This initiative, which is supported by Brazil Fund, was one of the groups responsible for winning the trans community´s right to an assumed name
In 2020, 175 trans people were murdered in Brazil. This data was provided by the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra) who have been monitoring cases since 2008. The growth in the number of crimes over the 12 years of monitoring by Antra is 201%. Last year, all records of murders were of transvestites and trans women, with no evidence found of murders of trans/transmasculine men.
It is even more alarming that these crimes have continued to rise during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the months of January and February (before the pandemic), 40 cases were recorded. From March to August, when social distancing and quarantine measures were in place, 92 murders were recorded. Also, according to Antra, the average number of murders of trans people in the country is 122.5. In August 2020 this figure had reached 132 cases.
This year, Brazil continues to occupy first place in the ranking of nations that most murder trans people worldwide – for the 13th consecutive year. According to a survey by Transgender Europe (TGEU), Brazil has recorded 1,520 murders of trans people with Mexico in second place with 528 cases. In Brazil, transphobia is also aggravated by race. Black and brown transvestites and trans women represent 78% of cases. It was only impossible to identify the race of the fatal victims in 3% of cases.
As in other historical moments in the country´s history, the black trans community has been neglected during the pandemic. The historic debt with the bodies of trans people is huge and has once again been aggravated by structural racism. Despite laws in 2020 that guarantee minimal protection for this community, there is no sign that public policies are effective, which leaves black LGBTQIA+ people fighting for the most basic right: the right to life.
The National Forum for Black Transvestites and Transsexuals – FONATRANS arose with a view to changing a scenario in which violent actions, such as transfemicide and the extermination of the black community, remain invisible.
Fighting for the lives of trans people. FONATRANS is a national space of inclusion and unification for black transvestite and transsexual activists and aims to converse with public authorities, the tertiary sector and private initiatives, with the objective of proposing the creation of specific strategic public policies as well as broadening existing ones.
“It is nationally recognised as part of the Organised LGBT Social Policy Movement and its priority is to promote full citizenship and the fight against the racism, prejudice and discrimination suffered by this community, purely on the basis of gender identity, race and colour”, explained Jovanna Cardoso da Silva, President of FONATRANS.
FONATRANS´ articulation in fighting for rights takes place in all regions of Brazil. The organisation is composed and run exclusively by black transvestites and transsexuals and it currently has 422 members. The headquarters of the Forum are located in the town of Picos, in Piauí, one of the only towns in the state which has specific legislation for the protection of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals.
FONATRANS receives Brazil Fund support through the programme Tackling Racism at the Grassroots Level –Strengthening Institutions and Mobilising to Defend Rights. This call for applications was launched to support civil society organisations that work at tackling racism at the grassroots level in order to strengthen their actions institutionally.
The Forum was one of the initiatives selected which meant the group were able to meet numerous demands during the pandemic, Jovanna explained: “Brazil Fund´s support was fundamental for FONATRANS, because in the month of October, when we saw the pandemic was easing, we managed to bring together black transvestites and transsexuals from all over Brazil and following all the safety protocols, we held the 7th National Meeting of Black Transvestites and Transsexuals. The agenda included important matters, we qualified trans leaders and advised on care to be taken against Covid-19. So, with this support we were able to grow and maintain our position institutionally, in order to move forward with our policy of socialisation and qualification to continue with this very important cause of combatting transphobia”.
Over the years, FONATRANS, which started in 2014, was actively involved in working towards the recognition of assumed names, through advocacy, alongside state governments, the judiciary as well as carrying out campaigns to gain the respect of society regarding the victory. Jovanna considers this to be one of the movement´s principal victories in recent times. “What we managed to do, together with other organs, was to win a person´s right to change their civil name and gender directly at the notary´s office, without the need for a judicial process or lawsuit”, she said.
What the law says. In March 2018, the Supreme Federal Court unanimously recognised that transgender people have the right to change their first names and gender on civil records at Brazilian Civil Record Notary´s Offices, without the need for reassignment surgery, hormone treatment or pathologization and without the need for a legal ruling. Any transvestite or transsexual person over the age of 18 can request this alteration, at any Civil Record Notary´s Office in Brazil, without the presence of a lawyer or a public defender. Those under the age of 18 can only make this change via the judiciary. Since June 2018, 3,921 first name and gender changes have been made in Notary´s Offices throughout Brazil.
“We know the Supreme Court ruling was the result of years of fighting by the transvestite and transsexual movement. Despite being an important victory, the ruling in itself does not address the problem. So, it is fundamental that the lack of information at the notary´s offices and refusals to comply with the ruling are denounced. Nonetheless, it was an important step forward in our struggle”, Jovanna said.
In addition, FONATRANS contributes to access to justice for black transvestites and transsexuals. They receive denouncements on their site and provide assistance and guidance, pass reports on to the authorities and monitor progress.
“We also managed to ensure that data gathered by LGBT institutions in Brazil started to include the percentage of negritude, race and colour in these reports because reports of murders in Brazil, which has the highest number of trans people killed in the world, had not been reporting us. We represent 70% of the black population that die and we were not appearing in the statistics. We have won rights, including the right to appear on the list of people who have been murdered”, explained the President of FONATRANS.
Tackling Covid-19. As research carried out by Antra shows, the black transvestite and transsexual community is more exposed and is in a serious position in the pandemic. 70% of these people did not gain access to emergency policies in the pandemic, due to their vulnerable situations.
Due to the increase in violence against trans people during the pandemic, FONATRANS launched its Red Flag´ campaign in July 2020, for reports of physical and psychological abuse and domestic violence. “While this situation meant we were overwhelmed, it also made us more concerned with the health and safety of our community”, said Jovanna.
Difficulties that were made worse by social isolation drove members of the organisation to carry out actions like donation campaigns for food, hand sanitizer and cleaning products to help members of the organisation and in some cases their families too.
“Over 95 % of this community live from prostitution and we understand that they need other options and opportunities to be able to choose where they want to work. Because of the pandemic these people are suffering, their needs are not being met and they are undergoing food insecurity. But we have been managing to articulate and find solutions for hunger through the mass distribution of staple food parcels”, said the President.
FONATRANS is part of the People are Going Hungry campaign, an initiative of the Black Coalition for Rights that has been raising funds through emergency actions to combat hunger, poverty and violence in the Covid-19 pandemic. In April 2021, the Forum distributed 250 food parcels to families in the Picos region, in Piauí.