After I came to Porto Alegre, at the age of 18, I started to gradually explore the things I masked while I still lived with my parents. Especially when I went to live alone, I started experimenting with things that made my gender expression more like what I wanted to show the world, like, the way I wanted to show myself to society, present myself, you know. And not only in a visual way, like fashion, makeup or wearing dresses and heels, but also in the way I think, the way I behave, the way I feel and the way I show my feelings too. It goes beyond social rules and social constructions. This allowed me to explore much more the way I feel, how I see the world and how I see myself. So it was more or less at that time that I started to free myself.
I think a lot came out when I started exploring things that I denied to myself before. I used to force myself to wear a mask, to go out in the street in a more unnoticed, invisible way. It was with time that I started to explore things that were denied to me, such as wearing makeup, wearing "feminine" clothes, sitting in a certain way, gesturing in a certain way, talking in a certain way. Anyway, things that people always put in a "woman's box" and that I didn't have access. Gradually, I started to equip myself with these things that were already in me since I was a child. Since my first years of socialization I no longer had this line that divided the masculine and the feminine. Everything was always together inside me, you know, everything mixed up. And it started to become something else. The things I had the freedom to do when I was a kid, for example playing with dolls, doing things that society said I couldn't do, little by little I started to numb inside myself. Until I grew up and when I reached my independence I realized that only I was in charge of myself. And then I started to evolve this. At first it was difficult. I always left the house with my head down and it seemed that the whole world was looking at me and judging me and maybe it was. But it was at these moments that I started to seek that courage inside me and I came to strengthen with time. People in my life helped me at that moment, like in the relationship I had and... I shared an apartment with my older brother and my sister-in-law and she liked makeup. I started to learn makeup with her and sometimes she saw that I was going to leave the house with makeup on and I left with my head down like "bye, I'm leaving". Then one day she stopped me and said 'you don't have to hide. You don't have to hide from us. You don't have to hide from anyone. We know that you wear makeup, we know that you dress the way you want and you don't have to hide, you know, be the person you are because no one here is judging you'. And along with that, I also told them that I was dating a boy, I was telling my mother that I was dating a boy. Like ... sexuality stuff too, it wasn't just gender identity that came, but also my sexuality, which I define as pansexual.
I identify myself as non-binary trans... I still have my questions, I don’t know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue, to what extent I approach something binary you know, even though I see that the non-binary suits me better. But I am still faced with many doubts, for example, people who call me by him, people who call me by her, and I like both definitions but at the same time I don't know how much I want to get closer to 'her'... Anyway, it is still a 'work in progress', you know.
I don't think there is such a fluidity because I am this person and... This identity, you know, is not something that changes from one situation to another. I think it changes, but it changes in a bad way… because sometimes I go out masked as a "boy" because I will be in a situation where I will feel exposed, so sometimes I feel that when there is a fluidity it’s for I end up masking myself... I also feel that it is very comfortable for me to use the masculine pronouns because they have been assigned to me since I was born. And I was very conditioned to use them, so I still reflect a lot with my therapist for example how much I still use these masculine pronouns or facets because it is something I was conditioned to do and it is something that leaves me in a place of comfort. I have already started testing using feminine pronouns with people closest to me, to see how I feel. When I refer to me, I sometimes use feminine pronouns to see how I feel and I feel good, but... I still don't know how far I am in this… binarism just to be something, you know. It's very complex, it's very abstract, but it's a little bit of the hurricane in my head, you know.
My family was always very affectionate, since I was little, so in the beginning I was allowed to play and do whatever I wanted. Of course, sometimes they said things like "don't do this, it's a girl's thing", "don't gesture too much", "don't sit cross-legged". The "boxes" were appearing within my family too, because it is a more traditional family, from the countryside. It never came from a place of hatred, but from a place of conservative learning, right, from the way they learned. So I think that at the beginning these "boxes" came from my family, but they came much stronger from living in society, you know, from how I started to face prejudice when people started looking at me on the street. I think that shutting myself off has a lot more to do with the outside than with my family environment. Also to protect my family and myself, I prevented them from entering my world. So I also created this mask, coming from a reflection of the outside, you know, of society, and from how people looked at me with contempt when I presented myself in a way that did not match the sex I was born in, so to speak. And now I have to do the reverse process, which is to open myself up again and put the things I hid out again. Almost like revisiting a little of that freedom that I had as a child. And my family is also relearning it, you know. They had contact with me in that free and pure way when I was little and now they are having to see it again because I am starting to undress the masks I wore. And that came with my independence, which was leaving home, which was being in an environment all by myself, where I didn't need to play a role that I thought I should play to protect people, not to cause stress, not to be a problem.
