“Why not?” is the campaign slogan of Brazillian sportswoman Tifanny Abreu, who is hoping to become the country’s first ever transgender MP after a successful career in professional volleyball.
After ten years competing in men’s international volleyball, Abreu became the first transgender athlete to compete in Brazil’s Superliga, which is the country’s top competition for women’s professional volleyball.
Now, she is ready to enter the political landscape, running as a candidate for the centre-right party MBD (Brazillian Democratic Movement), which is not sitting well with much of Brazil’s LGBT+ population.
The athlete turned political candidate is facing backlash over running for Michel Temer’s conservative party, although she claims “I don’t give any importance to parties, but to people.”
Abreu’s connection to the party stem from her volleyball club, Volei Bauru, which is sponsored by industries linked to MBD.
Abreu told AFP that she had known for a long time that she was a woman, saying, “I wanted to make my transition when I was 12 or 13 years-old because even from childhood, I knew I was a woman. But I lacked information, guidance and above all, hospitals where I could get the operation done.”
After undergoing reassignment surgery in 2012, Abreu returned from Europe to Brazil to make history as the first transgender athlete to compete in the Superliga, which was met with heavy criticism.
Fellow volleyball competitor and Olympic bronze medalist Ana Paula Henkel wrote on twitter about her disapproval of Abreu’s return to the female volleyball competition, saying “it’s not a question of prejudice, but physiology.” Henkel, also a conservative, continued “Her body was built with testosterone all her life.”
However, the International Olympic Committee decided ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics that transgender athletes were allowed to compete in women’s games, provided that they controlled their testosterone levels. Transgender athletes would previously have had to go through gender reassignment surgery in order to compete in the Olympics.
Abreu is now aiming to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, while hoping to be elected as an MP in Brazil in the October 7 election.
There are a total of 53 transgender candidates for this year’s elections, with the majority running for leftist parties.
Abreu is hoping to promote and achieve trans acceptance in the country if she is elected. According to figures from the National Association of Transsexuals, Brazil has the highest rate of transgender murders in the world with a total of 179 being reported in 2017.
Meanwhile Jair Bolsonaro, an anti-LGBT+ presidential candidate leads the polls in Brazil. Bolsonaro is known to speak out against LGBT+ people and is reported to have claimed he would rather have a dead son over a gay son.
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