Growing up as identical twins, Mayla and Sofia have always done everything together, and their decision to have sex confirmation surgery was no exception.
The 19-year-old twins, who grew up in a small town in southeastern Brazil, both say they “never identified as boys.”
Now, they’ve made the transition they’ve long dreamed of together, in what their doctor calls a first.
“This is the only reported case worldwide” of suspected male twins at birth undergoing female confirmation surgery together, said Dr Jose Carlos Martins of the Transgender Center Brazil, a clinic in the city of Blumenau , in the south-east of the country.
Martins performed the five-hour surgery on the twins, one day apart.
A week later, the euphoric young women smiled, joked and shed tears as they spoke of their shared journey during a videoconference interview with AFP.
“I’ve always liked my body, but I didn’t like my genitals,” said Mayla Rezende, a brunette who studies medicine in Argentina.
“I would blow dandelion seeds in the air and wish God would turn me into a girl,” she said.
When she saw herself after her operation, she cried, she said.
His sister, Sofia Albuquerck, is more reserved.
But their camaraderie is clear. They complete each other’s sentences while sharing stories of how they have supported each other through the bullying, sexual harassment and violence they were subjected to during childhood and adolescence.
– ‘Most transphobic country’ –
“We live in the most transphobic country in the world,” said Albuquerck, a blonde who studies civil engineering in Sao Paulo.
There were 175 trans people murdered in Brazil last year, most from all countries, according to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra).
The largest country in Latin America is known for a strong culture of machismo and overt homophobia, especially from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
The twins were born in Tapira, a town of 4000 inhabitants in the state of Minas Gerais.
They still bear the emotional scars of their difficult childhood: to this day, they live in fear of abuse. But they always had the support of their families, they said.
“Our parents weren’t afraid of who we were, they were afraid people would mistreat us,” Rezende said.
Their grandfather is the one who paid for their surgeries. He auctioned off a property he owned to pay the bill for 100,000 reais ($ 20,000).
Their mother, Mara Lucia da Silva, said it was “a relief” when her twins came out as trans.
“I don’t even remember thinking of them as boys. For me, they’ve always been girls, ”she said.
She remembers taking them to doctors and psychologists as a child.
“In my heart, I always knew they were girls and they were in pain,” said the 43-year-old school secretary, who has two other daughters.
“I’m mad at myself for never giving them a doll or a dress, for not making them happier when they were girls,” she said.
But the twins said their mother was a supporting stone.
“Whenever someone did something to us on the street, the first thing we wanted to do was come home and tell our mom to give us a hug,” Rezende said.
“She was like a lioness. She always protected us fiercely.”
– Proud women –
Rezende and Albuquerck – one with their father’s last name, the other with the grandfather who funded their surgeries – originally planned to travel to Thailand for the operation.
But then Rezende found the Transgender Center, which opened in 2015.
Sex confirmation surgery has been covered by the Brazilian public health system since 2011. But only five public hospitals perform the procedure and the waiting list is long.
Going through a private clinic allowed the twins to have the operation earlier.
“I am proud to be a trans woman. I have lived too long in fear of society. Now I ask for respect,” said Rezende, who keeps a photo of Saint Sebastian, the Christian martyr, with her. constantly .
Albuquerck, who is also a nun, said she believed “God created souls, not bodies.”
“I want to help people understand that we are also human beings,” she said.
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