Self-imposed confinement. This is how Casa de Nem, an improvised shelter for victims of LGBTQ violence and homeless people, faces the COVID-19 pandemic.
The six-story building, a few blocks from Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, is home to around 50 people, who only go out in the streets under “extraordinary circumstances” and receive food donations. This is a step they took because as a marginalized group, the risk they face if they contract COVID-19 is far greater than that of other populations.
“Based on the experience we experienced during the AIDS epidemic, when we were accused of being a virus vector and left to die, we are now protecting the community,” Siqueira, 49, a sex worker and transgender activist who runs Casa Nem, was told The AP
Since the organization took over this abandoned building four years ago, they have sought to make it a safe space, especially when the Brazilian state openly declared itself an enemy of the LGBTQ people with the evangelical awakening and their increasing role in Brazil. political life and moral judgment.
They hide not to fall ill, but also to avoid being considered a cause of a pandemic, while taking extreme steps to prevent their citizens from becoming ill. Anyone who arrives at Casa Nem seeking refuge must exile on one floor of the building and undergo quarantine before they can join the community.
Meanwhile, those who felt safe, inside the four walls, entertained themselves by chatting and developing activities to alleviate after confinement, even though they wanted to return to the road.
“We have stepped up our activities to help our psychological condition,” said Micaelo Lopes, a 22-year-old transgender man. “This is a very tense moment where we wait to see what will happen next, without really knowing.”
Others are not so fortunate and are forced to go to work knowing that they face more than one threat, not just a virus threat.
“I’m afraid. I know I’m in danger,” said Alicia Larubia, a 25-year-old transsexual prostitute who waits on a street corner for a client to arrive while contemplating the uncertainty of her future.
After a month locked up in his house, living on the help of his family, Larubia had to return to sex work, because “the need to speak louder (rather than a pandemic),” but his dream was to work in the beauty room.
According to the Brazilian Transvestite and Transsexual Association, ANTRA, 90% of the people they represent are involved in sex work because of discrimination in the labor market and lack of opportunities. More than half have not received assistance from the Bolsonaro government during the pandemic – valued at around US $ 150.
For Richard Alexandre, who lives at Casa Nem with his partner, Lia Mercy, a transgender woman and dancer, things are worse than COVID-19.
“They can find injections for the corona virus. But there is no vaccine against homophobia, transphobia, and suppression,” he concluded.
Brazil is the country hardest hit by a pandemic in the entire South American continent, with almost two million cases and more than 72,000 deaths. Just last Sunday, he recorded 24,831 infections and 631 deaths from the virus, and Rio de Janeiro was one of the epicenter of the tragedy.
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