International Transgender Remembrance Day: “Society is not prepared to deal with these issues”

The date commemorates those who died and die “at the hands of” transphobia.

The International Day of Transgender Remembrance takes place on November 20 and aims to honor all those who have died and die as a result of transphobia. This day first appeared as a tribute to Rita Hester, an American transsexual citizen who could not resist countless acts of transphobic violence and eventually passed away. This Saturday not only the memory of Hester is celebrated, but many others.

In the 21st century, there seems to be no end to deaths from transphobia. According to 2020 statistics, Brazil ranks first in the ranking of the most violent countries for transgender people, with at least 175 known deaths caused by transphobic prejudice in the first nine months of the year. Also blacklisted are the United States of America and Mexico, which had 528 and 271 deaths, respectively.

Portugal, on the other hand, stands out for the good because it presents itself as a country that takes a positive attitude towards transphobia, and is among the four European countries that most respect LGBTI rights. A table prepared by the Ilga Europe Association shows that the Portuguese country has risen in the rankings, but still does not register a significant evolution with regard to the treatment of minorities. Malta, Belgium and Luxembourg are the countries that respect the rights of transgender people the most.

To celebrate this day, ComUM had a conversation with Lucas Miguel Reis who gave his transsexual testimony and talked about the main challenges and difficulties he experienced.

Normal- At what age did you know you didn’t identify with your biological gender?

Lucas- Since early. At least when I was seven I noticed differences and had questions, but because I didn’t understand, I didn’t care in the end. Then, around age 16/17, those questions came back, and then I started to learn more and try to understand what was going on.

Frequently- At what age did you start the sex reassignment?

Lucas- Around the age of 17 I started consultations to get a little further in the process, not just when I was of age. When I was 18 years old I started to be able to do more things and the process went forward and faster.

COMMON- Have you ever experienced an episode of bullying or discrimination because you are transgender?

Lucas- Yes, especially since I come from a small country and so was more prone to it. I had it too when I started working in Braga on the first day of work.

These are things I don’t really talk about much in the end because what I remember is it was bad, but I can’t say specifically what it was. Eventually I automatically erase these traumatic experiences. However, I was always ashamed and angry. I hadn’t hurt anyone and people always found ways to hit and hurt me for something I’m not to blame for.

Frequently- Did you have the support of family and friends before, during and after the transition?

Lucas- I had few friends at school. Those who accepted and supported me remain with me. Those who were against it at the time, I don’t even speak to them anymore.

I have always had a lot of support from the family before, during and after. Although there is never one after, because we are always in constant change. It’s hard to put an end to it because there are always things that change.

But luckily I always had support and I never felt alone. I had family that didn’t accept it, but I also feel like they’re not close, so it’s not a big difference for me. I can say that I have been lucky in that regard as I never felt abandoned by friends and family, I always felt good and safe. I must confess that at the time I was afraid to say what was going on, but after that it always went well.

ComUM- Do you think transsexuals are still a strong target of prejudice in our society today?

Lucas- To be. Despite being a little better, you’re still not 100% and you never will be, because society isn’t willing to deal with these things. Even if one day there is information, there will always be people who will not accept it, who will not understand it, who were not raised that way. They don’t understand, they don’t understand and they find it confusing and strange. It is right that these people feel this way. What I feel is also valid and what someone else feels is valid.

We will not be able to change the whole world, nor will we be able to change people’s minds so that they can agree with us, even if it is positive. But for now, some progress is being made to make transgender people feel more comfortable and welcome in the world, but the problems are still there.

In my opinion, our country is progressing despite the fact that we still have many obstacles and we are still lagging behind culturally and mentally. However, it’s getting better and better and we just have to walk around and try to fight all these obstacles so that transgender people can one day be healthy without feeling so much prejudice on their skin.

ComUM- How does the gender transition process work?

Lucas- In my case, it all started with the school psychologist. She was the one who helped me, even though she didn’t understand it. I wanted to learn more from associations, discover what I could do and who I could talk to.

Then I spoke to the GP and he referred me to the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon. But there are several hospitals. I am currently being followed at Magalhães Lemos, in Matosinhos. And the process starts there, in the hospital. We started doing psychotechnical tests, which are basically intelligence tests. Usually in a public hospital it takes about a year for them to say, ‘yes, you have gender dysphoria. Here, take a piece of paper to change your name.’ In a private hospital, the diagnosis is already made after two or three weeks.

I did my process almost entirely in front of the public, so it took me a year or so to have a paper that said I could change the name. Privately it is much faster, but it is also much more expensive. I decided to do the mastectomy privately to speed up the process and I paid about 1,300 euros. But there are those who pay 2,300 euros or 2,700 euros. I have friends who paid 2,400 euros. In principle, the process is as follows: hospitals and consultations and a change of name and gender on the citizen card. After that, you can proceed to the operations.

Every person has their transition and every person does things in a way that makes them most comfortable. This was my way: I changed the name, started hormones, and six months later I had my mastectomy. I’ve been on hormones for three years now and plan to have more surgeries.

ComUM- What was the most difficult phase of the whole transition, both psychologically and physically?

Lucas- The beginning was the hardest. It’s the worst, because we don’t know anything, we don’t know tomorrow. In high school, I just thought I couldn’t handle everything I was feeling and I wouldn’t get through it. When I was 16/17 years old, my life was to think I could be stuck in that body and always be that person. This is not what I wanted.

For me, the psychological level was the hardest because I didn’t see any ways to improve. The process was very slow, everything was slow. At that moment I felt really bad because I felt that nothing was getting better and that was the best I had at that moment and if that was the best then I was lost.

It also took its toll when I started taking testosterone, when all the changes started to hit it was a big shock and I got very aggressive. It wasn’t painful, like growing pains, what cost more was the mood swings caused by the war between two hormones that made me very aggressive and irritable. This was the worst for me too, because I just couldn’t control myself, it was torture. I knew I was doing it wrong, but I couldn’t stop what I was doing.

Physically it was the most painful after the mastectomy. In the recovery period I couldn’t do anything, which was very limiting. It was hard for me to breathe, sleep, sit and shower. I was at my father’s house at the time, because I couldn’t be home alone after such an operation.

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