“We have never identified” with men, Brazilian twins Mayla and Sofia, 19, who underwent gender reassignment surgery a day apart, told AFP.
This almost simultaneous operation of trans twins is “unique in the world”, assures surgeon José Carlos Martins. The two operations, which took place in a private clinic in Blumenau (south), lasted about five hours each.
A week later, they are all smiles, making jokes, but sometimes let out a few tears when they remember the struggles of their childhood in a body that didn’t match them.
“I realized that I have always loved my body, but I was never satisfied with my genitals. I spent my time asking God to turn me into a little girl,” Mayla reveals, during a videoconference interview with AFP.
After this surgery, she cried when she saw herself for the first time.
Dark chestnut hair, long eyelashes, Mayla is more expansive, but also more emotional than her sister Sofia, hair dyed blonde, a discreet flower tattoo on the shoulder.
Very accomplices – and very believing – they often pray together and do not run out of anecdotes on their mutual support in the hardest moments of adolescence, marked by physical, moral and sexual assault.
– “Relief” –
“Our parents weren’t afraid of who we were, but they feared society would mistreat us,” Mayla says.
Mayla Rezende and Sofia Albuquerck were born in Tapira, a rural town of 4,000 inhabitants in the state of Minas Gerais (south-east). One bears the name of their father, the other of a paternal grandfather ready to do anything to help them.
He sold a farm to obtain the 100,000 reais (around 15,000 euros) needed for the two operations.
“When they took on (their gender identity), it was a real relief for me. For me, it was never ‘them’, but ‘them’,” said their mother, Mara Lucia da Silva, 43. .
Mara, who has two other daughters, brought Mayla and Sofia to many doctors and psychologists from an early age. Then she accompanied them during hormonal treatments, and operations.
“I always knew deep in my heart that they were girls and that they were suffering,” she insists.
“When we were bothered on the streets, our mom would defend us like a lioness,” Mayla says.
The twins no longer live together: Sofia studies engineering in Sao Paulo and Mayla in medicine in Argentina.
– Proud to be trans –
They initially thought about having the operation in Thailand, but then discovered the existence of a new clinic in Blumenau.
This clinic, named Transgender Center Brasil, was founded in 2015, and was initially intended to operate almost exclusively with foreign clients.
“Most of our patients still come from Europe and the United States, but around 30% are from here,” Dr. Martins told AFP.
Sex reassignment operations are authorized from the age of 18. They can be performed free of charge through the public health system, thanks to a 2011 law. But only five hospitals offer this type of surgery and the queue is very long.
This is why those who have the means prefer to turn to the private sector.
The clientele of Transgender Center Brasil has continued to increase, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite its legislation and the existence of this type of clinic, Brazil is far from being a tolerant country towards transgender people.
On the contrary, it is the country with the most murders of trans people, 175 in 2020, or one every two days, with an increase of 41% compared to the previous year, according to the National Association. Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra).
“I am proud to be a trans woman, although I have often been scared because of the way we are viewed by society. All you ask is respect,” concludes Mayla.