Transgenderism is a widely unknown reality in Portugal.There are no statistics concerning the transgender population, and investigation in this field is limited by the difficulties in accessing individuals that lack support from the law and are stigmatised by society in general. There are many false beliefs attributed to transgenderism, like for example that all transgender people are sex workers or have some other type of night life activity (like strippers or drag show performers). In fact, the most visible part of the transgender community, either national or emigrated from Brazil or from ancient Portuguese African Colonies like Angola, São Tomé e Principe or Mozambique has a professional activity related with one of these two (or both) areas.In a study conducted in 1998 with a sample of approximately 50 transgender individuals, some important issues were identified; a significant majority of the sample came from rural parts of the country (45%) from this 45%, 28% had changed from their birthplace because of their sexual orientation.39% are originally from the city and 16% are foreigners.This sample showed us also that 56% ware sex workers and 44% hade other activities.Some started to work as early as age 11. This gives us important information regarding the social adjustment problems that these individuals have to face, added to the fact that most of them do not benefit from any kind of social security (70%).92,9% of the sex workers work in the street.50% hade already several Sexual Transmitted Disease72% made their HIV test against 28% that never made any HIV test.And when the sample hare asked about the results of the HIV test, among the sex workers, 46,4% answer that they are HIV+, 35%- and 17,9% didn’t now or didn’t answer.From the sample of Tran people that had other activities, 45% hare HIV- and 54,5% didn’t new or didn’t answered.Its very interesting to compare this last results between sex workers and those o have other activities, and mi personal perspective is that those answers are due to a bigger discriminations for HIV+ people among the society in general that among the sex workers, after all sex workers think that they less to louse.A significant percentage abused alcohol, tranquillisers or heroin on a regular basis (70%). Thirty percent of these transsexuals knew they are HIV positive, although only 61% always used a condom.When the person’s interviewed about what day had for most important in dyer lives we get a clear picture about the situation of transgender people in Portugal, this is the sun and the sea that thei dream for.44% Healt22% Family14% Money10% love (do not confound with family)8% HIV2% Lodging and final 0% for drugs and hormonesThere are no specific laws in the country regarding transgenderism or transexualism, only a few court sentences that serve as references about the later and that are sometimes contradictory (ILGA-Portugal, 1999). According to one of these sentences, someone that goes through the process of sex change cannot truly become someone of a different gender. The explanations are, in the case of a male-to-female change, that the individual cannot get pregnant or maintain sexual intercourse in the same conditions as a woman. Sex change is seen as an error and transsexuals are considered mentally unhealthy people. These ideas are a step back regarding a previous sentence (1984) according to which the moral personality of the individual should be respected, the sex change recognised and the name change accepted by the civil registration.In fact, name change is possible for any citizen that wishes it and is a relatively accessible procedure, but only when the new name belongs to the same gender category as the previous one or to a gender-neutral name. This last case is the chosen one by several transsexuals in order to avoid the complicated procedure to have gender identity recognised. For this, the person has to go through a complicated legal process, and it can only occur with the decision of a court of law.Since 1996, sex change operation is possible and occurs in Portugal. It was only that year that the Portuguese Medical Order allowed it to happen. However, no information is available regarding the real number of operations performed in the national territory. Nevertheless, the process to have a sex change operation is long and implies a severe psychological and psychiatric evaluation in order to verify whether the candidate is eligible for the process. This difficult process usually takes around 4-6 years. Before 1996 and still today, many national transsexuals went to other countries, like Marocco or more recently to Equador, to have their operations done, sometimes if not always in very improper conditions.Important problems were identified in what concerns risk behaviours and situations. This way, and, of all, 86% are street workers. As this study concluded, “the transgender community in Portugal is an unknown reality, ignored by the public health system.A large majority of its members having a profession that is considered illegal, they do not benefit from any kind of social and medical assistance.Besides, transgender persons ware until the last 10 years socially not well seen, and ware very often, disregarded as well as discriminated. However, as in the case of homosexuality, the traditional Portuguese tolerance is usually prevalent in the contact with transgender individuals.For a couple of years now several institutions working in the field of HIV prevention and gay rights have organised an annual transvestite gala on the 1st of December (World AIDS Day) to gather funding for the fight against AIDS. This gala has considerable impact in the media like oder public apearences from trans people that have in the last year had visibility with professions like1 bookstore oner, 2 models one of them participating in the national television on a entertainment schow m and is also changing the mainstream idea about the transgender community. Regardless of that, during the Carnival holiday, that is widely celebrated in Portugal, it is common to see men dressed as women without that being considered strange.
Jó Bernardo 2000