On Aug 18, 2016 CBC News reported: A light scar remains where the knife entered, nearly imperceptible now in the dimness of Viviany Beleboni’s Sao Paulo apartment. Laser treatments have helped it fade.
The attack happened late one night last year. The 27-year-old transgender model was three blocks from her downtown apartment.
“It was people saying they belong to God,” she says.
“Tranny,” she remembers the assailants taunting. “You gay. You’re making a mockery of God. You deserve to die.”
They beat her and smashed her phone. She felt the slash of a blade on her left forearm before they fled, leaving her to bleed.
“I started to have a panic attack,” says Beleboni.
Mariana Dentos, 20, right, hugs her girlfriend Giuliana at the LGBT-friendly Shopping Frei Caneca in Sao Paulo. ‘We get a lot of looks. It’s not so accepted,’ Dentos says of their relationship. ‘But compared to other states here in Brazil, I think Sao Paulo is better for LGBT people.’ (Matt Kwong/CBC)
Then, last month, just weeks after this year’s Pride Parade came another attack. Five men surrounded her, calling her an abomination.
“They told me to watch out what I’m doing. That I was not a person from God. That I had to go back to being a man,” she says. Kicks and punches flew at her face. The assailants told her they knew where she lived.
“The next time, it wouldn’t just be fists,” she recalls them warning. “It would be bullets.”
Beleboni still takes medication for anxiety and depression. She rarely walks alone after dark.
Pink reputation is misleading
This, she says, is what it feels like nowadays to live as an openly transgender person in Brazil.
Despite its pink reputation for hosting the world’s largest Pride festival in Sao Paulo, the nation long known for the glittering camp of its Carnaval celebrations has seen an alarming spike in violent homophobic and transphobic assaults over the last decade, according to human rights groups.
In absolute numbers, there is no deadlier place in the world to be an LGBT person than Brazil, according to Transgender Europe, which tracks hate crimes targeting gender-diverse populations. The group logged 845 reported murders of LGBT people in Brazil — a country of some 200 million — from 2008 to April 2016. Mexico, with a population of about 122 million, is second on the list, with 247.
Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, logged 326 murders of LGBT people in 2014.
The NGO Grupo Gay de Bahia says 1,600 LGBT people have been murdered in Brazil since 2011.