• The Brazilian Report

The story of the first trans woman in Brazil’s Armed Forces

RENATO ALVES


POSTED DECEMBER 30 2020


In the year 2000, Corporal Maria Luiza da Silva was kicked out of the Brazilian Air Force, two years after telling her superior officers that she was a transgender woman. Across her 22-year military career — where she enlisted with her birth name, José Carlos — Ms. Da Silva excelled as an aviation mechanic, for which she won a series of medals and the respect of her male colleagues.


That all changed in 1998 when she came out as transgender. A medical report from the Air Force deemed Maria Luiza to be “definitively incapable of serving in the military” and her salary was cut in half. She would soon be discharged, receiving an incomplete military pension.


In May 2020, after a long and drawn-out legal battle, the Superior Court of Justice recognized that Maria Luiza had been discriminated against by the Air Force, allowing her to keep her apartment — granted by the military — until she receives a full sub-officer pension.


Now 60 years old, Maria Luiza da Silva life has always been marred by prejudice and humiliation. While she has yet to receive her full military pension, the retired corporal lives a quiet life in the Brazilian capital of Brasília, where she is a keen photographer and painter, and a regular at Sunday mass in her local church.


And her life of injustice as the first transgender member of Brazil Armed Forces has recently made it to the big screen, with a documentary entitled Maria Luiza; being released in 2019. Recognition for my struggle Director Marcelo Diaz describes Maria Luiza story as one of seeking respect, affection, and happiness.


It is simple and profound, the film shows this while exploring the matter of gender within the Armed Forces said Mr. Diaz, in what is his feature debut.


Speaking to The Brazilian Report , a shy Maria Luiza was full of praise for the documentary bearing her name. The film is recognition for my struggle, and it should help to open people eyes and hearts and make them reflect on tolerance. She a very reserved person, says Mr. Diaz. I had to try and win her trust and I ended up getting a lot more. At every filming session, my entire team and I learned a lot from her. One of the first lessons learned from Maria Luiza, says the director, was the need to deconstruct stereotypes. Maria Luiza is a trans woman, but also a member of the military, Catholic, a devotee of Our Lady, a homemaker, and shy. She doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke. This is also what the film is about, deconstructing stereotypes. A childhood dream Maria Luiza was born José Carlos da Silva in the small Center-West town of Ceres, on July 20, 1960. Fascinated by aviation from a young age, she shares a birthday with. “Whenever I saw an airplane in the sky, run out to see it. I loved making little planes out of anything I could find, scrap metal, wood, cardboard, she says. After being put on forced retirement from the Air Force, Maria Luiza took her case to court in a legal battle that dragged on for almost two decades. Amid court dates, Maria Luiza underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2005. Two years later, she was granted the right to alter her name and obtain a new birth certificate, officially becoming a woman in the eyes of Brazilian law.

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