The process of schooling transvestites and trans women in Brazil



GOMES FILHO, Teodoro Antunes [1]

GOMES FILHO, Teodoro Antunes. The process of schooling transvestites and trans women in Brazil. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 10, Vol. 21, pp. 111-118. October 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


This theoretical essay tries to bring to light the problem of the schooling process of transvestites and trans women in Brazil. Its objectives are to approach their level of schooling, to understand their trajectories in the passage of formal education, to identify the reasons that lead them to remain or to escape institutions, to identify whether they suffer physical or symbolic violence, to verify whether they consider guaranteed what Article 205 of the CF (federal Constitution) says, and to verify whether formal education contributes to the face of precarious life. The methodology used for the preparation of this theoretical essay was a bibliographic survey.

Keywords: schooling, trans vestivesties/women, physical/symbolic violence.


According to IBGE, the average life expectancy of the Brazilian population in 2017 was 74.6 years and, according to the National Association of Transsexuals and Transvestites (ANTRA), the average life expectancy of trans people in Brazil was no more than 35 years of age. From this data I became interested in the subject, and my interest increased after reading the book Travestis Envelhecem? psychologist Pedro Paulo Sammarco Antunes, published in 2013 as a result of his master’s thesis (2008 – 2010) by PUC-SP. Antunes identified that, because they are considered devious and abnormal, transvestites are seen as non-human from an early age, cross life as invisible and under much prejudice, improvise their existences in violent contexts, have low life expectant, and those who live to so-called old age can be considered true survivors and end up serving as a reference and example for younger women. Antunes’ research resulted in the survey of demands and needs in relation to transvestites and demonstrated that they urgently need public policies that recognize them as human since forever, so that they can reach old age with dignity and respect, having ensured universal human rights. For his research Antunes interviewed three transvestites, one in Salvador (BA) and two in São Paulo (SP).

The interest in the theme was consolidated with the reading of the book Travestis na Escola, by Luma Nogueira de Andrade, brazil’s first transvestite doctor and professor of higher education. Andrade’s book, published in 2015, is the result of his doctoral research (2008 – 2012) by the UFC and aimed to unravel the resistance and subjecting of young transvestites at school. It addresses the use of the tactics that young transvestite students do to circumvent discipline and control, and produce escape lines for access and permanence in the school space. Andrade’s research was conducted in the state of Ceará, had an ethnographic character and pointed out that of the 184 municipalities only 25 had transgender youth enrolled in state schools. In his research, Andrade observed that the pressure suffered by the transvestites surveyed was so intense that it forced them to abandon their studies, and the idea that it was by their own choice was disseminated. For Andrade, this justification tries to mask the school’s failure to deal with differences, camouflaged the involuntary evasion process induced by the institution. In his research Andrade interviewed three transvestites in municipalities in the interior of the state of Ceará.


For the preparation of this theoretical essay, publications by researchers Jane Felipe, Guacira Louro, Fernando Seffner and Dagmar Meyer were analyzed. For their analyses on the theme education, sexuality and gender relations, these four researchers, as well as Pedro Paulo Sammarco Antunes and Luma Nogueira de Andrade, used the theoretical contribution of Michel Foucault, among other scholars on the subject. Therefore, my initial look at this theoretical essay seeks to raise some of Foucault’s main contributions on this theme.

According to Felipe (2006, p. 257):

The analyses resulting from the contributions of Michel Foucault (1989, 1992, 1993) on the use of the body and its pleasures throughout history, the relations of power-knowledge and the government of the bodies, can be very productive to think about some themes related to sexuality, as well as to perceive and analyze how the subjects have been positioned by the different discourses – medical, psychological, legal , religious and educational.

In this sense, panoptism enables the analysis of how the process of discipline, hierarchy and domination is structured in different spaces, which is consequently reproduced in the school environment. The power microrelations, the techniques of monitoring and punishing and the entire structure of control, classification, standardization and hygiene introduced in the school, were intended to form the individual obedient to the framework, similar to that of prisons, industries, military corporations and hospitals.

To represent the manifestations of a greater power (which sees everything and knows) Foucault developed a concept called panopticon. The panopticon is a complex structure (which allows the observer to see without being seen), but the core of the issue is the concept of surveillance and above all the power it wields. This concept is available in Foucault’s work Vigiar e Punir: nascimento da prisão.

For Louro (1999, p. 06):

Sexuality, Foucault (1988) says, is a “historical device”. In other words, it is a social invention, since it is historically constituted from multiple discourses about sex: discourses that regulate, that regulate, that establish knowledge, that produce “truths”.

As an analytical tool, the concept of device is developed by Foucault in his work História da Sexualidadea vontade de saber. However, the author (2000, p. 244) explains this concept as:

A decidedly heterogeneous set encompassing discourses, institutions, architectural organizations, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral, philanthropic propositions. In suma, the said and the unsaid are the elements of the device. The device is the network that can be weaved between these elements.

In this sense, it is evident that the normative documents determine what kind of man and woman we should be, given what is convenient for the majority consulted, but in the name of this convenience other possibilities of existence are nullified, the existence of some to maintain the hegemony of others is denied.

Based on the Federal Constitution of 1988, the principle of equality must be guaranteed in school to all students, and no restriction in relation to differences of any nature is allowed. Therefore, the student’s right to access and permanence in the school is guaranteed. According to Article 205 of the CF:

education, the right of all and the duty of the State and the family, will be promoted and encouraged with the collaboration of society, aiming at the full development of the person, his preparation for the exercise of citizenship and his qualification for work.

Article 206 says that “teaching will be taught based on the principle of equal conditions for access and permanence in school”.

