I started researching what being trans meant when I was 17 to 18 years old. I wasn't researching "what it's like to be trans", but the things that I was feeling, because I realized that I didn't fit in the world. However in Brazil it was very difficult to find something that helped me understand who I was or that helped me fit somewhere. This was when I found out that I wasn't an alien and that there were people like me who felt like I felt and that I was trans.

But, as I said, here in Brazil at that time there weren't many tools that could help me understand myself or what the next steps would be. At first I saw a lot of videos of people from the United States, Canada… I found a lot of gringo talking about this but since I don't understand English it was difficult to understand. Yet I didn't give up on understanding what they were explaining and how it worked. Until starting my hormone therapy I've done extensive research on many things. The first "mistake" I made was starting testosterone on my own, it was not a good start, it was very distressful. So today I think it's essential to get a doctor's help for this, because I know what I went through in the beginning. That's what happened, it took me years of research before  starting hormone therapy. It's been seven years since I started and I spent five years only researching. Of course there were several situations that also made me postpone it - like in old relationships when I mentioned I could be trans, the person looked at me and said "it's either that or you stay with me", “either you become a man or you stay with me, you have to choose”. At the time my mind was different, I ended up choosing to stay in the relationship I was in and I had a lot of mental confusion during these five years. My financial situation was not the best, I worked but I earned very little and then I ended up getting stuck in "if I make the transition, if I go ahead, maybe I'll be alone for the rest of my life" because that was the vision I had, that was the vision that the relationship gave me. And then in these five years my mental confusion increased a lot because of that, because I left out something that I wanted to do because of someone else, because of other people. Then when I changed jobs and my financial situation improved there was more information available in Brazil, there were already more answers to my questions, so I started going after it like “it's now! and regardless of who I'm with the person will have to accept it”. The game turned, “either you accept me as I am or we end up”.
Before starting my transition, two people told me “either you make the transition or you date me”. With the second person, at first I said "ok, let's leave it aside again" and this whole financial issue happened, then I managed to get back on my feet and I thought "no... why do I have to leave what I want aside? It won't be like that.” That's when I told her: “it's going to be the other way around now, either you accept me for who I am, you love me for who I am, by my essence, or we'll break up”. At first we broke up. But I could understand that it was because the person didn't understand what it was to be trans. People at that time didn't really understand what was going to happen. A person does not change in their essence, your essence will not change, it will always remain the same. What will change will be your physical body, you will adapt your body to what your mind has always been. We stayed away for a while, then we came back and she asked me to help her understand what it was. At this stage she was super supportive, of course there were some things that… in discussions there were always transphobic lines, like “you're not a real man”, “you're ridiculous like that”. And, again, I conditioned myself to a toxic relationship for six years.

That's why when I talk about prejudice I always say that I suffered much more prejudice among LGBTQIA+ people, than outside. I lost friends, I was a joke, people turned away from me at first. After that, after these things that happened at the very beginning of my transition, I realized that there could be people who, like me, also felt excluded, felt like they had no one. That was when, along with four other boys, I decided to create the "Transmen League" here in Caxias. We helped each other, right? In addition to helping others we helped each other, because no one really understood what was happening to us. We knew that together it would be a little easier, so each one tried to get some information from public agencies to see what we could do in terms of health and other things. This group was created in order to help other boys here in Caxias - there were already NGOs here in Caxias, but we felt it was lacking something specific for trans men. The G predominates, right? The G is always the focus. And the NGOs here in Caxias had gays, had lesbians, had travestis and had trans women, but it was more difficult for trans men, there was even a certain prejudice - that's why we created the League at that time. But it didn't work either, it turned out that each one of us took a different path to their lives and the League ended. If I'm not mistaken, we started the League in late 2014. It was at the same time as I started my transition. I was already talking to other boys here in Caxias about transitioning, about being trans and such, so we decided to create this group. It was around the end of 2014 and I think it lasted until 2017. I don't remember quite right because I left the League and it continued existing. And then the boys also ended up moving and the ones who took over later didn't get on with the work.

