Winning an alternate seat on Rio de Janeiro’s municipal council might not sound like all that much, but for Brazil’s trans community, the recent win by Indianara Siqueira is a defiant victory born of the candidate’s decades of struggle against systemic abuse.
“My alternate seat is a victory for all the transvestigeneres who fell for me, and who survived for me,” Siqueira wrote on her Facebook wall on Oct. 4. “We are sending a message that we are, and we will be, in all the spaces that have been denied us.”
The 45-year-old Siqueira, who waged her election campaign under the slogan “a whore for councilwoman,” earned 6,166 votes on the ticket of the left-wing Socialism and Freedom Party in local elections held throughout Brazil on Oct. 2.
Her Facebook post, which has since gone viral in Brazil, stands out most for the way it charts the extreme aggression and abuse she has suffered on the way to her modest election triumph.
“I survived the streets, the alleys, the back streets and the system. Do I provoke you? Do I intoxicate you? Do I scare you?”
Latin America has by far the highest number of trans-related murders in the world — 78 percent of the global total of 2,115 reported by Transgender Europe between January 2008 and April 2016 — and Brazil alone accounts for 40 percent of them.
Siqueria’s post details one particularly close brush with death in the coastal city of Santos, when she was tied to a post while a police officer put a gun to her head and played Russian roulette.
“I was trembling with terror and crying,” she recalls of the incident, which took place in the city where she had started her life as a sex worker after leaving home at 16. “But the spinning cylinder in the revolver also reminded me of the people who depended on me to live a little longer.”
By then Siquiera had already started to take a leading role denouncing trans abuse in her country. One such instance noted in her post was when officers lined sex workers up against a wall and splattered ammonia in their faces, laughing all the while.
Though Siqueira left Santos in fear for her life, she continued calling out police aggression, which she found to be a common issue in major cities like Rio and São Paulo.
These stories stand out in stark contrast to the steady trickle of pro-equality legislation that has been approved in Brazil in recent years. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling deemed same-sex adoption legal, and various states, including Rio, have approved legislation designed to guard against LGBTQ discrimination.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign released a travel warning for the LGBTQ community ahead of Rio’s Olympic Games in August.
“While progress is being made despite the country’s conservative and macho culture, the gains have not tamped down an epidemic of violence targeting the LGBTQ community,” the release stated. “Transgender women and other nonconforming people are disproportionately affected by anti-LGBTQ violence.”
Siqueira ended her post by urging people to join her at her inauguration-day street party in January.
“I am resistance. I am resilience,” she wrote. “I survived the streets, the alleys, the back streets and the system. Do I provoke you? Do I intoxicate you? Do I scare you?”