I have three brothers, it's a big family. I never wanted to be a nuisance, I never wanted to be a problem, you know. And here's the problem, which is the fact that I'm not a problem, I don't have a problem, I'm not sick. And it took me a long time to accept that, to understand that… The fact that I am not a problem, that I am normal. That I'm no different, you know. Stuff like that. So I'm in the process of normalising myself and my family is kind of walking along with me in the process of normalising that too. And it's been very productive, they already understand my new name, but they still haven't got used to it.
They still call me by my old name, but it's because my name change was very recent. And recently I talked to my mom about it. I still want to rectify my documents. They still call me by the old name which is fine, I know it's a long process, but from now on I will start correcting them to start introducing my new name. Which was a process that I did with my friends, because my friends had known me for many years with my old name and I kept remembering them, so I realized that it worked and that people eventually understand it, you know. In my new job they already know me by my new name, so this is very happy for me too.
It is a very sad scenario because we are seen in a bad way most of the time. We live in an ultra conservative place and I feel that the prejudice here is still very strong. But at the same time, I see positive things happening. There are still some spaces where people can feel good and express themselves, but I don't know... I'm a bit of a reserved person too, right, so I protect myself a lot from day-to-day life. I don't know, it's complicated, because sometimes I get very positive things as a non-binary trans in Porto Alegre, but sometimes I get very negative things too, so it's an eternal battle, you know, I can't explain.
It is complicated because, for example, I feel that I am frowned upon on the streets and in some spaces that I go to... It depends, I don't know, if I go to a bar or somewhere that is not open minded I already feel observed and like a stranger. But sometimes there are positive things that happen, like people coming to talk to me, people praising me and saying that in a way I inspire them too, so... It's complicated talking about it because I feel I stay more at home, more protected. Because my whole life, like, I've always been very frowned upon. And it is rare that sometimes a person sees me in a good way, but when it happens it is very good.
I think that makeup came in my first experiments with my gender expression, which is often seen in a more androgynous way, even though I have a certain problem with that term because I think it sometimes excludes people. I try not to see through an androgynous perspective because there is this idea that either the person is born androgynous or they are not, and this excludes people who want to express themselves in more "feminine" or "masculine" ways. Questions that mix a little with passability. It's that Greek statue thing, a view of beauty that I think can be bad.
I started to put makeup in these experiments. I really like drag queens, two of my friends are drag queens, and I have been following them since they started performing. I saw them putting on makeup and how they explored it in a more artistic way and I found it very interesting. So I started exploring makeup in every way: artistic, identity, aesthetic. Then I started watching a lot of videos and programs of people doing and talking about makeup. And it became kind of an artistic taste, you know, putting on makeup. Eventually I also realized that it was very therapeutic, sitting and putting on makeup and sometimes spending two hours doing it, exploring colors and shapes and also playing with clothes and characters.
In fact, this came a lot from theater too. I started to develop my makeup more when I was doing theater. And it was there that I started making up other people, you know. In the play that we performed, in rehearsals... I was seen as a reference like "ask Kim to do your makeup, because he understands a lot". Then I started to pass this on to other people and I realized that I could also contribute to people building their own characters. And use that so that I also build my characters and take on other forms. When I was about 20 years old, I started to experiment with it more and it just grew.
I put on makeup on weekends, or when I have an occasion, or when I want to try something new. Now I started recording videos for Instagram too, because I want to show people a little bit of this process in different ways. Sometimes more dramatic makeup, sometimes more natural makeup, sometimes more purple, pink or blue. I started making videos about it and posting on instagram because I also wanted to document it a little so I can see how much I have evolved in this aspect. And also because I like to work with video editing, so it's already sort of satisfying another hobby I have, which is to capture and edit. And who knows what this will turn into, right.
I was also thinking about creating a persona, like my friends who are drags, you know, creating a persona kind of focused on that. But in a way that I can explore makeup within that too, in a way that I can also start performing, because I miss being on stage, I miss rehearsing and building a scene and creating a story. Makeup has been an ally in this new process where I'm building a character and thinking about performance.
My relationship with my body is very positive. I identify a lot of problems I have with my body seeing other people's stories and how they sometimes face a lot of problems with their own body, and I try to learn from these people to see me in a positive way, you know, so I always tried to see myself in a very positive way. Sure, there are things in my body that still make me uncomfortable, but I try to look at the little parts of my body with love. And take care of my body, which is my home. And it came a lot in my adolescence, because at the age of 16 I had an anxiety crisis that turned into very strong panic attacks and that changed me a lot, because I started thinking a lot about death and aging. I am also a hypochondriac so I have a lot of internal fears with my body. I think that's why I don't see many problems in my external physical body, but in my internal physical. I have several fears and paranoias about what happens inside my body. I work hard to deal with my anxiety in a better way. Because yes, I have an anxiety disorder, so sometimes I have a crisis, I take antidepressant medication to have my brain chemistry well balanced so that I don't have crises. And my crises end up evolving into processes of depression, so I have been through all this in the past, but lately I have been feeling very well because I am treating it physically and psychologically. So my relationship with my body is good in this external physical sense. Internally, I still have to improve, but that's it, I see myself in a positive way.
I internalized a lot of things during my life and these things have to come out somehow, you know. When I had my first crisis when I was a teenager it was very striking and it came a lot from accumulating things inside me, from going through stress processes. And gender comes into this discussion a lot because I deprived myself from expressing my gender, so I accumulated things inside of me that stressed me out. And that continues now in another way, which is the way I express my gender. And I am confronted by people in society, you know, people who see me in a bad way, who treat me in a disrespectful way, it also generates nights without being able to sleep properly, stress, anxiety... So I am still struggling to control anxiety. It has a lot to do with the way I express it. So sometimes, when I leave the house, I feel anxious. Living in society, I feel anxious. All of this accumulates and triggers me so that I may have a panic attack in a moment I'm not expecting, because this is how the crisis manifests itself in my life. In moments when, I don't know, I'm alone and I feel all at once, you know.
And having these physical symptoms of anxiety disturbs me a lot because, as I am a hypochondriac, I am very afraid of diseases, of dying, of being sick, of passing out, of a lot of things that are paranoias that have been built up throughout my life. So in the end, being the person I am and showing this person to the world also hurts me, because it makes me be disturbed by people too and this will turn into a crisis later.
I learned very well how to deal with it and accept it as part of me. I think it's the most important thing, if you have a problem like anxiety, like depression or any other psychological problem, you accept and find mechanisms and ways to be well. Because for a long time I was angry like "why do I have anxiety? why am I like this?", but that doesn't solve it. You have to be strong.
Being a little chaotic now (laughs), I think the future of gender is to destroy gender. I've come across some concepts and there is even an artist that I really like, that she considers herself as being post-binary and I think this is really cool. She talks a lot about the destruction of gender and I think this is very interesting.
But I think the future of gender is really showing people that they have a mind too. The future of gender is people understanding that they have a very broad mind and that it can reveal many things to do with behavior, expression, feeling, in short, that it's not all tied to something very fatal like biology. So I think the future of gender is really expanding minds, expanding minds and bodies and making us no longer Neanderthals of not knowing our own bodies, of being castrated in the face of so many things. I think the future of gender is really freeing.
Know your body, love your body. Know your mind, love your mind. Know your voice, love your voice. Nobody is alone.
I think I have a very realistic view and this can sometimes end up being a little pessimistic, because the reality is terrible. But before reinforcing the happiness that that person can have and the freedom that they can find whatever their process is, I think that first the person has to recognize that they will also go through a lot of pain and perhaps many moments of isolation and feeling alone. And those moments are also very important, as important as happiness. In those moments you will discover a lot about yourself and it will strengthen you, and it will encourage you. The important thing is that you don't give up, the important thing is that you always put yourself first and that you seek to break free to really be the person you feel you are. And the bad times will pass and when the good times arrive it will be even better. But finally, people have to value all the feelings they have, sadness is as important as happiness and it can reveal very important things. The moral is that we only have one life and the life that we have is this and we only have one chance and the chance that we have is this. And if the person doesn't do anything, it's gone.
I have this almost responsibility not to make reality false, you know, to really touch reality and live it, you know. Because I spent a lot of time masking things, so it's no use trying to enter a new process and mask it with happiness, unhappiness with happiness. Because it's not just happiness that brings insight, it's not just happiness that brings awareness, it's not just happiness that brings good things too. I think that moments of sadness, loneliness and any feeling that you can feel are very important to build a person.
Graduated in Graphic Design and passionate about makeup.
I share my experiences through photography and audiovisual.
*essay from March 2020, Porto Alegre (RS), Brazil.
Graduated in Graphic Design and passionate about makeup.
I share my experiences through photography and audiovisual.
*essay from March 2020, Porto Alegre (RS), Brazil.
This project is made by me, Gabz. I am a non-binary trans person and I seek not only to portray but also to open a space where other trans people can tell their stories, so to support our own community. After suffering a lot from the lack of trans narrative references that contemplated me, I realized that these people exist and have always existed, but for CISthemic reasons the few times we have the opportunity to tell who we are ends up being through the lens of people who do not know how it is to be us. I started this project with urgency.
I offer all this content for free, as I do not want to privilege access only for those who can pay. However, for this project to continue, I need your help. Share on your social networks! If you have financial means, you can also make a single or recurring donation. Even $1 already helps make this project possible. Help me help us!
SUPPORT THIS WORK