Nowadays things are very different from when I started researching. Wow, so different! Nowadays the access is much easier, you can research about therapy, you can research about this in SUS (Health Unic System). No one talked about this at the time I started researching. When we set up the league I had… My mother was always involved in politics and she told me to “go to the infectious diseases sector of CES (Specialized Health Center), if I'm not mistaken there is something there for trans people. Go check". I went, and that was where they told me that there was a waiting list to go to Porto Alegre to undergo the entire treatment there. So I started researching about it, searching for a doctor. But in the meantime I was already doing my hormonal therapy alone because I joined many Facebook groups and started asking those who were already in therapy: “how does it work? What testosterone do you use? How do you use it?”. The difference from that time to today is that at that time I didn't understand that it was something that would totally affect my organism, my mind - like it or not, it also affects the mind. Then I started to apply Durateston (equivalent as Sustanon) every week, once a week. I started to have a lot of headaches, I was very angry, sometimes even a cross “hi” would make me mad, I wanted to hit everyone, I wanted to break everything. One day I thought “I'm going to the doctor, I'll try to find a list of blood tests to see how my body is doing. If the doctor doesn't want to give me the prescription, ok, I'll keep buying it in the method I'm buying, but at least I will know how my health is going.” Then I started talking to boys who were already undergoing medical follow-up with an endocrinologist, like “what kind of blood tests can I ask for from the doctor?” I went with a list of blood tests, asked the doctor and from there on I started to do my own follow up. I used to buy testosterone in a clandestine way but I had my exams up to date because the blood tests the doctors didn't deny it.

At the very beginning, when I tried to look for an endocrine through SUS, they called me back telling me that it was "futility" and that the endocrine would not answer. Then through the clinician, the doctor looks at you and says: “isn't it easier for you to stay as you are?”. If you try to find a psychologist through SUS, they are not apt "oh, it's because you're rebellious, there's something to do with your family, etc." At that time, there were no qualified professionals to assist me; nowadays it's easier. That's why for a long time I did my hormone therapy by myself. I adapted, I changed from Durateston every seven days to 21 in 21, which is the normal cycle. Durateston didn't work for me, so I started Deposteron every 15 days and I kept using it for five years. Earlier this year my endocrinologist - now I have medical follow-up with an endocrinologist - decided to change it to Testo (similar to Aveed), which is every three months, the cycle is better, it doesn't fluctuate so much. It was very complicated to deal with the reactions I was having. I had a lot of headaches, menstrual cramps… I didn't menstruate anymore, but I felt a lot of menstrual cramps - which later I found out it was because my uterus was atrophying - and breast pain, because I wore two binders to hide… to hide my breasts. When I had my surgery I had a lot of skin because of that, because my breasts were atrophying and the skin remained, so I felt a lot of… Well, to this day I have marks under my arms because the compression vests were too tight.
I got on SUS' waiting list in 2014, when I started my transition. I had my mastectomy in 2018. I only got the call to start the follow up in Porto Alegre after I had already had the mastectomy. If I'm not mistaken, I waited four years until they called me to start the follow up in Porto Alegre. Then when they called me I said “I'm not even going to take this place in line, leave it to someone who really needs it because I've already done it all by myself. I got medical follow-up with a doctor, psychologist and I'm doing this part on my own”. I also did the surgery privately, it wasn't through SUS. At great cost, because when I started researching the mastectomy procedure, I went to the doctor and he was super sweet and said “let's do it”, but then the hospital denied it. “Self-mutilation” and denied the surgery. Until hospitals started accepting doing the procedure I took a little more time researching. That phase of suing Unimed (health insurance) here in Caxias began, because the health insurance has to cover part of the surgery, and then the hospitals began to understand. After that I managed to find another doctor - who had performed surgery on a friend in Bento [Golnçalves] - to do my mastectomy. It was very complicated at the beginning, you know? It is complicated. Life is complicated. For us, the access to things is a little more difficult, so to speak. I think that at the beginning, without any information, it was worse. There were cases where we were in a place and a friend started to feel short of breath because the binder was too tight, but if he loosened up more people could see that he was wearing a binder. Then you are in this deadlock: feeling physically bad or feeling psychologically bad? Which one is better?

The truth is we suffer prejudice. As I said before, I suffered much more prejudice within the LGBTQIA+ community than outside. I think it was easier for me because of passing - although I don't like this word so much. Because of the League, because most of my friends are trans, I realized I had a privilege in this matter. Testosterone started to take effect very quickly. I already had more masculine traits before the transition and I have friends who have basically the same time on hormone therapy as me but passing came a little earlier for me. I don't like that word, but anyway, I think my time to suffer on the street was shorter. That's why I think I'm privileged. It's pretty complicated.

When I came out - no, not "came out" -, when I realized I was trans, I made a whole post on Facebook telling people that there would be a change in my name and that I would like them to call me by the name I chose because that was how I saw myself and such. It was from there that my trans friends network started. Many boys came to me with questions like “oh! how did you find this out? what did you feel? how is it? how does it work?" It started from there, people started talking to me because they were experiencing similar feelings. It was very important and helpful because each person had different and important information, so we talked a lot about everything. Like “I found out that there is a binder with a softer material, it doesn't hurt so much, it doesn't show so much, it's good because it holds tight” - and then I went after it. “Oh, I found out that there are teas that accelerate the effect of testosterone”. “I found out that in Bento there is a guy that managed to make his transition only with herbs”, “great, cool, let's talk to this guy”. And so our support network grew. It's very important because you're with people who go through basically the same things and obstacles as you.

Nowadays everyone moved on with their lives and we lost contact so I don't have as much contact with the people from the League. But sometimes we talk and it's really cool to have this exchange of experience and see how one vibrates with the victory of the other - I think this is the most important thing in this community, regardless of whether you talk to the person every day but being there, being together for real, always knowing that someone is rooting for you. This is amazing.

Wow, the Rapha of today is another Rapha, another person. I am very grateful for my story, for my journey until here. Everyone has those moments "oh, what a shitty life, why the fuck things go wrong with me..." But when I think about my life so far, today I'm very grateful for everything I've been through because that's what made me what I am today. It wasn't easy, the beginning is never easy, when I came out to my family they always made it clear that if I wanted to kill myself I had to do it myself, they wouldn't help me - "killing me" was injecting testosterone. After many conversations, after many times showing them that it didn't work that way, that everything was supervised and that, you know. The relationship has completely changed, nowadays I feel a lot of respect from them. Even being alone helped me. The Rapha of today is the Rapha who hasn't achieved everything he wants yet, but who fights for it. That has an amazing family, that has an amazing wife - because Deise helps me a lot, she always helped me, since the beginning, since before. Maybe she doesn't even know it, but she was always kind of a mirror for me, she was my focus, you know? Since I was 10, 11 years old, I kind of saw her as a role model. I have a beautiful son. I have nothing to complain about because after a lot of effort, a lot of “no”, of “we don't have a job” - I took a lot of “no”, I lost my job for being trans. I was working when I started my transition and later they fired me - of course they didn't say that was why, but two months after I started my transition they fired me. Since then until about two or three years ago I only managed to do side hustles. Then I started working in a barbershop, it was a field that accepted me and changed my life; I met an amazing guy, I consider him my father, because he was very important in my life, he gave me an opportunity to start in this business, he taught me everything I know and when he left he even left the barbershop as a gift to me. Then I got this bartending thing, which is also another amazing area to work on. I think perseverance made me get here, like, I didn't give up on the first no, because man, we receive "no" our whole life, right? We already have the no, we are looking for the yes. I think the Rapha of today owes a lot to the Rapha of the past, for all he endured and went through to get to where he is now with his head held high.

