SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — It’s not easy being queer in Brazil, especially for transgender and “travesti” (basically, a genderqueer person who uses female pronouns) residents. Members of these populations are marginalized in society, and as a result, often end up as prostitutes or living on the streets.
A revolutionary program in
São Paulo, dubbed Transcidadania, aims to change this fate. The program — the first of its kind in the world — offers cash, housing, psychological support, and education to 100 transgender and travesti residents for two years. By the time the program is finished, most participants will have finished high school (sometimes decades after they first left school) and will be on their way to getting jobs.
Already, government officials from Uruguay, the US, and other parts of Brazil are looking into the program to see what they can learn from it — and whether it is replicable.
The inaugural batch of participants in Transcidadania, which launched in 2014, are now working through their first year of the program. Below, a look at their hopes and dreams.
'If I wasn't here, I'd be on the streets prostituting at night. I always wanted to come back to school, so this program is perfect for me. I want to finish my studies, and I want to work to pay my bills. I'll do any work, even cleaning. But my dream is to be a politician.' -- Miuky, age 32
'I left home at age 20 to work on the streets. The days were fast, but the nights came faster. Then this opportunity appeared. I was working on the street one night when a car passed by and the person inside asked me if I'd like to go back to school. They gave me a piece of paper to apply to this program. (After Transcidadania) my dream is to be a cook.' -- Paloma, age 48
'I stopped studying at 13 years old. If I had known school was so good, I would never have stopped. We're like a family here. My dream is to be a nurse and I'll fight to achieve it.' -- Sabrina, age 48
'I'm a candidate for the city's LGBT municipal council. But I want to do much more for our rights to education, benefits, and better jobs. I want to go to law school and be a lawyer. When someone talks about the law without only saying if a person is right or wrong, without humiliating the other person, I think it's beautiful.' -- Valeriah, age 35
'I want to fight for benefits for my friends. I want to be an activist for everybody to have the opportunity to choose what they want to do.' -- Aline, age 37
'It's very cool that we get attention here, because it doesn't happen anywhere else. If not for this program, we would be considered alive only at night. The expectations for us are very tiny. I want to go to college, and my wish is to work with fashion. I'd love to have my own store.' -- Ciara, age 25
'I found out about the program while living in Manaus (on the other side of Brazil). I bought a ticket to come back, and applied to the program. I want to go to college. After that, I want to work in education.' -- Samaya, age 29
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