January 29 is the day of transvestite and transsexual visibility in Brazil. This day of celebration started in 2004, when the Ministry of Health’s STD/HIV National Program officially launched the Transvestites and Respect campaign, a milestone in the citizenship promotion of the Brazilian transvestite and transsexual communities.
Proportionally, transvestites and transsexuals suffer the most from prejudice and violence, which excludes them from basic rights, such as access to health care, education and employment. This affects their quality of life, makes them socially vulnerable and drives them to extreme poverty.
Bárbara Aires, Melissa Souza and Simon Prado, beneficiaries from the Micro Rainbow Brazil Project, point out the main obstacles and challenges for the trans population in accessing the formal labour market and describe their personal experiences.
They have endured numerous situations of discrimination due to their gender identity, especially in the work environment:
“I was fired from an LGBT nightclub at the beginning of my transition. I have suffered rejection from my family and friends. And I have not been able to access the formal labour market.”
“I’ve already been fired because of this, as well as being excluded from tests and evaluations.”
“The psychological pressure made me resign. The Operations Manager forced me to use the disabled bathroom.”
“I was already well advanced in my transition, and in a job where most people who worked with me didn’t know of my transsexuality. When they found out there were reactions that I think were very aggressive. There was a man who thought I had betrayed him somehow, you know? I think this was discrimination from him. He offended me in different ways, not directly, but it was terrible, really trying.”
“I went to an interview, a test for a telemarketing job, for which I thought I didn’t need a lot of training and that I could do – just to support myself during my transitional period that has this issue of the androgynous look and so on. What happened is that the person refused me, even though I have passed all the tests. Simply no, I don’t want you.”
For them, the main factors driving transvestites and transsexuals (male and female) to poverty are:
“a great prejudice for transgressing the gender and for going against the social norm, which leads to family rejection, school dropout and non-acceptance in the formal labour market”
“What causes poverty is prejudice, this exclusion that places the transsexual as an alien, a foreigner amongst his owns, because he challenges the norm and the understanding of what is male and female.”
“The lack of support from society and government.”
However, transvestites and transsexuals could overcome these challenges through:
“More family and government support in order to get a better placement in the formal labour market or access to entrepreneurship.”
“Opportunities of studying, of schooling, training, of access to health care and education.”
“Never give up, look for opportunities, show your aptitudes”.
These beneficiaries say the support trans people need to get out of poverty would be:
“Priority access to specialized courses, to technical courses and to University in order to have more qualification”.
“Education should be changed, not forgetting the issues of health and aesthetics, and documentation according to gender identity. It is a set.”
“Opportunity of funding their own businesses.”
To governments and civil social organizations they suggest enabling transvestites and transsexuals to get out of poverty by:
“Investing in studies that enable this population to be self-sufficient and facilitate their access to the formal labour market.”
“Investing in this same area of rights awareness, of technical training, of professional qualification, and even in basic education as primary and secondary degrees.”
“Maybe having quotas in University. A quota system, why not? Some people don’t like the quota system, but I do see in it a possibility of justice, of inclusion.”
After participating in the first business management and financial education course organized by Micro Rainbow, in partnership with Planet Finance, Brazil, they comment:
“If the formal labour market rejects you as an employee, it would be good to articulate an idea and be an entrepreneur. I think, for example, that this Micro Rainbow’s course is a good thing in helping to stimulate to overcome these poverty challenges”.
“The opportunity I had with the Micro Rainbow’s course made me meet people with the same ideals as mine. I also met people with incredible ideas that show our capacities.”
“I just did this entrepreneurship course of Micro Rainbow. And I think that this course was really interesting for me, really productive, in order to put on paper my business plan. And now I intend to do the financial part, of costs, and go for investment. In order to get out of the poverty condition I really need to invest.”
Micro Rainbow believes we can challenge transvestite and transsexual poverty by facilitating access to entrepreneurship and employability opportunities. To achieve this goal, we need to raise awareness about the socio-economic vulnerability experienced by many LGBT people and about the need to change negative social attitudes, especially amongst employers and service providers.