In a first, Brazil twins undergo gender confirmation surgery together
As identical twins - Mayla Rezende and Sofia Albuquerck - did everything hand in hand, and their life-changing decision to undergo a gender confirmation surgery was no exception. The twins, aged 19, who grew up in a small town in south-eastern Brazil, say they both "never identified as boys." The siblings undergoing gender transition is being called the first such case. Here's their journey.
"This is the only reported case in the world" - of twins presumed to be male at birth undergoing female gender confirmation surgery together, said Dr. Jose Carlos Martins of Transgender Center Brazil, a private clinic located in the city of Blumenau. Dr. Martins performed the five-hour surgery on the twins one day apart, international news agency Agence France-Presse reports.
A week after the surgery, the sisters shared their incredible journey in a video-conference interview with AFP. "I always loved my body, but I did not like my genitalia," said Rezende, who is currently studying medicine in Argentina. "I would blow dandelion seeds into the air and wish for God to turn me into a girl," she added.
The twins were born in Tapira, a town of 4,000 people in the state of Minas Gerais. They suffered years of bullying, sexual harassment, and violence that they were subjected to during childhood and adolescence. They, however, said they always had the support of their family. "Our parents weren't afraid of what we were, they were afraid that people would mistreat us," Rezende said.
In fact, it is their grandfather who paid for their surgeries that cost 100,000 Brazilian reais ($20,000) by auctioning off one of his properties. Mara Lucia da Silva, their mother, said it was a relief when her twin daughters came out as trans. "I don't even remember thinking of them as boys. To me, they were always girls," she said.
"In my heart, I always knew they were girls, and they were suffering," said Silva, a school secretary, who has two other daughters. "I'm upset with myself for never giving them a doll or a dress, for not making them happier when they were girls."
About the situation for the trans community in Brazil, Albuquerck said, "We live in the most transphobic country in the world." The Latin American country is known for a strong machismo culture and rampant transphobia. Further, as many as 175 trans persons were murdered in Brazil last year, the most of any country, according to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals.
Rezende and Albuquerck had earlier planned to go to Thailand for the surgery. But Rezende eventually learned about the Transgender Center, which was opened in 2015. "I'm proud to be a trans woman. I've lived in fear of society for too long. Now I'm asking for respect," said Rezende. "I want to help people see that we're human beings, too," her sister Albuquerck stated.