go to the streets instead than to stay with my family home as there is violence in both, but at least I am to be free this way. It is a hard life, but it is also happiness. This is the price we pay.
This answers some of the question I had, what is it like to be a trans woman in Brazil?
We have a legacy of abandonment. We are abandoned by our families, women are not valued. The sexism, the machismo. The situation that your son will be a woman, this it is seen with disgust and shame. We are not allowed access to most of society and our rights, they are almost non-existent.
They say there is a million travestis and transsexual women in Brazil, 90% do sex work. 900,000 trans women sex workers. It is the same across Latin America, every country 80-95% in prostitution. This, it should tell you about our choices. Even if you are to look cisgender, you do not have documentation that reflect your female-self and so you still struggle to find the other work. When you do it is cleaning or hair stylist, both low pay and many hours. Women’s work, it is this way of course – low pay and much extra labouring to care for others which is no pay. Perhaps prostitution it still would be the choice I make, but I would like to be the one to make this choice. Things improve for some, but most, they still live on the street and in discarded buildings.
The poverty it is hard to live with. Many people here are poor, it is not just us, but it is an extra stress to be poor and criminalized and have discrimination. You feel ill, physically and psychologically it is a stressor. They are determined to kill us one by one. If they do not kill us through force, they kill us through making us starve, or degrade us so we are to take our own life. It is hard when others they depend on you. People, they depend on me to make money, so it is not just for yourself. But when it is others there is more of the pressure — you feel terrible for others to be suffering. What can I say; you do what you can and hope you can make their life less hard in small ways.
The violence, is it very bad. This is a very sexist, racist and transphobic place to be. Life is frightening and uncertain, we have to go on the streets every day not knowing if we will make it home or which friend we lose next. We are not safe anywhere. Even those small number who have the better life, when out on the street there is no certainty. Violence does not spare any of us.
We live in this country that kills the most trans women — 40% of the recorded trans killings worldwide. Every year this has been since 2009 when the data start. Many they are unreported or misreported. Life expectancy is 30-35. Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais report the murders. Last year they say 98% they were trans women, 80% were Black trans women. Over half they die on the street and 80% they show signs of torture.
They talk about the murders of trans people but it is trans women and travestis who are dying and have highest poverty. It is femicide, it is transfemicide.
We are the country which search and consume the most in the world for trans porn by the way. We are faced with men who cannot handle the desire and discomfort our bodies bring them and they react with violence and hate.
The murders and the violence they come also from the police and military. The physical and sexual abuse, it is very bad. When they arrest you they beat your chest with batons to try to puncture the implants. They shut the car door on your arm or leg over and over. Some, they have put nails in sticks and used this to puncture and leak the silicone. They gang rape you, humiliate you, strip you in the street, shave your hair.
And this violence it is most for the Afro-Brazilian women. They are attacked more because they are Black. They are stopped from being outside on the street because they are Black. They have high number of killings by police because they report the violence and the murders of friends by police, or because they will not have sex. Retaliation.
Many people here die from the police, in the drug raids. Many young men, mostly Black. Some of us we are taken in this way also, but there is a targeting of us in any situation. And when it is not the direct murder, it is murder by the state in other ways. The murders they are political, there is a target on your back if you are a travesti.
This is not contained to Rio, this is across Brazil, across Latin America, in many places around the world.
We see our friends and loved ones shot at, stabbed, beaten, run down by cars. I still have many nightmares of seeing my friend discarded in this way after she is mutilated and thrown from a car. I feel I am traumatised with the thoughts of her last moments here, of her suffering. I am scared of this ending in this way. But you cannot live with this fear and I must remember the happiness she had for the short years she is here, the freedom. This it will keep me going and to keep fighting.
Those of us still here, still able to talk on these things have been attacked many times, felt close to death.
Has anything like that happened to you personally?
Of course. It is an unavoidable fact of our life. As I say, this has been from age 12. There have been many times. Some of these, they are too painful, too personal to speak of. Every time these situations happen, you lose some parts of yourself. We form the strong bonds with other travestis because we all know these feelings. We understand each other.
It is not the worst time. but an example to give was a moment I experience in São Paulo, 10 years ago. This was the daytime; I go to buy food. I sit down on a bench to wait for my friend to come. Suddenly I have such pain in my head and I feel faint and confused, and realise I am bleeding. I was attacked by six men – six men came and attack a lone transsexual woman for nothing. I did nothing. I was sitting waiting for my friend. This was in the middle of a busy street in the day! They knew they could do this. Nothing will happen to them.
I felt this day I really see hatred in their eyes. You can feel it. And no one helps. Two different men come and film it, they are laughing and encourage them. I was struggling to breath. My lung and my stomach it is punctured by a blade and I cannot describe to you the feeling I was going to die, right here in the street like many others, for nothing, I still do not understand why my life it affects them so much.
My friend she comes and she feels she has no choice but she calls the police. When they come I’m going unconscious, the men they are still beating me and trying to rip my clothes from me. They don’t run when the police come. They say I was sexually making advances and that I robbed one of them, and that I had “tricked” them to think I was a woman. The police accept this is justified! They tell them to leave and start to try and question me as a criminal and throw water over me to try to wake me as I am laying in the street and losing a lot of blood.
The police they assault my fiend for trying to help me. Two Black women they try to help us. A homeless man he also tries to help and an older man, a street vendor, he tries to stop the bleeding and he takes me to hospital. It shows a lot who helps in this situation. It is the white middle classes that care nothing for our lives.
This is not the worst moment, but it leaves me shaken. It reminds me that we are not safe anywhere. It feels it’s just a matter of like, when is it my time?
What can I say, this is not unique to Brazil. This is the situation in much of the world.
You mentioned silicone pumping being a cause of death, can you say more about what that is?
This is silicone pumped into the body, mainly breasts, hips and butt, sometimes to the face to have a more feminine appearance when you have no access to other procedures.
One problem is that medical grade silicone. it is not used, it is mostly industrial silicone, something more like you buy from a hardware store as this is cheap, and it is not injected by professionals. Infection it is a risk but death or complications they come if the silicone it breaks away and travel to your heart or lung. Also, many things can become problems, blood clots, blood pressure problems and damages to other organs. This can happen during the procedure or suddenly many years later. Sometimes not for 10 or 15 years away.
The hormones we also have to buy not from a doctor, these can take a long time to take affect and feminize the body. Also, for some they will never fully feminize.
It is a reason of safety and of a better life, to not look trans. If you look cisgender you have more opportunity for housing, to not get targeted in such a way, to lead a more “normal” life. You feel like you will have a better life.
It is also competitive on the street. If others have curves and you do not, you lose money. You lose the clients. This is Brazil. There are very high beauty standards for women. Also, for some, maybe this is all we have, to try to look beautiful.
We know the dangers. We know of people who have died or had complications. Some get complications, some don’t. It is a risk.
I first get this at 16 and more at 18. Ten years later I suddenly had blood clots. I was working in New York and I went to a trans health centre. They find the silicone has broken and travelled to different parts of my body and my other health problems is the silicone poisoning me. For a long time I could do nothing about this. I did not have the money for the surgery. I had two more clots which went to the lung. Eventually I have a lot of the silicone cut out. They could not remove all as some it is lodged in a place which involves high risk surgery. I pray that it does not move more. They test the substance and they say it was cut with many other things, including, how do you call it, oil for your car, for the gearbox.
I still have health problems. My lungs are not good, I have pain in my hip and leg where the silicone it traps a nerve. I cannot lay on one side. The doctors say it has caused deep tissue damage.
Do you regret having it done?
I do not regret what I did at that time as it was the best option in this situation. But of course. I wish I had not had to do this.
At the time you do not think about what may happen 10 years later, you do not expect to be living then.
What can I say, we make the best choices we can in the moment and we have to live with this.
What do you think should be done to stop it? Do you think its people exploiting and taking advantage of a marginalised and vulnerable community?
