Published: 21/08/2018

A self-defined transvestite woman, Isabelle, 31, is the coordinator of the Association of Diversity of Limeira (Adlim), Brazil, a movement for the rights of the LGBTI community in that municipality. She is also a public employee and trade unionist. In this interview she outlines her union work and the hard task of generating class consciousness in the LGBTI collective.

-What is the main challenge within the trade union work for a transvestite leader?

-One of the great challenges of the LGBTI movement is to rescue class consciousness and an awareness of the concept of democracy that often differs from that used by the hundreds of corrupt politicians that swarm in this country.

We have a presidential candidate who has an anti-democratic, anti-worker and homophobic discourse.

LGBTI people unite as a result of the discrimination and prejudice we suffer, but they also have to unite as part of the working class.

– What role does the union play in this task?

-It is important for union leaders to form an organization to reach out to LGBTI people in the factories so that they join the union.

Union leaders should also raise awareness against the deeply rooted prejudice against our LGBTI community and help the rest of the workers understand the exclusion we suffer in the labor market.

It is essential that the unions get involved in the socialization of this issue, in informing and opening spaces for the inclusion of LGBTI workers. But there is still a long way to go.

We have made progress on some issues and now we see more LGBTI workers active though they are often cisgender people, that is, gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and  not transvestites or transgenders.

Still transvestites are seen as social filth and that has a direct relationship with their difficulty entering the world of work.

– The conditions for your group became more difficult after the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff?

-Undoubtedly, the implementation of a more radical neoliberal agenda that provides for the flexibilization of labor laws as this reform did, which already affects the working class in general, as you can imagine impacts even more the LGBTI community.

-As in so many other places, is the opposition of religious groups expressed here?

-It would not generalize about the entire religious community, but there are ultraconservative groups that fight against advances in rights. It is also true that at the root of many prejudices about the LGBTI community lies religious.

That is another of the many barriers that we have to cross.

It is not easy, of course, because it delays us reaching our objectives. But I think the fight is worth it!

In Limeira,

Interview by Gerardo Iglesias, IUF Latin America Regional Secretary

See the IUF Latin American Regional office story here.