Thursday, 24 April 2014

Interview with Guta Silveira

Monika: Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Guta Silveira, an inspirational transgender activist from Brazil, actress, author of two biographical books: "Homens Não Choram" (1994) and "Transexual A História de Uma Vida" (2005). Hello Guta!
Guta: Hello Monika! Hello girls!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Guta: My story doesn’t deviate much from what usually happens to other transsexual girls. I was born with the body of a boy and I was raised as one. Despite that, when I was 3 years old I went to the sports club with my mother and we used to go to the girl`s bathroom and that was normal to me, part of my universe.
One day I went to the boys' bathroom and I was stunned by what I saw. Handsome men stirred something in me, but at that age, I didn’t know what it was. I grew up feeling different from my schoolmates, not knowing what my true place was. I loved to use my mother’s makeup on myself when there was nobody watching, and used rags to fake long hair, wrapped myself in bedsheets to make believe they were dresses, it was all very fun and pleasing.
When I was 9 I began to understand I liked boys and met other boys that also did. I thought I had found myself but I was also not the same as they were. Every time we talked about relationships, they used to say they would do “anything” in sex, but I thought I just wanted to be the woman. It obviously took a long time before we had boyfriends, relations, etc, but we always talked about it. I was always pointed out for being the most attractive among my friends. I didn’t notice at the time, but I was more feminine and, as time passed, I began being known as “queen”; because of my clothes, my feminine manners, and even because of my denial of going to bed with someone at that age.

Courtesy of Guta Silveira.

When I was 13, I began being pressed by my father that mentioned growing suspect of my sexual condition and since nothing was actually known about transgenderism I came out as gay. It was a turning point since I had begun rebuilding my standing both in my family and in society, but it wasn’t bad.
I had my first boyfriend when I was 14, and I was very happy because of how he was treating me how I liked it, he was the man and I was the girl of the couple. When I was 16 I was elected the first Miss Gay in my town, São José do Rio Preto, and gained certain notoriety, but lost my boyfriend. I was always very authentic and for that reason, I garnered the friendship and tenderness of people.
When I was 18 I became the owner of that which was the first gay nightclub in my town for five years, and for one more time, I opened the doors for hundreds of people that, in some way, started looking at homosexuality with more respect, but I still felt incomplete, as if something was missing.
I then started taking hormones and I felt well but began dating a boy who asked me to stop, and since I didn’t love myself enough and depended on other people`s love, I did what he wanted. We were practically married and he made me happy also because he wasn’t “passive”, he always played man’s role. One day, we tried changing things and he let me “penetrate” him, but it wasn’t good for neither of us. After that, I never wanted to try it again, it wasn’t in my character to be a “man”.
After we broke up, I once again began taking hormones and was happy, so I didn’t stop anymore. I wrote my first book, started working as a drag queen, and found in that a way to be closer to the female appearance I desired without people’s scrutiny, especially my father since I had that appearance at a job. I had several boyfriends but still lacked something.
When I reached 29, the Base Hospital here in São José do Rio Preto started working on transsexuality, and I joined the group with two friends. For two years I was treated by the multidisciplinary team which included a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an endocrinologist, a urologist, a social worker, and a lawyer. By this time I truly found myself, because I realized I wasn’t gay or a transvestite. I was always transsexual without knowing it.
I was diagnosed as a primary transsexual, someone who is born transsexual, and so was put forth for the surgery that went on flawlessly, without a hitch, and recovery was really tranquil because since I was operated on in a hospital, I had all the needed assistance so there would be no problems. I was operated on December 18th, 1998, and since then became a much better person due to the fact I began living and feeling my reality as a complete transsexual woman. 
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in the Brazilian media?
Guta: Here in Brazil people are very opportunistic and value worthless publicity over the chance of speaking openly and realistically about transsexuality. It’s a shame, but very few transsexual people were taken seriously, even more so because the media is prejudiced and it’s all the same for them.
Gay, transvestite, MtF, FtM transsexuals, they always see it as a sexual deviation or as sex workers. I had my time when I was constantly interviewed and I was almost able to show that’s not true, but as I said, the media aren’t interested in the truth e with that many girls just want to show up on TV even if as prostitutes. It’s a shame…

Courtesy of Guta Silveira.