[Film photography - developed and scanned by Lab:Lab]

I always wanted to have a child, it was always a dream. In my past relationships, this was never considered, “wow, no, my life will end” - that's what I used to hear. When Dê and I started to date I told her that I always wanted to have a child, so much so that our dream of having a child started before we got married. My relationship with Dê was very quick, everything was very quick - in early April I came back single from Erechim and in May we were already dating, in June we were already living together, in November we got married, so it was all very fast. It's been two years since we've been married. So in June we were living together, in November we got married, in April of the following year came the news that Noah would come, in January of the following year Noah was here. So it was all so fast and amazing, it was all… It's all been amazing. Having a child is a joy, it's a delight. We spend sleepless nights, we have to change diapers, we get cold because of them, but it's very delightful. I have a very heavy sleep, so I won't say that I really help because I don't, I barely play my role. Dê is a warrior because basically she is the one who takes care of him at night, but on the nights I stay with him and he doesn't want to sleep... sometimes I'm so tired that I think about shouting, like "let's go to sleep!" Then I lift the blanket and there's this big smile... There's nothing one can do, you can't curse, you start playing together because all the anger in the world disappears. Coming home and seeing that he's looking for me is the best feeling in life, it's so good. And having a wife as she is only for few people. She supports me a lot. If today I have what I have and the barbershop it's because of her, because in the short time I've been with her my mind changed completely, she helped me grow. Today I thank her for everything I have, for the family, for the financial situation, for… Anyway, for everything. If I have what I have today, it's because of her.

Nowadays I realize how much I accepted the situation I was going through, I accepted it because I understood that I didn't deserve more than that. Nowadays, I can see that I had toxic relationships that always put me down. And when you're living the relationship, when you're immersed in it, giving yourself to it, you end up not realizing that it's toxic, that you're being diminished. Today I see that I spent many years of my life being diminished in toxic relationships with people who saw me more as… How can I say? As a fetish and not as the person I am. So there's also this issue of relating to people who have a fetish in you, it's very complicated, but I think you must understand that you deserve more, that you can do more than that. Nothing is easy, that's why I harp on about it: it's necessary to undergo hormonal therapy with medical supervision. Psychological support is very needed. Not only for those who are trans, I think everyone needs psychological support because we need to understand that no one is bigger or better than us, that we can get to certain places with different paths. Maybe for me it's a little easier than it is for you, or maybe for you it's easier than it is for me, but we can get to the same place by different paths and we deserve it, we have to fight for it.

[Film photography - developed and scanned by Lab:Lab]

My family at the beginning told me that “if you want to kill yourself, do it alone” and then… I was insistent but chilled at the beginning. When I came out as trans to my family I was incisive like “my name from now on will be this one, the way you are going to call me will be this”, but I didn't force it, you know? I wasn't like “I want you guys to do this”, because, you know, it was more than twenty years calling me by a name, treating me in a totally different way, it wasn't overnight that change was going to happen. It would be weird to think that it would happen overnight, especially with older people like my grandmother, who raised me. So I was chilled. Even today my grandmother misses my name but it's not something that affects me, she makes a mistake and then corrects herself. My relationship with my mother changed a lot after Noah, we are much closer after the news that Noah would come into the world. We never got along very well, our relationship was always tense but now it's amazing. After this fatherhood I think I can understand her too… I think we are starting to understand both sides.

At first is always difficult. I had to come out twice. On the second time, my godmother - who was one of the people who raised me too, she always wanted to have the little girl in a pink little dress, she tried to do this with me, frustration came, then when she was almost 40 years old she got pregnant, she thought it was going to be a girl and when she found out the baby was a boy, she got depressed and such. She always wanted that little girl to raise as a lady and never got it. When I came out as transgender, that frustration came again, but nowadays I think that time helps to heal and teach us some things. Everything that came out on TV or, I don't know, in articles, I used to print it out and show them like "look, this is how it happens, I'm not alone", because I feel that at least for my family it wasn't a matter of not understanding, but they were afraid of what could happen to me in the streets - I think that's more or less the point, you know? So I understood that they had their time to go through this phase of grief and today the relationship is amazing. Nowadays, when me and Deise get there they go straight to Noah. There's this whole thing too, Noah is a little angel in our lives, he helped change our relationship with people, what was already good became great and what was not so good, improved. Noah is the other transition I've had, it's another starting point in my life. Like stages: pre-t and now pre-parent, post-parent. Parent transition. Life changes a lot.

