Taya Carneiro, 24, head of the Libertarian Union of Transvestites and Transsexual Women of the Federal District, in Brazil, is spearheading a campaign to prevent transsexuality from being seen as a medical disorder.
Both Psychiatry and Psychology, Carneiro argues, once classified non-traditional gender identities and sexual orientations as diseases, using the suffix -ism in referring to them. Thus, terms like “homosexualism” and “transsexualism” would impart the idea of a disorder. “That's why you say 'transsexuality' and 'homosexuality'—to get rid of the stigma,” she adds.
A few phrases in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)—the main index for medical diagnoses—also reinforce prejudice, she believes. Terms such as “dual-role transvestism,” “transvestic fetichsm,” and “gender identity disorder in children” are, in her view, stigmatizing labels.
The goal of trans movements is to have the World Health Organization (WHO) cross out such terms from its list, and make transsexuality and the identity of transvestites no longer diseases. The organization removed homosexuality from its list of illnesses in 1990.
A recent court ruling in Brazil sparked new controversy surrounding the topic. Judge Waldemar Cláudio de Carvalho granted a motion making it legal for psychologists to offer conversion therapy.
The decision contravenes a 1999 resolution by Brazil's Federal Psychology Council (CFP), which bans the treatment of homosexuality as a disease. Both the council and Brazil's Bar Association (OAB) have appealed the decision and wait for an outcome.
Due to historical and ideological factors, Taya Carneiro prefers being called a transvestite. The idea is to bring more visibility to the movement in the fight against HIV and police brutality.
Born on the outskirts of Brasília, the activist says she had to cope with attacks as a child for acting feminine. Carneiro also says she only came to identify as trans at the university. She describes facing the world as a transsexual individual as extremely difficult. “The moment you decide to identify as transsexual, you say, 'I'm getting into a fight with the whole world.'”
A master's degree student in journalism, Carneiro was invited to speak as the United Nations representative for Brazil at an International Youth Day gathering held in New York in August. In her speech at the meeting, the activist, who has helped create two collectives aimed at the promotion of rights and the fight against prejudice, warned about the violence suffered by the LGBTI community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual, and intersex) in both Brazil and the world.
Carneiro was interviewed Monday (Oct. 2) on Conversa com Roseann Kennedy, aired by TV Brasil, a TV channel owned by the Brazil Communication Company (EBC).
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira