Since I was little I already knew that I was a boy and not a girl as people told me. And for a time in my childhood I felt very strange, because I really didn't understand what was going on.

At school there is always the separation between boys and girls, especially when you are in the first, second grade. So I didn’t fit on the side they put me on, I wanted to stay there with the boys talking about cool things… Not that there is this thing, like, a distinction between what is for boys and what is for girls, but at that time it was much more assertive than it is today. I didn't want to be there talking about how cute the other boys were because I didn't think any boys were cute (laughs). At most, I wanted to be that boy, because he was seen as a boy and I was not. For real I thought that I was really crazy. I thought I was going to be hospitalized anytime when someone found out that I was feeling like a boy and not as a girl. And that I wasn't fitting. Something was not right in my experience there, nothing that I wanted was happening. Especially about my body, because I started to enter the pre-adolescence phase and things started to happen and I was like, “my god, this is not what I want in my life, I can't understand what is happening to my body ”.

At about 12 years old I started watching some lesbian shows, because I liked girls. I saw "The L Word", which made me realize that I really was a lesbian. Until, I think in one of the penultimate seasons, the trans guy appears. Then I said "my god, this really exists! So it's not just about me liking a girl, it's about me being a trans man who likes girls". And I saw that it is not as easy as it looks. Because until then, imagine, a 12 year old thinking they are a lesbian is already like "wow". Even more at that time... We say "at that time" as if it were a long time (laughs), but before 2018, being a lesbian was like “my god, its a sin”, you are demonized. So much so that when my mom found out I was a lesbian, that I liked girls, she freaked out. She literally freaked out. I suffered several physical and psychological aggressions at home. And I thought “man, if only because I like girls, she's already doing this, imagine when she finds out I'm a trans man... I'm going to die. Or I will be expelled from home, I will have no alternative”. In fact, she even expelled me because I liked girls, I just didn't literally leave the house because my grandma said “he's not going to leave because I give the orders here, I'm the one who pays for everything”. So I didn't leave because of that, otherwise, I'd have been gone since a long time. So I was like “how do I tell people I'm a trans man? There's no way".

And I manifested this little by little with my close friends, like, “I wanted to be a man and such”. In adolescence, aged 15, 16 years. And it was always “oh, are you crazy? what? to be a man what? and what are you going to do with what you have between your legs? are you going to put one?”. At the time I didn't think much about the genitals, I wanted to look more and be who I am, you know? It was more like “I am like this, so I want you to see me the way I am. And not letting it get repressed here”. People saw it more as a question about genitals and I was like... you know? No! Relax there, my genitals no one can see. It was more a matter of respect.

And then I told my great grandmother. I took courage and told her. Because my psychologist said that I had to tell someone to make me feel better. And that idea was sensational, because I told her and she understood it, no matter how much she was a person in her eighties. She didn't quite understand what it was, but she said “I'm going to love you anyway, I just don't want you involved with drugs, with drug traffic, or stealing, because that would be the end, but… what am I going to do? There's nothing to do. Life is not mine, it's yours. You have to be what you want to be. Just study, create your life, have your own money and go be what you want to be because I will not stop you." And that was a huge relief. Then we exchanged secrets and such. At that time it was just the two of us, my mother was not part of my life. So I think it was also a little more... a relief, let's say. That took a huge burden off me, to not be judged and I don't know, suffer more physical aggression - I was very afraid of that.

After a few years, my grandmother passed away, so she couldn't see me as I am today, but whether or not she was part of it, because after she passed away, came that shock of "what am I doing with my life? I only have one life and I am wanting it completely, being a person that I am not just to please some people, just out of fear… It is now or never, either I do it or I never do it again.”. And that was it. It totally unraveled.

The first thing I did, that bothered me a lot, was cutting my hair, which is a very representative thing. I never thought that big hair was for girls and short hair was for boys, but society imposes this so much that you end up adhering to it without realizing. As much as you think it's just a hair, you end up complying to people's judgment. And then I said "fuck it, I'm going to cut my hair". I did it and, oh, I never felt so happy in my life. After I cut my hair it seemed that literally a weight came off my back, it was a very remarkable thing for me.

