After working in prostitution to survive as a transgender migrant, Aquila Correia was able to participate and be chosen in several auditions – including one for a video of Madonna – and was on the verge of making her dreams come true in Portugal,
Then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and Correia was evicted, although the Portuguese government vetoed the practice in the case of cashless tenants. As a black Brazilian with no papers and no formal contract, Correia had no choice but to pack her bags.
Deciding to pursue her career, she used the GoFundMe website to raise 4,000 euros (R $ 26,400) and set up Portugal’s first refuge and creative space for trans migrants, which has since produced an award-winning music video.
“I was desperate,” the 28-year-old said in the living room of the Lisbon apartment, which she called Casa T.
“I had nowhere to go and realized that other people were in the same situation … The idea came as a way for people like me not to be dependent on sex work, d ‘have another option. “
Casa T is currently home to six trans migrants who have been deported or unable to pay their rent amid the economic chaos of the novel coronavirus, which has devastated the European country.
Discrimination against trans people is strong in Portugal.
One in five trans or intersex people have been physically or sexually assaulted in the country in the past five years, according to a 2020 survey by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency – twice as many attacks by other people from the LGBT + community.
For migrants from ethnic minorities, it is even more difficult.
“Discrimination increases when you are trans, migrant and black,” said Luan Okan, 25, another Brazilian who lives at Casa T.
“People refused to call me by the pronoun I identify with … Immigrants face many obstacles. You cannot get a job with a contract and hours and hours of work for wages very low.”
Okan studied to be an actor, but only found work as a janitor. He had a mental breakdown and went to Casa T.
“Having a house was the biggest help,” he said, wearing black with short black hair down the sides and painted purple on top.
“It was easier to start counseling and strengthen myself to face the job market again if necessary. Thanks to Casa T, I had the opportunity to devote myself to artistic work.”
Since living together, the people of Casa T have produced a gothic music video, “Bruxonas”, which won the Brazilian MVF Music Prize in the category of best pandemic video.
It features Correia, in a black dress, hat and red gloves, drinking red wine and then using a torch to set a life-size smiley doll on fire.
“Night is falling … it’s time for the witches to work,” announces the initial lyrics of the song, which was also shortlisted for the For Rainbow – Sexual and Gender Diversity Film and Culture Festival, at Brazil.
“Bruxonas” is the first of seven songs Correia plans to release in 2021, with the aim of changing the way black trans women are viewed in Portugal, showing them to be powerful and magical.
“There are widespread prejudices against Brazilian women,” said Marta Ramos, head of Ilga Portugal, the country’s largest LGBT + advocacy group.
“There is a hypersexualization of their bodies and their experiences, and therefore a lot of prejudice about promiscuous sexual behavior – and the racism and xenophobia evident in the case of black women.”
Casa T also provided shelter to Aicy Ray, a freelance artist who needed help after the power went out.
“It’s the only place I can work where I’m not subject to racism and xenophobia,” said Ray, 31, born in Guinea-Bissau (Africa) and raised in Portugal, describing the lustful looks that he received during his tail. vote last month.
“People are not comfortable seeing a black transgender person … Casa T gave me the safe place I needed to do my artistic work, which is my only source of income.”
Racism is a growing concern for blacks in Portugal following the murder last year of black Portuguese actor Bruno Cande, shot dead in the streets by a white man who told him to come home.
The January presidential election also saw growing support for André Ventura, of the radical right-wing Chega party, known for his disparaging remarks towards ethnic minorities.
Margarida Alonso, a social worker at Casa Qui, who supports LGBT + youth, said vulnerable trans migrants from countries like Brazil need more support.
“They are fleeing an oppressive state that does not allow them to be who they are,” she said.
“The work that Casa T is doing to meet the specific needs of the transgender migrant community in Portugal is admirable. It is crucial that there are more Casas T.”
Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves