Rosa Luz has a sweet smile and a soft voice, but that does not mean lack of strength.
The 24-year-old Brazilian, transvestite, black and peripheral artist has already acted in two films (“Chega de Fiu Fiu” from 2018, and “We're All Here” from 2019) and has already exhibited at the São Paulo Art Museum (MASP) .
In addition to being an actress, visual artist, and rapper, Rosa also creates digital content for her YouTube channel, which draws fans and haters alike.
In one of the performances he made (see video below), he stood motionless, without a blouse, in the middle of the stairs of the Brasilia Pilot Plan station, where nearly 700,000 people pass each day.
Some people insulted her with transphobic words, others hugged her. One woman made a speech about how she might be influencing children to “become” gay.
“Just by existing, we make a lot of people uncomfortable, don't we?” He says.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kms4WYxTD4 (/ embed)
The discomfort translated into a more serious tone recently via the internet. To spread music, Rosa published on her social networks the illustration of a severed head that remembered the Brazilian president. In the messages, he began receiving death threats and his work was the target of criticism on profiles of thousands of followers.
In an interview with Global Voices by video call, Rosa stated:
It was an artistic manifestation, a metaphorical, pessoal one, that deceives about or racism not a market that gives music. It was obvious that there would be no one to deceive, but it was so transphobic and racist that it was easier for them to place me as a bandit and a terrorist than to understand or context.
It was an artistic manifestation, a personal, metaphorical sound that speaks of racism in the music market. Obviously I wouldn't cut anyone's head off, but people are so transphobic and racist that it's easier for them to put me in the place of a criminal or a terrorist than to understand the context.
Despite not being the first time he received criticism, the level of threats increased with the episode. Rosa hid her social media accounts, and has received support from Front Line Defenders, an international organization in defense of human rights, and Access Now, an entity that defends the digital rights of people at risk.
Art to exist
Rosa grew up in the Gama region, Federal District, near Brasilia, in a lot with three slums. Stories involving teen abuse and pregnancy were part of the story of close relatives. It was in this context that he discovered that the masculine gender that had been assigned to him was not compatible with what he felt. Remember:
Eu places a blouse in the head to serve as a hair and a dance with my cousins. I was happy fazendo isso, it was minha essência. It just seemed like something was wrong. Eu tinha pau e não deveria agir daquela forma. Those people treat me as a problem and I get violent.
I put a blouse on my head that served as hair and danced with my cousins. I was happy when I did that, it was my essence. Only it seemed that there was something wrong. I had a penis and I had to behave like that. People treated that as a problem and raped me.
To protect her, her mother put her in a nun school. As an escape, Rosa dove into the books and became one of the most applied students in religious matters. He jokes that if he were a cisgender and straight man, he would be coxinha (Brazilian word to designate conservative and right-wing people).
Upon discovering his sexual orientation and gender identity, he had to choose: when he was told that he could not reconcile who he was with faith, he ended up leaving religion.
He entered to study the Theory, Criticism and Art History course at the University of Brasilia (UnB), he believed that he had no talent and that it would be a possible way to work with art, as he says:
I started to study self-portrait and foi the first time I allowed myself to olhar for my month. It allowed me to pass batom, fazer as coisas that eu always wanted to fazer since when I was criança. You saved my existence by art, you know? In moments when I was very sad, to place it for a fora through a painting, a disengagement, it was fundamental.
I started to study self-portrait and it was the first time I allowed myself to look at myself. I allowed myself to put on lipstick, do the things I had always wanted to do since I was a child. Art saved my existence, see it? At times when I was very sad, getting that out through a painting, a drawing, was essential.
But in the university environment, transphobia began to affect his mental health, to the point that he dropped out of classes.
She was denied her transvestite name, and they insisted on calling her with her registered name. With the gender transition, stages and opportunities also decreased. Remember that one time a teacher called her to talk. She was anxious, she thought it was an investigation. In the end, he wanted to ask her if her family agreed with the “direction” she was giving her life.
As some doors closed, she began accompanying feminists on YouTube and plotting other plans. At the end of 2015, Rosa recorded a rap video in the slum where she lived. The publication had over 100,000 views and reached well-known artists in Brazil.
