As a businesswoman and attorney, Márcia Rocha was the first trans woman to acquire the right to have her name recognized by the OAB (Brazilian Bar Association) and one of the founders and managers of the project Transempregos (TransJobs)
By the time she graduated at PUC-SP and built a thriving career making business in the real estate market, Márcia Rocha presented herself to the world as a cisgender man married to a woman. However, at a very young age, she always knew her gender identity was closer to the feminine. Only by the age of 30, Márcia realized her transgender condition and, by her 40s, started transitioning.
At the age of 54, Márcia works mostly as a businesswoman. She is the leader of two companies in the real estate market, a very conservative field in which, according to her, ‘I would never have gone so far if I had come out of the closet sooner.’ Presenting herself as a trans woman, bearing a powerful position, she was well accepted – but Márcia knows that in most cases, it’s not like this.
As an attorney, she was the first trans person to acquire the right to have her name recognized by the Brazilian Bar Association, in 2017. She also holds a seat in the Diversity Committee within the very same entity.
As a trans people’s rights militant, she also became a representative for the World Association for Sexual Health and helped found the Transempregos initiative, which connects trans professionals and job opportunities to companies willing to employ them.
Find out more in her interview with bluevision:
Bluevision: Márcia, please, tell us how you realized your gender identity as feminine. How were acceptance and transition?
MR: Since I was four years old, I was already trans. I just didn’t know what trans was. I didn’t understand what happened to me. No one knew or used to talk about this transgender thing. I felt like a woman since I was little. I liked the elements identified as feminine and I used to sit with the girls during school, but I hid it and lived as a man to the world. It was a double life. I did this until I was 33 years old, when the military regime started to loosen. With the internet and more access to information, I started to search more and understand more about what being a trans means. By the age of 39, I started the transition and decided to go further, keeping up with the hormones until the very end. I had started before, but always stopped. By the age of 42, I publicly declared myself a trans individual.
When I decided to tell everyone, it was a big shock to many people. I was already a businesswoman. I already had a lot of experience in the job market. Thinking about this, I achieved things that I wouldn’t have if I had come out of the closet sooner.
How was your transition process to the condition of a woman? What kind of situations did you go through?
MR: People closer to me thought I was going crazy. Everyone used to think I was “the man”, very successful, etc. But some people, even childhood friends who would see me dressed up as a woman, knew about my desire. It’s always been like this. Since childhood. It wasn’t something I decided out of the blue.
Even nowadays, some people don’t accept it. Many people stare at me in a bad way. Previously, they would look at me normally or not even look. Now, they look at me differently. Even older women look at me scared. I learned how to cope with it, but I still go through a lot. I’ve been a member of Paulistano club (a club from São Paulo city) since I was born. When I came out of the closet, they tried to buy my title, but I refused to sell it. They tried to make me stop going to the club, but I still go, and people there still feel weird about it.
How did your family react? Did they accept your transition well?
MR: My daughter, for example, always knew. She always saw me putting on my drag at home, and it wasn’t a problem. The rest of the family didn’t know, however. Some family members reacted well, while others simply got away for good. My mom was the last one to know, and she accepted it better than I expected. She still says ‘I don’t care. I had a son,’ but we get along very well. She doesn’t like it but accepts it. That’s the point. Even though you don’t like it, and you have the right to, you don’t have the right to offend, hit, limit access to, etc.
Before your transition, did you identify yourself as a heterosexual, bisexual, or gay man? How is your sexuality related to your gender identity?
MR: I’ve always been bisexual and, therefore, liked girls. I’ve always been married to women – even my ex-wife supported me during my definitive transition. Since I’ve never been homosexual, I tried to gather information and understand what I was. When I found the academic theory that sexuality and gender identity are separate things, then I understood. I’m the living proof that this is true.
Have you, at any moment, felt harmed by your gender identity?