I wish the world were different for him, you know? I think this generation of kids will now grow up more liberal, with a more open mind; In terms of gender and sexuality I think it will be kind of fluid, it will be normal, natural. I want a different world, a world with less prejudice, less racism, less homophobia… A cooler world. But I think it will take a while. Maybe he's one of those who continue to fight everything we're fighting, right?

We hope to educate him in the most correct way possible for this world there. It's complicated to think about this, very complicated. Even more so in a post-pandemic world that is where he will live.

I've suffered a lot and it took me a long time to understand that because of my bone structure I will never be a skinny guy. That's when Deise comes in again, it was Deise who helped me understand this, to understand that my body is beautiful the way it is. Why follow a beauty standard? If my bone structure doesn't allow it, why should I put a goal in my head to get to an extremely skinny body? Why get frustrated based on what others think beauty is? So I'm in this transition phase too, of understanding that my body is beautiful the way it is and that's okay, and the ones that don't like it can go… you know?
It's a standard right? That's why I think breaking patterns it's also interesting, which for me, in my transition, is enjoying my body. There is a standard - let's talk about people that everyone knows [instagram influencers in Brazil]: Transdiário: he's white, he's thin, his body is toned. The other Luca: white, has light eyes, not overweight. Paulo: he is white, he has an incredible beard, he is thin. So it's a standard right? Thamy: is white, comes from a family that has money, has an amazing house. Do you understand? So it's kind of… That's why I think this project is amazing, because it shows that other people can also get there, you know? I don't come from a rich family, I'm black, my body is overweight and that's fine. But I managed to conquer things, maybe not to the same degree that people on instagram or youtube show, maybe not in the same financial proportion, but I did. I have my home, my family, I have love, which is what matters most, I have a job and that's what matters. Sometimes we go in search of the peak but don't go up the steps that are in the middle of the way, we bite off more than we can chew, so we get frustrated and end up coming back. Nowadays I understand that it's one step at a time. At the beginning I didn't understand it, I wanted the peak, I wanted it all at once and I wanted it easily. Nowadays I understand that it's a step at a time. We can't stop at the first one.

Today I am very proud. Of what I have today. Very. And I know I didn't do it alone, but my effort was worth it.

I think my message is to not give up. To have perseverance, perseverance makes us get where we want to get. It's like I said, it's a ladder, it's one step at a time; don't give up on the first one, because what we'll most encounter ahead is "no". People wanting to take us down is what we will find the most along the way. It's a fight, a daily fight. So don't give up. 

Zion Raphael Alves

Has been in transition for 7 years, has been married for almost 2 years and has a beautiful 8 months old baby (Noah). Barber (owner of a barbershop) and head of a bar/bartender in a Beer Garden in Caxias do Sul. Loves conversation circles about sharing experiences, especially those in the LGBTQIA+ environment.


7 years on hormones

*essay from August 2021, Caxias do Sul (RS), Brazil
Project financed by the notice resulting from the Term of Consensual Commitment⁣ signed by PRDC-RS/MPF as a result of the early closing of the exhibition "Queermuseu - Cartografias da Diferença na Arte Brasileira"

This project was idealized and is made by Gabz, a transmasculine non-binary multiple-language artist. Ser Trans is a project that portrays and also makes room for trans, travestis and non-binary people to be the protagonists of their own histories. We look for representation in front and behind the camera. This project started out of urgency. Ser Trans is made also by the collaborator Lau Graef, transmasculine artist, visual arts student and autonomous activist; and Luka Machado, travesti, actress, visual artist and activist.
Ser Trans is autonomously produced by trans people and all content is offered for free. You can sustain this project by sharing it with friends and making a one time or recurrent donation - any value is welcome. For early exclusive access to all content, subscribe to the project's Patreon. To know click the link bellow. Thank you for supporting a project made by trans people <3


Self portrait of Gabz  developed by Eloá Souto and scanned by Lab:Lab

You may also like

Back to Top