When I cut my hair, my mother was already living with me. The person who gave me home, food and such had just passed away, so we had to get together and live together. There was no way for me to live alone, not in that state, nor earning what I earned at that time, which was much less than the minimum wage. I did an internship, which paid less than 700 reais. It is impossible for someone to live like this. So I had to get together with my mom and go little by little. An interesting thing is that since I left my mother's house, our relationship started to improve, I started to take steps that I thought would be impossible to take. The first hug I gave my mother from childhood until when I was basically a grown-up person, was at the age of twenty - after I left her house. It is a huge step. I was always very afraid of my mother. Especially because it is impossible for you not to be afraid of a person who attacks you for anything. Doing nothing! Like "I got home drunk, I'm beating you". There is no way you are not afraid of this person, regardless of whether they are your mother, your father, your godfather, your dog. So this fear has developed over the years, beyond sexual orientation and my identity. Over time, when I left her house and we distanced, it improved dramatically, also along with my psychologist who helped me a lot in this part of the transition, like “do you really think this person is so important to you to the point of having her in your life? then do something to improve things”. The therapeut helped me a lot on how to take short but precise steps. And also to open up a little bit, because I closed myself off completely, anyone in this situation would also shut off completely to any other type of relationship with other people.

That was basically it, we started living together. And then I cut my hair, I was living with her. I got home and didn't even look at her face with so much fear and dread. I was full of courage, and then I stepped on the house and was like "eeeeei" (laughs). I arrived home super low. But then, man, there's no turning back, you really have to face it and that's it. She looked at my face and said nothing, absolutely nothing. I was like, "Oh my god, what's going on?" I don't know if it was a silence of disapproval, approval or a I don't give a shi silence. Because you live intensely in search of approval from someone who basically looks like she hates you. Even more so because I had the weight of her being my mother. You want to have this huge approval from this person who generated you, right? And then she didn't say anything, so I let it grow a little bit and cut it again. She made a stupid joke, but I pretended I didn't hear it. Then the other month I already radicalized, I shaved it on the sides. The first time I cut it reasonably short, a more patterned cut, more Afro and such. Then, I think that in the third month, I shaved with machine two, made a cool "hang glider" cut. And then she said "looks like a man!" And I was like "hey, it came" (laughs), "it was missing, it came".

Over time, she understood. I didn't tell her like "hi mom, I'm trans". At no point in my life did I say that to her. She just saw the process going on gradually and said nothing. And even if she spoke, it would be too late, because I was already very determined. When I started hormone therapy I was living with her, it was in May 2018. So she saw it happening in the first months. In May I started with the first dose and in August I left the house, came to live with Rafaela, my fiancée. In the second month, every day in the morning - which was the time my mother left for work and so did I - I said good morning in a hoarse voice because of testosterone, and she said “are you sick? your voice is weird”. Or when she called me to ask for something on the street, “what is it? what voice is that? ”, and I said“ hey, my voice ”(laughs). Sometimes I was so afraid that I would fine tune my voice to talk to her ... Man ... I couldn't live like that for the rest of a person's life that you don't know if one day they're loving you, the next time you're attacking… Man, this is no life for anyone. So, as I had already proposed to my fiancee in March 2018, it was like “I'm calling you to live with me, but if you don't want to, I live alone, for good”. Then she liked the idea and we came to live together. As time went by, my mother was adapting more because I was not living with her and again our relationship started to improve. So I think the distance is good for us, for our understanding.

There was this time, in my graduation, I think in 2019, my mom asked why I didn't have friends in college. And then in a moment of an outbreak I said “bro! I don't have friends in college because everyone sees me as a freak, you still don't understand that ?! Like, look at me. That’s why I don’t have anyone ”. I said it in a very rude way because I was very hurt. Nobody spends five years in college without having a friend, and I managed to do that. Not that I never had any friends, like, group work. I had it but it wasn't the same as the other classmates, you know? That they take friendship in college very seriously. I didn't have that. So, in this outbreak, she kind of got it and then I think she perceived more how important it was for me to have this affection. Then she started to try harder, calling me on the correct pronoun and so on. It was the first time she said it right, that she called me in the masculine, called me son.