I do not like to talk badly of pumping as it is looked down on and even criminalized, yet what other option do we have? The question is not to stop it, but to give better options. If we are able to have safer procedures we will not do this. Criminalization it will not help anyone.
I do not know in English money, but in dollars for example it is say a couple hundred dollars per treatment, but breast implants they may be $10,000. Going to a trained and licensed surgeon this is a fantasy for most of us, not a reality.
Perhaps some people they take advantage of our situation but mostly it is more complicated than this. It is women in our community providing this when we are not able to get care elsewhere. You may see them as exploitative; we see them as providers and caregivers. Nobody else is helping us.
Have things gotten worse since Jair Bolsonaro came into office? Have trans people won any rights in recent years?
Bolsonaro of course he gives more power to the force against us, but this fear is not new to us, we’ve always been terrorised. We always found ways to fight back and stay alive and we do this again.
The murder of Marielle Franco this devastated us. Marielle, she was a strong champion of the poor, of trans women, single mothers. But we have some hope, we see the first ever trans women Erika Hilton and Erica Malunguinho to earn positions in state legislature, in Sāo Paulo. Both Afro-Brazilian trans women. These women, they are us. Erika, she came from the streets, she was homeless and a sex worker. They speak our language, literally they speak Pajuba!
I feel our struggles, they are seen more now. Many, they see the violence we have suffered with the murder of Danara dos Santos in Fortaleza in 2017. The video recording of this, it goes around the world on social media. It is hard to watch. It haunts me. Danara, she is dragged from her home, stripped, and beaten with wood. She is bleeding, pleading for her life, crying, begging for her mother. She is dragged away, shot and killed with a rock. Before these things happen and were not seen by the world first-hand. Now we are able to confront this. These men, five of the men who did this, for no reason but a hatred, they go to prison, between 14-21 years. We could not believe we see some small amount of justice finally for one of us.
For some of the legal rights we have won, well since 2008, after a court order, Brazil it must now provide sex reassignment surgery through the public health system free of charge. Earlier this year, we also win to lower the age for surgery from 21 to 18 and hormones from 18 to 16.
These are a victory and comes from much hard work to win when in a conservative and religious country. But these things, they are still not in reach for most of the trans women here. The access to these things, they are not easily available. Most of us, we don’t have any doctor to go to, so how are we to find a sympathetic doctor and psychologist and go through the two years of evaluation to get all this. The need it is more urgent. Also, this is not right, for the state to control us in this way and have the power to decide who we are with evaluations.
The win we also have which has impact to more people, the Supreme Court, it ruled the government can no more require trans people to have surgical procedures or need of a judicial document or medical reports to change a name and gender marker on the identification. There are still some problems for some to access this, but it is not impossible now.
We try also to change the language of the femicide law. They use “biological sex” for this law, and they see this as a binary and to not be changeable, so the murders of trans women and travestis, they do not see it as femicide. The law it is written in a language to exclude us, but in some cases, the murders they have gone to trial in this way. It is to depend on how it is seen by the judge and which state we are in. Some they say it will count if the trans woman has had the full sexual reassignment procedures, some they say this does not matter, many will say we do not count no matter our situation. We argue to change the law language to avoid this argument. This it is important, to ensure we also get the justice.
Other things they happen, like laws on discrimination and to normalize different sexual relations and gender, but these, they cannot be the source of our freedom or safety. How to prove they do not hire me for work because I am transsexual? I cannot see the good effects for us in reality.
We need the identification documents, and to have access to our hormones and procedures, but many of the things we need is what others in the working classes they need, which we suffer disproportionate, so access to better housing, healthcare, money to live from, decriminalizing sex work, to end this war on drugs, justice for violence. There are many things. Our struggles they are not separate from others. Our liberation, it is with others.
We are now out of the shadows. Our movement is very strong, but the brutality this continues. And things they get worse when society sees we are taking a stand and we are accomplishing things.