MR: I wouldn’t have achieved anything if I had made my transition earlier – not even my graduation. I only achieved what I achieved because I was hidden in the closet. The prejudice is real. I feel and live it every day. However, since I already have a powerful position, a nice car, dress up nicely and talk formally, people are more careful.I still have to deal with stares and some bad jokes.
In the professional environment, regarding business and career opportunities, did you feel that your transition had a negative impact?
MR: My income is mostly from my companies than from my attorney position. In companies, it’s easier. I don’t have a boss, and that’s an advantage. Thinking about meetings: after the first impression, it’s very okay. People accept it well. Personally speaking, it didn’t make much of a difference. But to many people, that’s a very harmful factor. That’s why we created Transempregos, to have more justice and give more opportunities to trans people.
In the law sector, after the transition, I went to the Brazilian Bar Association’s Diversity Committee and got some cases to work on. At first, I had some problems with some registries and courthouses. People didn’t know how to deal with it. After having a course on this subject, people started treating me better. I even noticed that the Judges get a little apprehensive because they don’t want to refer to me by the wrong terms. There is a statute in São Paulo that punishes those who disregard trans people. People are concerned about not discriminating. It’s unusual to see someone who doesn’t care about it, nowadays. In the past, however, I’ve been through a situation where the civil servant wouldn’t call me by my current name, only my old name. Having the Brazilian Bar Association’s ID card, it was way easier.
How was the process to have the Brazilian Bar Association recognizing your current name? Tell us more about how important it was.
MR: It was crucial! I thought I wouldn’t make it, for the Brazilian Bar Association is very conservative, but I had the help of many directors back then. In total, it took three years until the commission understood, evaluated and went through all the proceedings. Just then they decided to vote for it. It was unanimously approved and some board members even supported it. I never thought it would be like this. It’s the symbol and recognition that I’m a human being with rights. Allowing the use of the name that represents my image is the recognition of a human right. Nowadays, there are 53 trans attorneys using their current names in Brazil.
A survey by the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra) says that 90% of the trans population has practiced or still practice prostitution as a source of income and did/does it due to economic needs. How can we change this?
MR: This is not actually true. This is a research by Antra, which is an activist movement that deals with street transvestites; in this group, 90% practice prostitution. Nowadays, I have 3 thousand registered curricula in Transempregos and 40% of them have major graduation. These people don’t practice prostitution. Trans men, who are around to 40% of the trans population in Brazil, also don’t follow this path. When they have the support of the family or the transition occurs later, this isn’t a common path to follow.
Mostly, early transitions result in the family giving up on them and, therefore, they end up on the streets. This leaves them without a choice. They have nowhere to live, nothing to eat, no money. For sure, it’s a big percentage, but we’re not certain of how much. The solution is changing society’s mind in the long and short-term. We need to tell the stories of trans people who succeeded and had support. By doing this, we encourage families to support trans people and show them that they can have great lives as well.
How did you develop the Transempregos idea? How does it work? What issues need to be solved?
MR: In the beginning, we didn’t really know what to do. We developed the website to be a bridge between employers and trans people. In the earlier months, from August 2013 to January 2014, there were a few curricula but not even one job offer. After an article in (Brazilian newspaper) Estadão, we started to grow and to have partnerships with big companies, such as Carrefour, Atento, and IBM. Nowadays, we have one or two job offers a day and we receive around 4 curricula a day. In March, between day 1 and 19, we made possible the employment of 20 trans people.
We still need to spread it over Brazil. Most job opportunities are in São Paulo. The prejudice is being broken there, first. However, the process is spreading more and more.
Are you optimistic about LGBT inclusion? What message would you give to other trans men and women concerned about prejudice in their careers?
MR: What I have to tell them is to be patient, improve themselves, study and become the best professional they can; always look for new opportunities and improve their professional and educational background more and more. We already see more trans students in schools and universities. Rules have changed. Society has changed. It’s hard. It’s always been. But it’s getting better. Within 20 years from now, reality will be different. That’s why we must keep going and never give up.
Content published in April 17, 2019