It was June 27, 2019. It was very remarkable for me. Also because it was not something I expected, I was taken by surprise, lying on the couch. It was great, it was super great, I even tweeted. I was home alone, it was a holiday, and she asked if I didn't want to go to her house for lunch the next day. I said no because I had already done something and she said "no son, come here". I was like “what ?! what did you say?!" I spoke loudly, shouting here on the couch. She said "son, come over here for us to have lunch together", then I "ok, I'll see if I can", I hung up the phone, I didn't even have anything else to say (laughs), I was so euphoric, so euphoric. I was like “my god, this really happened, man! cool! great". I was alone at home, just me and my animals, Rafaela had left. Then I tweeted "man, my mom called me son for the first time, it was really cool!" I think there was so much euphoria, so much truth, that it went viral on the social network. Most of the people who follow me today are due to that tweet, that truth. It was from that moment that she started to see me more as her son, that I saw that she was really making this effort.

I didn't take the character Max [from The L Word TV show] as a great reference for me because he was super toxic and I didn't want to be that person at all. It totally horrified me about being a trans man and applying testosterone because I thought “my god, I'm going to be like that asshole, hitting things, breaking everything”. Because he really, my god, what a horror! It's terrible. So I said "man, there is a possibility but I don't want to be like this guy". And then, like anyone who watches television, the only possible and palpable reference there for me was Tarso Brant - who also I couldn't find much information on the internet. I researched and I only found things abroad, outside of Brazil. It was a reality that didn't fit me, because there was no way that I, a poor person who did not earn even a minimum wage, who depended on his grandmother to survive, could go abroad. Never. I didn't even travel outside my city, imagine taking a plane and going somewhere else, it was completely out of my reality. So I didn't get too attached to figure out how I was going to become that, I just wanted to be what I was. My biggest reference that there were trans men in Brazil was Tarso. Then I started to see - not to follow him because at the time instagram and such didn't exist. It was more like "Pânico na TV!" ["Panic on TV" was a brazilian "comedy" program], where Tarso appeared using his old name. And that was it. It was the only Brazilian reference I had. And researching I found only people from outside. So my mind was "man, I'm going to have to save money to go, I don't know, to the United States to do something I want". 

In my head, if I took testosterone, people would start respecting me as a man. At that time the reference was this, because sometimes I saw Tarso, for example, he was not respected, right? So I was like "man, am I going to suffer that too?" He was often humiliated on that show, and I was like, “am I going to have to submit to that kind of thing too to be a man? for people to see that I am a man?”. Then there was Thammy [Miranda], who was also a television-only thing, just a newspaper thing. And like… where are the real references? It didn't exist. That's why it took me so long to assert myself as a man and to start my process from the inside, as a man. I always say that the transition always comes from the inside out. So it's no use being here all mastectomized, with a beard, and my process inside is still underdeveloped. I preferred to take care of my mind and body first and then come to the “oh, now I really want to take testosterone and see what’s going to happen” part. My first references were Tarso, Thammy and it stopped there. Some things that were happening were not cool, so they were terrible references. Of course, everyone has their own life trajectory, but for me, references like that, in that moment, in that place I was, were not cool. And again, it only helped me to close myself even more, like “I won't say anything to anyone because automatically people will associate it with someone and I don't want to be associated with someone, but I also don't want people to see me like a lesbian who dresses like a man", you know? So I stayed there quietly... Waiting for the moment that something was going to happen... I don't know, a miracle. (laughs)

I only knew the travestis on my street. Only. But not as if we were friends... It was more like they protected me when I passed by on the street coming back from college. It was like "good night", "good night, what's up cutie?" and that was it. I felt safer on the streets knowing that they were there even though they weren't as safe as I was. So this was the first contact I had where I saw it’s not how they say, you know? That travestis are all marginal.Every night that I walked by that super dangerous street, I was being protected by girls that didn't even know my name. Being that they were more in danger than I was. I felt this protection for the whole year I had to pass by that street, so I saw that it wasn't like that... If this concept that they put in my head is quite the opposite, imagine other things that I had already thought were not.