What is hidden from most, it is the day by day resistance. The family and networks we built, this care work for each other. We are fighting back from the police, we get each other out from the prisons. We have created our own language and many skills for our community to survive. The prostitution, this helps us to resist the life they give us, to not be relying on abusive families, violent boyfriends. To get what we need to live our lives. We adapt and we find many ways to conserve our trans identity, to change sex. Our survival and safety it is a collective responsibility. This is how I see it
How do trans lives and rights compare here to Brazil?
The trans movement in Brazil it is very strong, it thrives in many ways. As many movements it is led and sustained by the women and travestis.
I do not know the things here in the UK well so it is hard to speak on this in detail and to compare this. But life here is hard for the trans women I meet. There is still much violence, hostility, intolerance, many suicides, many in prostitution, Like I say, this is a worldwide experience. But it Is safer here in the UK. Trans women and men, they have won many things to improve life but there are many battles, and things they are hard now there is the visible fight. There is the backlash to this. People, they do not want us to gain these rights.
The feminist and women’s movement in the UK, the transphobia it is high, and not just conservative and the religious. They speak against this “transgender ideology”, this is what Bolsonaro say, the exact words. And they say many of the words of Trump also. The same views on trans people.
The UK, many they have opinions on all parts of our life, they say things with much confidence and prejudice, but they never spoke to one of us, or they do not listen or care for what we are to say about our own lives. There is, how do you say, much elitism. They think their view it is superior to what a trans person must know about this life.
The alternatives they present, it is more criminalization of us. The policing on our bodies, or our minds. They side with the State against us. To prevent us from our documentation, our procedures, our safety, to live our lives.
The UK, it is known now to be a bad place for this thinking. In Brazil, the women there, cisgender, they cannot believe what is focused on in the UK. With the violence, the murders, the poverty we face, and the topic it is of trans people in sport. This, it is disregard for our lives, for our suffering. There is much distraction from the real problems with imaginary and pointless things they talk of.
This transphobia, there is deep roots. The how do you say here, the biological essentialist. This is what they transport to us around the world, it separates us. It says we are not real, that we are men. It creates us as an image of the enemy. That our lives, this is in conflict with the cisgender woman, that we are dangerous, or disturbed.
These ways of thinking, they are of harm to all women, not just us.
They are to say we don’t know what it is like to be a woman. I do not understand some of the feminists with much money and status, mostly white, they are to think they have more in common than us with the cisgender woman who struggles to feed her children, the homeless woman, the woman in prison, the Black woman who is to fight police brutality, the lesbian woman who is facing much violence.
In Brazil our struggles they are deeply connected and embedded in a women’s movement, the transsexual and travesti, the indigenous women, the Black women. We fight together. Side by side. There is not the separation. We all face the poverty, the violence, the difficult life as women. This, it is a class issue.
I think it’s important for us as academics to lift the voices of marginalised people and use our positions of power to help create lasting social change, Do you think the focus in recent years in academia on trans people and sex workers, in particular research without a North American or Eurocentric focus has helped to shift the narrative and break down binary concepts of gender and sexuality?
Sorry, my English, it means this will have to be said slower and less words.
I think we can tell our own stories. I do not think I need someone to lift my voice, I speak very loud and clear. It is just the need for people to listen. I think it is a problem that some people, they do not want to hear this direct, they want this to be written into an academic language and to theorize about all aspects of our life. This, it is of no benefit to us. I am the expert on my life, no?
There is much desire to study the trans and the sex worker, this, it is seen as maybe “exotic”. Research on us, it is very limited use and many times misrepresented. Our community, it can be very closed, what we show on the outside, it is not the full story.
I do not pay attention to the publications, but the articles which they write about studies, and on the videos they make, they are to portray us as victims or the opposite – exaggerated, flamboyant, over sexual. There is no context. There is no view of our real life. We are to portray ourselves in a way as this is an armour. I am to make myself seen in a way so to hide my fear, pain, my loss. It is for survival, to stand tall.
Many, also they take advantage of us. They want our experience, our story, but the research it is influenced by money, by careers, not of what is needed for our struggle. The research, it is just for themselves, the rest of us do not understand much of it. And this, it is a problem, it leaks into many places, the sex worker and the trans organizations, many they are to become influenced by this and they no more represent us.
