South American country leads the world each year in the number of murdered trans people. But the same hate continues to brew here at home

In the 1990s I had a U.S. passport. It had a guy’s picture on it and an “M” under “Sex.” I applied for a new one recently, and in spite of the government shut down, I received my brand new passport, complete with a picture of a gracefully aging woman with a sex designation of female.

No fuss, no hassle.

But there is one place I will not be using my new passport to visit for vacation or any other reason. That’s Brazil.

That country, more than any other, is a slaughterhouse for transgender women. Every year since we’ve been keeping track, Brazil has led the world in the number transgender women being murdered.

I offer a warning here to those who may not have the emotional strength to hear of one more horrific crime: Please know that I understand. But the gist of this column is to call out Brazil as a nation and Donald Trump as a leader.

Brazil’s tacit approval of the treatment of trans women combined with the Trump administration’s immigration policy is putting asylum seekers in mortal danger, and it’s breaking my heart!

So, to my dear readers who are not up to reading these gruesome facts, I will bid you farewell until my next column (which I hope will be more uplifting).

Again, if you are tender of spirit, please read no further.


I remember the first Transgender Day of Remembrance I attended. It was in 2013 at Cathedral of Hope. The names of the trans people murdered worldwide were read one at a time.

It wasn’t just the sheer number of names read out or ages attached to those names that was so horrifying. It was the facts of the horrific ways in which they died. These women and girls — and some men — were shot, stabbed, beheaded, set on fire.

These murders were personal. They were driven by hate and a culture that gives no value to the lives our precious brothers and sisters.

Then came 2018, another deadly year. There were 369 trans, non-binary and gender-variant people were worldwide. And again, Brazil, far and away, led the list with 167 trans murders.

And it isn’t slowing down.

Just this week came the report of the particularly gruesome slaying of a 35-year-old trans woman named Quelly da Silva. Her killer, identified as Caio Santos de Oliveira, allegedly was intimate with her and then the next day, he ripped her chest open, pulled out her heart and wrapped it in cloth to take it with him. Then he covered the wound in her chest with the image of a Catholic Saint.

He has confessed to the crime and is being held on charges of robbery (he stole her phone) and murder. He told police he killed Quelly because she was a demon.

I don’t share these details lightly. I share them because Quelly is me; her life was no more or less valuable than mine. But I can’t conceive of someone hating me so much they would cut my heart out after sharing intimacy.

I can’t imagine a country where this goes on virtually unchecked. There is no campaign I’m aware of to educate the Brazilian population to help end this hatred. Far from it, in fact.

The new Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro (Portuguese for “Trump”), began lashing out at the Brazilian LGBTQ community shortly after being elected. He’s been quoted as saying he’d rather his son die in a car accident than be gay, and is been on record as encouraging parents to “beat the gay out of their children.”

As you might imagine, this nut’s behavior is encouraging many LGBTQ Brazilians to seek asylum here. Maybe they haven’t heard about our president? But, as you’ve heard, “caravans” are not welcome, and if Trump has his way, a giant, medieval wall will be built atop what used to be America’s welcome mat for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

We should be welcoming these terrified travelers with open arms. Instead, we are turning them back, exposing them to government retribution, violence and starvation.

Trump’s wall isn’t just targeting Mexicans. It’s a thousand-mile-long, ugly gray message to the rest of the world: You are not welcome here.

Our immigration policy is going to cost lives. How many more of our trans brothers and sisters have to suffer such a senseless end, victims of violence born of hate and religion run amok?

The truth is, though, things aren’t much better here. While we have been encouraged by the recent passage of a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community in New York, our home state of Texas is having none of it.

And the federal government under Trump has been hell-bent on erasing trans people from society practically since their day one.

The fact is, the same toxic attitudes that created the slaughterhouse in Brazil are brewing in Washington and in Austin. The best we can hope for is some small measure of safety from cities like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and a few others that have passed laws protecting trans people.

So stay safe. Watch out for yourselves and for each other.

I refuse to live my life in fear. But to ignore the very real face that there exist people who would take my life just because of who I am would certainly be ill-advised. So, when thinking about vacation spots, we are going to spend our tourist dollars in places that value us not just as tourists, but as humans deserving of equal treatment.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at