Then I had a click and I went after it, on the internet. And yet, on the internet there was no real reference. We only see white guys who are like full of money, that are very far away from your reality. And what saved me were groups on facebook. I went back to using facebook because of that, because there were real people talking about what it was like to be trans and telling their real stories. Not that the white guys at the time didn't tell them about it, but it was another vibe, another story. They had money to do all those procedures that were super expensive and it was not accessible to me at that time. And the little people who were there on Facebook were super accessible to me. So I had this exchange, especially with other trans boys who were the same age and the same financial condition as me. Until I created a group on whatsapp called “transboy life” and we started having this exchange. So I looked for references in these common people. All my references come from this group - that I still have today. These people are my references and I am theirs - they are real people who have real difficulties, in the financial sense, like how to pay for a psychologist and what alternative do they have to do hormone therapy without spending a lot of money, without doing various aesthetic procedures and having x things. We exchanged this idea together and we remain together. That is my reference today.

I don't really see myself as a reference for other people. Yes, people send me messages every day in this sense and I am “guys, no… for god's sake”. There is a very high demand for what you will show to these people and how you will impact their lives, because you are dealing with another life. I don't see myself as someone else's reference, but people see me that way. And unintentionally it happened. But I don't always have this awareness, sometimes I'm just having fun posting my stories, telling my life, literally. I like to make videos so sometimes I make a video of what is happening in my life at that moment, and it is not with the intention of impacting someone or being a reference for someone, but it ends up happening. Even more than the majority of my audience are black boys, and there is an extensive lack of black trans boys in the community, having this visibility, right? We know that there are only white guys with loads of money... Some who refuse to say that they are trans, others that don't. So it's something heavy to carry, it’s a lot of responsibility that sometimes I see it and I’m like “bro… if I do something and someone does what I’m saying, it can generate some shit in their life and they will blame me”! It has two weights and two measures.

There was a time that one of my Facebook posts had more than three million access and like, for someone that had ten thousand likes on Facebook, it was a big deal. So it was a huge attack, there were a hundred thousand comments and ninety thousand were just haters. Saying that oh, "you are a freak". And at that time I felt really bad, it was at the beginning. Afterwards, I started to understand that these people have no property to talk about my life. If I am exposing myself on the internet, I have come to understand that this will happen, whether I want to or not. So I have to be mentally prepared and sometimes I even stop saying things or publishing things because of that. Sometimes it's like "fuck what you're saying, it doesn't interfere with my life". But there are times when it interferes... Sometimes it comes at a time when you are more fragile and then it gets really hard. The ideal is to take a break, get well, leave the social network, do something else that makes me forget that. That's why I sometimes disappear from social networks, because haters are really heavy, like telling me they will kill me when they see me on the street, things like that, really heavy.

Since 2018 I have exposed my life on the internet. Once I suffered the worst attack of them all. Someone completely distorted some of my tweets and it fell into the hands of some bolsonarist feminists, and spread to a lot of people and people started calling me a pedophile... All because they couldn't distinguish sexual orientation from identity, you know? They thought that just because I told a seven year old that I am a trans man, that I was a pedophile. It doesn't make any sense! Then they completely distorted it, said that I was abusing the child, and marked in my tweet the Child Protective Services and the Federal Police. It took an unnecessary proportion, my tweet ended up on Facebook, on several Bolsonarista pages on Instagram… Until today some idiots repost it and I receive some attacks. And they started making death threats, they went to my youtube channel. I deactivated everything, all my social networks. I did it because it looked like a virus. It looked like an anthill that never ended. I was like, I can't handle… It really felt like I had gone viral, but on the bad side of it, you know? Then I said "bro, I can't anymore". I deactivated all my social networks to disappear. Instagram, twitter, facebook… Then they went to my YouTube channel and started to dislike my videos and comment that I was a pedophile in my videos. I had to deactivate youtube too. I was out of social networks for a month, completely out. The only ones who had access to me were those who had my whatsapp. I think that was in June last year. I was completely off for the whole of June.