Do you engage with academics if they contact you to be involved in projects?
This, it depends. I do this Zoom because there is money to go to a trans organization for this. And also, it is a chance to tell my life in the first person. But who is to know what twist there would be on this if there is to be an article, or a report.
I have done some also where they are to work close with the organization I trust only.
Before, some years ago, I do an interview for a study and article. She gives me money, which is a wage for a week or two for many at home. But then Carmella, she say to me: “you’ve been exploited! Next time ask for 10 times more and tell her she has only 30 minutes”. It is not for many years that I understand this, that the woman, she had much funding, hundreds and thousands for this and makes much money from us.
I thought also she was to care for our life, to want to tell our story. But then I see the article and it is misrepresented, no context. I am to be seen as someone who loves sex work as a part of my sexuality or my trans identity. To say I am to find sex work validating is not to mean this. To live with many to look at you and your body in disgust and as a man, and the shame this makes you feel, so of course we wish to be desired as women and in sex work there Is a feeling of this.
What would make better research? Do you think it’s improved now by more trans people and sex workers becoming academics?
To be good, it is to show benefit to us, to be led by us, to research the necessary things, to be practical, to not misrepresent. There is little of this of what I see. It is important we tell these stories in the first-person.
The researcher, they are never to fully know this life, they have not lived this experience. It is arrogance to think they may offer something of more value. This, it does not mean a person cannot write something, this I am not saying. What I am to mean is that much research, it adds opinions, a non-trans view, or it does not understand our lives. If it is to be led by us, this research, it becomes more useful.
The question on more trans and sex workers to be academics, I do not care for this myself. Perhaps there is some benefit, the way it is spoken, it may be better but there is still the money and the name for themselves they are to look for. Also, I do not think it is right that they are to become our spokespeople. Because they are trans or they do sex work, does not mean they are us. Much of the research, it is still of no point and still much classism.
Perhaps much of this money for these things, it is better in the hands of the organizations that are to have our interests, are to be trusted and which we are part of. I think our community research, this needs to be more valued by the academics.
I think to look at the many good organizations for informations. Antra – Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais and RedeTrans – Rede Nacional de Pessoas Trans du Brasil. In the UK, English Collective of Prostitutes. Elsewhere, friends they speak also of the good work of STRASS and Acceptess Transgenres in France, La Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales y Transgéneros de Argentina, Red Comunitaria Trans in Colombia. Empower in Thailand, Sindicato OTRAS in Spain. There is many who are expressing what we are needing.
What made you come to the UK, was it for the access to transition?
Many of us leave. To escape violence, the poverty, to support our family. We come for the same reasons as others. I have come to the UK and other countries for 15 years to make money. To send money home to my adoptive mother, my biological family, many young trans women who have depended on me. I come also for the access and the money for the procedures, but these things, these are on top of the same reasons as others. We come for a better life, to give our family and community a better life. We are no different.
When they speak about the migrant trans, they separate us from the other women. It is the transphobia. We talk open about our situation, our life, our needs but only parts they are chosen to represent us. They see our life as just about our procedures and violence. Yes, it is these things, but they do not think we have more than this. It is because they do not see our families as real, they do not think we are women, so then we cannot be a mother or to care for parents, brothers, sisters, friends, partners. I think they look to us like male sex workers.
I will keep coming here. But I always will go home. Of course I go back to take care of people, but even if I do not need to do this, Brazil, it is my home, travestis, we are part of the culture, we belong here, our people has always been here. The government does not want me to return so I will keep going back. It is hard, but we cannot be allowed to be chased out. The government, it owes us for all the suffering it has inflicted. It owes the Black and the indigenous and the travesti communities. So we go back, with money and build a better life.
How has working here compared to Brazil?
Much of the time I am safer here. I live not so much in fear of my life. But I am still afraid. I have had violence. I was lucky I was to defend myself. Others they had it much worse. The men, they are the same everywhere, it is the laws which makes the difference to what they think they can do.
