In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, the fashion industry emerges as a center for LGBT resistance

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10/25/2019

Sam Porto and his mirror have never gotten along. When the transgender man was growing up in Brazil, the sight of his developing breasts disgusted him. But in a crowded makeup room backstage at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, the reflection staring back at him finally fit in. Male models with painted lips and nails strutted alongside women in boxy, loose clothing. Gender was out; fluidity was in. “I came here to break barriers,” said Porto, a 25-year-old from Brasilia, one of a dozen transgender models who made their debuts this month at Sao Paulo Fashion Week. The pink scars from his breast removal surgery crossed his chest like war paint. “We exist. There are others like me and we are searching for a path in fashion.” But as Brazil’s transgender models have attained success abroad, life for the trans community back home has grown worse. An astounding 41% of documented killings of transgender people worldwide take place in Brazil, according to the country’s National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals. At least 163 trans people were killed last year. Life expectancy for transgender people here is 35, half the national average.

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