BRA-HOL

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There I was, watching Brasil play Holland, not entirely sure whom I was cheering for. Before the match every Brazilian that I spoke to said the same; “Holland will win” and they did. In Cidade de Deus, where I was, nobody seemed to care, for them the World Cup was already over. I saw the match with Laura. Among the people that I have followed, she has the profile that I knew least about, in two days that has changed a lot. She is a transsexual. Close to my house in Gloria, where I have lived before too, at night there is a part of a street where transsexual prostitutes offer their services. I have heard people making fun out of them more than once.

The night before the match we made an appointment to have a beer. Walking over to where we were meeting, I passed that street where transsexuals are working, they looked different too me now, not knowing at that moment that Laura used to be one of them. For many years she worked on the streets of Copacabana. Like she says herself “when I was still pretty”. I did not know where to start asking and what to ask, but luckily she was open and started to tell me about her life, which is a story that applies to many of the transvestites. She asked me to be discreet about this and so I will. We spent part of the time talking about things that are part of the lives of transvestites, like abuse, drugs, money, diseases and exclusion. The other part of the time she was having fun fooling around with people (mostly male tourists) passing by and dancing on the streets. Transvestites have to cope with social exclusion, difficulties to find work and end up in the streets selling themselves. In the years she has worked as a prostitute she has had a lot of violent experiences and has been treated very badly. I always thought it was rare, but here in Rio it is far from rare. All over the city these things happen. Because of a set up she has spent five years in prison, where she had to shave her hair, which was her biggest pride. Hearing stories like these makes me feel like I am on a different planet, or maybe I am the one living on a different planet. I was happy to hear that at the moment she works for Afroreggae on a program that is called Além do Arco-Íris (Beyond the Rainbow), a program that helps transvestites to enter society and get away from the frightening reality that they live in, a reality that I still cannot believe.

Today we met again in Cidade de Deus (famous from the movie), a favela far in Zona Oeste, in the house of her sister. She likes being here, around her nephews, helping them and her sister in the house. Feeling accepted and at home. After having a very good lunch we went out on the street to a little bar that a friend of her runs on the front side of her house, to see the match. The bar was in an unpaved street that had become a mudslide because of the rain of the past couple of days. Cidade de Deus is pacified and when that happened they promised to pave the streets, the favela is pacified for over five years now, but still no pavement………….    That is how the promises for the World Cup and the Olympics work, but beer and football make up a lot….. The neighborhood has become a lot more safe and quiet, so in general they are happy with the pacifying police. For me it was nice that Holland won and all people with whom we watched and that passed by during the match thought the same. But it was a nice excuse again, to meet, drink beer and laugh. I had a great time, with a wonderful person, that hopefully will be able to leave the horrible past behind and continue in the right direction, so that she will be able to change the future for other transvestites.

Laura, muito obrigada por esses dias e por me contar a sua história!

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