It’s back to school for Sao Paulo’s trans­sex­u­als

The China Post - - LIFE - BY ROSA SULLEIRO

Karen Emil­iano was a boy called Jonas when she gave up study­ing 23 years ago, bul­lied for say­ing she felt she was a girl.

At the age of 13, she left home and headed for Sao Paulo, where she be­came a pros­ti­tute.

Now, though, she is go­ing back to school as part of a Brazil­ian pro­gram to help 100 trans­sex­u­als and trans­ves­tites living in the coun­try’s busi­ness cap­i­tal to re­turn to ed­u­ca­tion, aided by monthly grants of 827 reais (US$265), just above the min­i­mum wage.

They will study six hours a day for two years — some at the pri­mary and oth­ers at sec­ondary level — un­der a mu­nic­i­pal pro­gram dubbed Tran­sci­dada­nia ( tran­sc­i­t­i­zen­ship).

The Sao Paulo pre­fec­ture is in­vest­ing three mil­lion reais (US$960,000) in the scheme to bol­ster the em­ploy­ment prospects of the group in a coun­try which sees more killings of trans­sex­u­als than in any other coun­try, ac­cord­ing to NGO Trans­gen­der Europe.

The group says 602 were mur­dered be­tween 2008 and 2014.

Sao Paulo Mayor Fer­nando Had­dad says the pi­o­neer­ing pro­gram is de­signed to “res­cue” par­tic­i­pants from so­cial obliv­ion.

Mak­ing Ends Meet

Valeryah Ro­driguez’s heav­ily made-up eyes flash as she shares a joke in his­tory class with friend Lecca, who is look­ing to re­con­nect with her stu­dent self of 30 years ago as their teacher leads them through the ba­sics at an adult learn­ing cen­ter.

Five tranns­sex­u­als are in a class which also in­cludes eight other stu­dents, most of them with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

Sat at the next desk, Karen ex­plains she still has dif­fi­culty mak­ing ends meet and some­times has to re­turn to pros­ti­tu­tion to meet the 500 reais monthly cost of the room she rents in the city.

Can­di­dates seek­ing a place on the Tran­sci­dada­nia pro­gram need to live in Sao Paulo and not have held down a job for more than three months in the past three years.

There list.

In or­der to re­ceive their grants the stu­dents must not skip more than three classes.

“We’ve hardly had any

is a 100-strong wait­ing

class skip­ping. There has been the odd prob­lem of some­one turn­ing up worse for wear through drink,” says co­or­di­na­tor Symmy Lar­rat, a trans­ves­tite.

“We’ve not man­aged to cure her but have man­aged to get her to turn up to classes sober,” says Lar­rat.

Mind Over Body

Af­ter English class, Michelly Romera slips a brown hat over her blonde locks and heads out.

Aged 32 with just a bare min­i­mum of make-up Michelly ex­plains she worked on the streets for 16 years — in­clud­ing one spent in Italy.

“The grant is not a lot — but helps a lot. Since I started the classes, I’ve not been back out on the street,” smiles Michelly, who wants to study psy­chol­ogy.

Back in­side the class­room, Cris­tiane Mourao, 39, says she hopes to be­come a nurse.

Her school­ing ended at 15 amid vi­o­lent bul­ly­ing and Cris­tiane says she has also cheated death on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, such as when a client threat­ened her with a gun to avoid pay­ing. She quit the street there­after. But Cris­tiane says she feels for­tu­nate in that her fam­ily un­der­stood her from the out­set.

“I’ve been the same all my life. I have changed phys­i­cally but I was born with the mind of a woman. The real woman is in the mind, not the body,” she as­serts.

Valeryah says she feels her fam­ily would have found it eas­ier to ac­cept had she been gay rather than opt for gen­der re-as­sign­ment.

“But go­ing back to school has given me my life back. It makes me re­ally happy to think I am go­ing to be part of so­ci­ety again.”


A trans­sex­ual at­tends a class of the Tran­sCi­dada­nia pro­gram, which pro­vides schol­ar­ships for trans­ves­tites and trans­sex­u­als in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 30.

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