Monika: You are one of the first transwomen in Brazil to have changed the birth certificate…
Guta: I believe I’m the only one who got to change the whole documentation. One year after the surgery, a lawyer came to me and offered me his services for free, and in eight months I had everything ready. In all my documents I’m, Maria Augusta Silveira, sex: female. That doesn’t happen with all transsexuals I know, some only get the name but not the sexual denomination or the other way around.
Monika: In addition, you are one of Dr. Cura’s “daughters”. Dr. Cura is the most prominent surgeon in Brazil that conducts gender reassignment surgeries. How do you recollect your meetings with him?
Guta: After the surgery, I worked for him for several years and I admired him a lot. We traveled around Brazil with the rest of the team and we put up a lot of lectures, we were a very well instructed team in this cause of helping transsexual individuals who desired sexual reassignment surgery, and for a long time we were constantly on several TV channels and we got along pretty well.
However, one day I was invited to a TV show that Doctor Cury wasn’t invited to, instead, they had Dr. Jalma Jurado as a surgeon, and it was then that everything changed in my story. I knew beforehand that an expert doctor would come from abroad to teach the technique to Dr. Cury, but I didn’t know that it was Dr. Jalma Jurado that did my whole surgery, not Doctor Cury. Then on this day, Dr. Jalma told me the whole truth backstage. I had a very big and very bad surprise. I kept remembering how many times I stated Dr. Cury was my doctor, how often I induced people to operate with him, after all, I was OK and the surgery was perfect, etc.
Only then I realized he had used me, he gave me the job on this clinic to draw in other transsexuals to operate with him. At the time I got to know it all I no longer worked for him, but I lived in a house rented by him from which he expelled me, even cutting out the water and power, which was unnecessary because I had already decided to move out by myself. But I believe that I needed that move from his part to believe in this “new” Doctor Cury that I did not know. Today, I’m thankful for having been operated on by Dr. Jalma Jurado.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Guta: There was Roberta Close, but she gave a few mismatched interviews in which she couldn’t define her sexuality, so she was more an example of beauty. About transsexuality I learned more over the internet, which the doctors on the team, reading books regarding the subject, watching movies like "Second Serve", anyway, it was more through my own effort that I learned about it.

Courtesy of Guta Silveira.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Guta: My father’s reaction. From this day forward, when I reported being transsexual and that I had an ongoing treatment to know if I could be operated on, he argued a lot with me and we broke apart.
Today we no longer speak, but that doesn't affect me anymore. I need people who appreciate my happiness and not those who just want me to make them happy.
Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a lovely lady yourself but what advice you would give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
Guta: That they don’t be afraid. That they don’t try to be perfect, because nobody is. Biological women aren’t all perfect nor pretty, neither are we transsexual women.
We must look for our happiness, but if it depends on appearance, then we must be patient, for the hormones prescribed by the doctors will have the desired effect. Now, the subject of having the surgery (SRS) prescribed to them or not, that's a subject for the doctors and it`s very important to accept what they conclude about each person.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Brazilian society?
Guta: We are respected to the extent we earn that respect. Unfortunately, for many girls that reach the media’s attention nowadays, all that matters is being in the spotlight. There was a recent case of a transwoman who dated a famous soccer player. When he left her, she went to the media and revealed the whole story. The repercussion was horrible for her because he said it was all lies and that she was just a transvestite desperate to show up on the media. The worst part is that this reflects on the other transwomen that do not have that behavior. Brazilian society is open and ready to receive us, mas as women and not in this disastrous way.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Guta: I never thought about splitting people into categories for the acquisition of visibility or rights. I think we are all human and we must all have rights and duties. If each of us does our part without scandals, everything is perfect in our lives.
Here in Brazil there is a law called Law Maria da Penha which protects Brazilian women against aggressions, and me being a woman, why would I want a different kind of defense, you see? Human rights are for all, without distinction.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Guta: I have run for a position here in my city independently from being transsexual, I did it as a citizen with the right to do it. We, transsexuals, have much to add, but not only on politics: on education, sports, fashion, culinary, medicine, etc. We can’t restrict people’s field of influence based on their sexual conditions.
Me, particularly, I was never continuously militant for the cause, all I did was saying and should be said at the appropriate moments. I was never on the Gay Pride Parade or anything like this, I’m not a person for raising flags, I’m more of the kind that moves forward always doing the best I can.

Courtesy of Guta Silveira.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Guta: Love has become more important since I discovered the love for myself. Depending on the romantic and sexual love of another person makes us selfish meaning we don’t see love as a whole, as that which comes from relatives, friends, and the like. Today, I’m not seeing anyone, nor am I restricted to the love of a man, but I’m very much alone since I love more myself and people in general.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Guta: I’m very much free-spirited on the choice of clothing. I’m more urban and contemporary, I use miniskirts, I love the color pink and Indian clothing. I’m not much for trends or designer labels. I like and use that which pleases me.
Monika: You are the author of two biographical books: Homens Não Choram" (1994) and "Transexual A História de Uma Vida" (2005). Could you say a few words about them?
Guta: Those are very different works. The first one is a romance with several aspects of sexuality in a story full of adventure and romance. The second one is a didactic account of my story as a background, which allows the reader to learn about transsexuality in an effective way.
In addition, I was recently featured in my play "Guta's Sake", which is a comedy where I talk about all that I've lived through in a very funny and surprising way.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Guta: I’m currently writing the script for a film at the request of a friend. I’m also revising a theatrical play made by another friend and waiting for an invitation to be once again a protagonist on the stage. I’m also considering the possibility of accepting a segment on a late-night TV talk show as a consultant, provided they make it in the right context.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Guta: That they don’t struggle. That they accept themselves, with or without the SRS. Gender dysphoria doesn’t make us worse than anybody, and differences disappear with every step on the way to self-knowledge and maintenance of our personalities. We aren’t dysphoric, we’re people with reasons to be cheerful and sad like anyone else, and because of that, we must always hold our heads high, ready to defend our ideals.
Monika: Guta, thank you for the interview!
Guta: I’m the one who should thank you for the opportunity to speak out my mind. Kisses to you and all other transsexual girls and boys.

Translation from Portuguese: Mayra Viamonte

All the photos: courtesy of Guta Silveira.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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