And then some people say "oh, why did you leave then if you are not to blame?" But dude, I left because my mental health was at stake, there is no such thing as guilty or not guilty, you are not the one who is suffering an attack every day, so it is easy for you to talk. I spent three days receiving direct attacks, I had to block everything. It was super heavy, I was very, very, very, very bad. I think it was the worst of the worst of my days. I don't think even my dysphoria could be as bad, you know? It was awful. It weighed even more because I dream of becoming a father, you know? And I have already suffered some types of abuse so it sucks even more to be accused of this, you know? But it's over, I've managed to bounce back. (laughs) 

When I was seen as a black woman, I didn't suffer so much. I suffered more harassment on the street, which was pretty bad. Some looks and such... When I entered a store, I always had that look, but now as a man it seems that it tripled. I don't know if it is also because the race factor came together with the transgender factor. When I started to perceive myself as a black man and affirm this to society, it was along with the fact that I was trans as well. I stated both together, so there were two things I was learning to deal with at the time, but the passability was little by little. The fact that I was black had been there for a long time. So, like, there are some situations  that you lived through that you think and reflect and you say "damn it, that was just because I'm black". There is no other explanation.

Like another day. Every Friday at work, I didn't have to wear a suit, I could wear jeans, a cool, comfortable shoe. And I took the VLT at a station near Central do Brasil because I was always late - it was trash day (laughs). That day there was an old white man. And then he started saying "these black people don't pay for the VLT and we have to suffer", he was speaking in a very derogatory tone. I was the only black person on that side of the bus. I had the headset on, it looked like a mess was going on and I, as a gossiper (laughs), took off my headset, looked around and everyone was looking at me. Everyone, really. Do you know when you are in your little world and realize that everyone is staring at you? And the old man there, talking like hell, that "these people from favelas have to die" and such. I was like, "Is he talking to me?" Then a girl looking at me, super embarrassed and such, said "I think he is ..." The guy was saying that I had not paid for a ticket and that I had to die. But I had paid for a ticket, right? There is always that fiscal who checks to see if you paid for the ticket, so I was calm, "ok, I'm not doing anything wrong, I'll stay here sitting". He came and said "look, check out this little marginal, I think he didn't pay for a ticket". The guy came, checked my ticket - because it is obvious, he checks on everyone, it is a normal thing. Then the guy said “the little marginal paid, did you pay?” From Central do Brasil, I got off at Carioca, it was a five-minute thing. And since he entered the second station he had been dissing me. Just because I'm black.

Nobody says anything... Probably people were thinking the same thing as him. So every time it was Friday and I wasn't wearing formal clothes, I was always confused - or even when I was wearing formal clothes, but it was much more evident when it was Friday. I was much more stopped by the police and such. Even getting off the train I was stopped by policemen… I started to realize that it’s really hard to be a man and it’s much harder to be a black man in society, because it is literally that thing “will I go home? Am I going to come back alive or without any other trauma? Am I going to have a new trauma today just because I'm black or just because I'm a man?” You know? And you get that idea in your head that nothing you do with your aesthetics or if you put on more expensive sneakers, none of that will be enough for people. Because if you have sneakers that they think are expensive, for them you will be stealing, because you are black. You stole that shoe, you are not worthy, you did not work. Just because I have an iPhone 11... I even heard it on social media, like, I posted saying that I bought something and there were people saying that I stole money from others to have an iPhone. So I can’t work, I can never save money in my life, I can only fuck myself and that’s it, congratulations, you know? It doesn't make any sense.

Regarding the job I have today, this has never been an issue. It was an issue in the previous ones because there is always this insecurity. Like, there's you and another white girl, it is obvious that no one will choose you - that is a fact. It doesn't matter if you have more knowledge, a curriculum of five thousand pages and such, the white girl will stay with the job. This has happened many times. In fact, there was this time when I and another girl were doing a job interview, and the girl was very hot. The girl was very beautiful, but she was dumb, you know? In five minutes of conversation with her I could see that she had no experience. I was not chosen for the job. We already know why she was chosen for the job, because she was beautiful, and I, obviously, for not fitting the standards of beauty... I had just cutted my hair, so I was not chosen. Two weeks later they called me saying “oh, are you still interested in the job? we have a vacancy here”. Hey, why? It didn't work out with the cute girl who screwed up and then “oh, let's call this one because that's what was left”, you know? That's the feeling: that's what was left. But obviously you accept it because it’s either that or you starve. You have no choice.