For Seffner (2014, p. 69):

The importance attributed to the “sexual problem” is part of the emphasis on binarism, which has its origin between the Greeks and the Jews (FOUCAULT, 1980). Binarism is a strong cultural element in our environment, and it helps explain the importance and how we deal with sexuality. Defined some binary poles (man and woman, active and passive, heterosexual and homosexual, white and black, rich and poor, young and old, western and eastern), we immediately value one of the poles, to the detriment of the other, which is seen as inferior or a degraded version of the first. The holistic character that sexuality has in our society partly explains our concern for it, because sex literally “has to do with everything” nowadays.

The conception of a binary sexual identity, where each of which must be accommodated on the side of men or women, according to biological sex, has been especially in recent years strongly called into question, since the sexual identity of an individual can change in the course of his life and transsexuals or transgenders are examples of such modification.

Meyer (2008, p. 65) assists us with the philosopher’s ideas by saying that micropenalties:

They are pedagogical and disciplinary instruments that may be more or less subtle, but they are always punitive processes that propose to eliminate these undesirable behaviors. I am talking, in a way, about the interdiction mechanisms (FOUCAULT, 1988), which teach that one cannot speak of everything, not anywhere, and that only a few people can address certain topics. This is quite clear in the school environment, in which the theme sexuality is seen as the domain of the science teacher (biology teacher, more specifically) or the physical education teacher and should be approached through scientific language.

In this sense we can understand that power comes from all parts, in each relationship between one point and another. And such relationships are dynamic, mobile and maintain and destroy great schemes of domination. As in all societies, sexual hierarchies and gender perceptions are closely related to the hierarchies of power in society and at school, even present subjectively.

In addition to Foucault’s contributions previously brought by the four researchers, it is evident that the problem of physical or symbolic violence suffered by the LGBT population ends up reflecting in the schooling of transvestites and trans women during their journey through formal education.


Butler (2011 and 2019) presents to us the concept of precarious lives, that is, an understanding that the bond between human lives is crossed by conditions of inequality and by the ability to recognize humanity from the other. Thus, we only meet and react with otherness and affection when we build a representational image or equality with the other. In Butler’s words, (2015, p. 40) “to affirm that life is precarious is to affirm that the possibility of its maintenance depends, fundamentally, on social and political conditions, and not only on an internal impulse to live.”

The school is one of the main triggers of these exclusion processes, expressed by violence announced, mostly by the student body and other veiled or silenced violence, by school agents. It is also worth mentioning that these forms of violence, especially the one announced, are often enshrined in another form of violence that we define as materialized violence, directly focusing on the possibility of injury and/or physical violation on the exposed person (FRANCO, 2015).

Bohm, in his master’s thesis (2007 – 2009), entitled Os “Monstros” e a Escola: identidade e escolaridade de sujeitos travestis, conducted research on the schooling of transvestites in the city of Porto Alegre (RS) and metropolitan region and highlights that transvestite identity:

represents a disturbing challenge to the organization and heteronormative principles that also inhabit the school. Few or rare cases of entry, resistance and school permanence of these subjects, since the relationship of transvestites with other colleagues is marked by the exercise of bullying and, with their teachers and managers, is permeated by many problems: the refusal to have the social name accepted in the call, for example, and the prohibition of being able to wear women’s clothes or accessories , among others (BOHM, 2009, p. 81).

People who express gender identities outside the binary norm instituted have difficulties in the most varied spheres of everyday and pragmatic life, and embarrassments and violence are as varied as possible, such as the difficulty of insertion in the formal labor market. In the school institution, there are common reports of difficulty in using the social name on the attendance sheets, the use of a uniform appropriate to gender (and not to biological sex), as well as the use of toilets (NATAL-NETO, 2016).

To conclude this theoretical essay on transvestites/transwomen and their relationship with formal education, I bring some considerations of the master’s thesis (2011 – 2013) Reidel, entitled A Pedagogia do Salto Alto: história de professoras transexuais e travestis na educação brasileira. In the quantitative-qualitative study with about 40 transsexual and transvestite teachers from various states of Brazil, especially from Rio Grande do Sul, Reidel (2013, p. 53) can observe that:

When I see trans teachers within schools or places marked by a type of learning, I recognize that that place has a sensitive look at gender and respect issues. I understand that the place occupied by that teacher has a positive meaning in the social and cultural aspect and, if she remained in this space, it is because the school itself has resonated its political and pedagogical plan of action. If the transsexual or transvestite teacher overcame prejudice and was not intimidated by her life condition, demonstrating security and demanding her rights, she conquered the groups and maintained her status.

Due to their lack of acceptance of sexuality and gender, transvestites and transsexuals have long been left out of school. The search for an egalitarian training, through knowledge to develop skills and skills, causes resistance on the part of this social group to have a place in the formal labor market.


For UNESCO, the elimination of gender inequalities is crucial for the construction of an inclusive and equitable society, because all students have the right to live and learn in an environment free of discrimination and violence.

For all this, it is necessary actions that effectively make the school a space for all, whether they are from different social classes, religious beliefs, sexual genders, or others. Pedagogical projects need to establish an education based on empathy, equality and humanity, because only in this way will a fairer society be able to be built. In addition, formal education institutions need to understand gender as a social, cultural, political and historical construction (VASCONCELOS, 2018).


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[1] Graduated in Geography (UFPEL), Degree in Pedagogy (UNICESUMAR), Systems Analyst and Developer (UNOPAR), Education Specialist (UFSM) and Master in Education (UNISINOS).

Submitted: September, 2020.

Approved: October, 2020.


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