I was a creator or a non-YouTube channel because I could converse with people to demystify Minha Identidade, Minha Transição and the type of art that Eu Fazia.
I created the YouTube channel because I could chat with people to demystify my identity, my transition and the type of art I was doing.
Anyway, reflect on the visibility you received:
So people try to place me in a place where they fail the trans community. I defend other things, as proportionality and representation. I don't want to take the place of heroin. Angela Davis says that at this moment in the anti-racist struggle of the United States, she came to paint some activists like heróis and make others invisible. We need to pay attention to isso. Once again, we want to place ourselves in a mole to make invisible what is not in the oil for the society.
People try to try to put me in the place of the speaker for the trans community. I defend other things, such as proportionality and representativeness. I don't want to take the place of heroin. Angela Davis says that at one point in the anti-racist struggle in the United States they began to paint some activists as heroes and to make others invisible. You have to pay attention to that. Sometimes, they want to place us at the top to make invisible those who are not in the pattern of what society accepts.
Brazil is the country with the most murders of transsexuals and transvestites in the world. According to data from the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra), 124 murders were registered in that population in 2019. Mexico, second place on the list, registered nearly half of cases.
Another analysis, from the Brazilian Lesbian Association. Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Intersexes (ABGLT), points out that 73% of non-heterosexual people were attacked at school, especially transvestites and transsexuals.
In a country hostile to people like her, Rosa Luz identifies herself as a transvestite:
Eu olhava as referências de pessoas trans muito marginalized na adolescência. I could be anybody, less a transvestite. I did not come, I affirmed myself as a trans mulher, but I came to claim or transvestite place in existence. I began to identify myself as transvestites. It is a gender identity, not a performance quest.
I saw references to very marginalized trans people in adolescence. It could be anything, except transvestite. At first, I affirmed myself more as a trans woman, but then I began to vindicate the place of cross-dressing in my existence. I began to identify with the transvestites. It is a gender identity, not a matter of performance.
She says that she felt more accepted when she identified as a trans woman, since people tend to understand the world with a cisgender and binary pattern (only male and female).
There is no consensus on what it is to be a transvestite, says Rosa. It is still under discussion among the people who identify themselves like this. But he believes that assuming that identity is also a political place, a way of claiming the human rights of that population:
Each one can understand a different way. For me (trans and transvestite) only that we are synonymous, I frequently state that I am a trans transvestite. You are afraid of others who are not assim. Gosto do que a Linn da Quebrada (actress, singer and Brazilian composer) says, which accredits the possibility of thermos thousands of identities of gender, since there are thousands of people, as each body fosses a universe.
Each one can understand in a different way. For me (trans and transvestite) they are almost synonymous, and I often say that I am trans and transvestite. There are other people who are not like that. I like that Linn da Quebrada (Brazilian actress, singer and songwriter) says that she believes in the possibility that there are thousands of gender identities, since there are thousands of people, as if each body were a universe.
Regarding the threats that made her withdraw from the networks, Rosa says that many seemed to be attacks orchestrated by bots, which have become common in Brazil. He believes that the attacks on her are a reflection of current Brazilian political life:
E se tivessem, de fato, killed me? I am very pleased with what happened to you. No last month, a trans and black artist from São Paulo, or Demétrio Campos, committed suicide. He needed to die for the heavy olharem for the art for him. I fiquei observing isso de longe and perceiving the contradictions.
What if they really had killed me? There was a lot of silence regarding what happened to me. In the last month, a trans and black artist from São Paulo, Demétrio Campos, committed suicide. He had to die for people to see him and see his art. I saw that from afar and realized the contradictions.
On her plans, Rosa intends to continue working with music and visual arts and forms of income that help her maintain her independence:
I looked at how I wanted to continue to produce my art that would be silenced and not necessarily go to the top or to the many views. It's not about isso. I would rather die than be silenced.
Today I just want to find a way to continue producing my art without being silenced and without reaching the top or having many visualizations. It's not about that. I'd rather die than be silenced.