There is an OAB [Order of Attorneys of Brazil] ID card that has your name on it, as if it were an identity but with the OAB stamp saying who you are. It is not at all accessible to trans people, it is not accessible to poor people to begin with. Because you need to pay 285 reais to make the ID, and to maintain it is another thousand reais - so it is not accessible. And if you're a trans person, it's even worse, because they don't give you the right to change your name without having to pay a new card of R$285. There are no words for it, it's unacceptable. Not even to rectify your identity you have to pay if you are poor, but in the OAB there is no such thing that you are poor, there is no exemption. If you are poor, it's your problem, either you go away or you make your way to pay.

The only right you have is on the exam, when you are going to take a test to have the lawyer ID card. And yet you have to prove a lot of things… I gave up doing it a few times because of that. Now I think that everything is online, it gets easier, but it was not like that before, especially because of the conservatism within the law. In the legal field there are only old people who have been there for a long time. They carry this conservative place in society and implement it in everything. It's only now that younger folks are coming and making something to change the laws and then yes, everything changes. We now have trans city councilors, which was something that we thought was impossible to happen. And they are doing something to improve, to make it accessible. But in general it is still very conservative.

I think that questioning yourself is already very valid, regardless of how old you are. There are people who first identify as trans at the age of thirty, so why not identify as trans at the age of twelve, thirteen, eight. Trans children exist, that is a fact - I was a trans child. I believe that if it is a phase it will really pass, but if it is not, it will perpetuate. Obviously there is that phase, because we are creating our identity when we are teenagers, so there are several questions and that's okay, it's normal. I think it's very healthy. It is important for us to question ourselves, to have doubts... Everyone has doubts. And what I find most enjoyable in adolescence is that you have this option, this choice to question yourself all the time about what you are, like, “this morning I am x, tomorrow I am y”, and all right man! You are in this phase, you really have to question yourself. I am very fond of this because it is very beautiful. I made the most of my adolescence because I questioned myself about all sexual orientations, to not say that I never tried it, so I don't know if I can… no! Come on and do it, you know? "Oh, I want to kiss a boy today, so I'm going to do it because it's okay, I'm a teenager, I can do shit”. But also calm down there in your shit, you know? (laughs). Let's do shit, but let's do that conscious shit. So it's okay for you to question yourself, to think you're trans... Research it, do it. Look for other people you feel comfortable talking to, this is very important: people you feel comfortable with, people who will look at you and will understand you and not point a finger at you and say that this is not true.

I think we also have to be calm and patient, we can’t rush things and judge everything. I see a lot of older people questioning someone's gender just because he's like fifteen, you know? I particularly think that if you are a trans man, you want to be called that, then you are. If tomorrow you say you don't want more, that's fine, you have your choice. But I also believe that first we have to protect ourselves a bit, talk to people that we trust, this is very important and crucial for the construction of our identity, because nobody ever does anything alone - and it doesn't even work, there are things that we need to feel a welcoming, some affection. So there is nothing more fair than reaching that person that you know is going to be open to have an exchange. The first stupid thing is to talk to someone you know is going to point a finger at you and say that you're crazy, that it's just a phase, that you should forget about it. You will seek shelter in the person you know will give you shelter. You have to feel it, it's a very personal thing. Your identity, your sexual orientation, will only come if you stop and think about what you want, about your self. What you are is not going to change after a while. It's like I always say: The transition always comes from the inside out, first you have to build inside yourself, you have to build your little house inside, and then externalize it.

What I say to younger folks is: build yourself, allow yourself to have doubts, because it is important to allow yourself, don't be so hard on yourself, and go in the faith of god or in the faith of whoever you think is your god. 

Stefan Costa

Black trans man.
Bachelor in Law, Content Creator and YouTuber.
Ambassador of @ceres.trans.


2 years and 10 months on hormones.

*essay from March 2021, Rio de Janeiro (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! SIGN UP TO PATREON TO RECEIVE EARLY ACCES TO IN FULL ESSAYS! You can also make a single or recurring donation. Even $1 already helps make this project possible. Help me help us!

*analog photo processed by Eloá Souto, digitalized by Lab:Lab

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