I do not stay many months at once, I go here and to Italy and other places and back to Brazil.
I always carry protection, a weapon but I worry more here this will be illegal and cause me trouble. If things happen I cannot report this. But this for me, it is no different. The police they are abusers not protectors. Here I worry for the same, for being a woman, for being trans. But for being Brazilian, for the deportation also. There is much discrimination and hate towards migrants. You are in danger of the abuse because of these things, you are targeted.
I try to not bring attention. I work from an apartment. It is easier to hide here. The UK, this is the only place I work where I do not go on the street. Other places we must work the street. France, Spain, Italy, USA all the places I go.
There are many of us but for me it is not the situation where we work together. Sometimes I might work with friends if we are to live together but this it is not always possible with the accommodations. Others doing this, they are targets by the police. Most of this time I work alone.
I try to get work in places, in brothels, but they refuse when discovered you are trans. One I ask, I say why not one trans girl, men pay good money for a Brazilian transsexual with this body! He says yes, but it is not worth all the trouble it brings. I am not sure if I am the trouble or the clients. What to do, It is not like you can complain about this.
Many times I am more sad here which is why I do not stay too much time. There is not so many of us that stay long, we come and we go. It is very lonely. The money, most it goes back to Brazil, and you are to go back so you do not build a life. You work many hours as it is a high cost to be here, even with the bad accommodation this is a lot of money. And I save the money for the travel. I spend much time alone, this is very different for me to Brazil. I cannot walk to the streets and find my community, my family.. But I try to stay concentrated on why I come here, the purpose, this gets me through.
I was going to ask a couple of things, but as it’s the last question now, can you say what the effect of the Coronavirus has had on you, have you continued to work?
I have been forced to stay here for this time. Others they already go to Italy before the lockdown. I was to come soon. I was to be back in Brazil many months ago. Friends, they are in Europe with nothing and try to continue to work, many they try to get home.
But I cannot complain for myself. It is hard to be separated, but this, it is at a time that money it has been better. I have been able to keep myself going and I send money home at the start. I do also the webcam work and sell photos and videos, this is not so much but there is a demand. At home I have a small bar, it does not help me here as it is not much money this brings. It is of help to others at home but with this situation, the gangs, they enforce a curfew and it is not possible to remain open. But it is still a shelter for some travesti to stay, and there is food stocks which they organize to give out regular to many of the single mothers, the older people, the street vendors who cannot work. Our neighbours.
It is hard to make contact with home so I do not know all what is happening in detail. I am not sleeping well with worry.
The favelas, we are already abandoned by the state, they will do nothing for us. But we are used to this. A friend, she say to me the numbers of deaths they are rising but the amount, it is not fully reported. They will be hidden. There will be many more from starvation.
It is a very bad situation and the police violence does not stop. They kill 300 people in April and May, just in Rio, to target the gangs. They only say they are to stop the raids from June. I do not know if this happens. The police, they will be using this to drive us more from the street.
The money it changes now and I have been away for too long so I will go back soon. I am worried for my health, with my lung problem, with my HIV. I am worried for others and I do not want to get the virus and infect many people. I am sure many more of our community they will die.
These are of course hard times, this virus, it is added to a pandemic we live in already of violence and poverty, which increase with the genocidal government. Our movement, it is facing attack from many sides, but we are many when we mobilize and resist together. Women, LGBT, Black, the landless workers, indigenous, we must take to the streets for each other and for the Amazon, to protect our planet also.
Things, they are changing. With Vidas Negras Importam, the Black Lives Matter, this gives much strength to us all. This, it must resonate with us In Brazil. Every 23 minutes, the police, they kill a Black young person in our country. Much of the eruption of protests at home, there is not a focus on race, it is always only of class, but now there is a stir.
And we see ourselves in this struggle. For many years we support others calls but with little support of our struggle in return. Now we see protests for Black trans lives, the names of the Black trans women, they are spoken by others now, not just us. My heart fills with hope. To know that people they care for our lives. Together I feel we can confront what is to come. We have a desire to live, we have the right to exist and we are determined to fight.