(this page was last updated in July 2019)
São Gonçalo, Brazil, 1997.
Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
PIPA 2019 nominee.
Agrippina R. Manhattan is an artist, researcher and transgender woman [travestite]. Born and raised in São Gonçalo, she currently lives and looks for a job in Rio de Janeiro. Her work is part of a deep concern towards everything that imposes limits to freedom – words, social norms, the hierarchy, imposed ideas. She says she feels like she doesn’t owe the current system anything and that satisfies her. She chose her own name and invented herself, as she chooses the title for a work or as she finds her voice in a poetic practice. To think of sculpture as poetry, poetry as sculpture and all of it as one.
“To all of it that is possible to think of but it’s still impossible to denominate.
An impossible love.”
Video produced by Do Rio Filmes exclusively for PIPA 2019:
“A Perigosa”, 2019. Duration: 57″
“Transphobia”, 2019. Duration: 30″
“My name is Agrippina, I’m 20 years old and I am a transvestite. It is necessary in this moment that I affirm my identity as both. It is due to these affirmations that I exemplify my themes. When I affirm myself as Agrippina, I’m subverting the politics that condition me to accept the name in the general registry. When I affirm myself as a transvestite, I deconstruct the image the word brings up. The negative image that surrounds this word is perverse and manipulate, by saying I am a transvestite it is expected of me to submit to a stereotype, it is expected to be a certain way, and most importantly it is expected of me to be in a certain place. A place that is automatically connected to the margins, that I be an exception, that I be the event the ends an exhibition that talks about the body. Always the addendum, never the subject. I won’t ever again accept to be the footnote.
It is through this stigmatisation that they push us out, that they throw us into the practice of prostitution, that they kill us, what is unnoticeable, however, is that this stereotype is true when one of the limiting conditions that prevent us transvestites from leaving the marginalised social situation, like the one of prostitution. Too little is expected from us, and too little is offered to us, but to the heterocisnormative perception the consequence precedes the cause. Now I am going to speak and you all will listen. I am tired of being interrupted. If I need to do a performance so that you will hear me, I will. You all don’t know what is the body. You don’t know because you don’t see it in its totality. I am not the exception, you are not the rule. What right do you have to label me as the deviant? I am not a mutant body, I am as normal as it is possible to be, as normal as you are. My body is as weird as anybody’s can be. The difference is that I am not allowed to play pretend. Last year I was part of a seminar at UERJ (Universidade Estadual do Rio de janeiro) where I presented my research on bodies that escape heterocisnormativity, curiously, I name my research “Corpos in Trânsito” [“Bodies in Transit”]. The question that guided me at the time was how can a trans body transit in public space? The questions haunted me then and continue to haunt me, Today, however, I see more clearly. I can even give you an answer. How can a trans body transit in public space? Easy. I cannot look trans. The more “passibility” I have, the easier life gets.
It is necessary to lose weight, to take care of the skin, it is necessary to remove the beard with laser hair removal, it is necessary to stop wearing loose clothing, to begin wearing a bra and panties, to take hormones, to get a breast job, to let the hair grown, to shave the legs, it is necessary to go under plastic surgery to feminize the face, it is necessary to go through sexual reassignment surgery. Out goes the dick and in goes the pussy. It is necessary to learn how to seduce, to be kind, to shut up, it is necessary to be strong, to be resilient. It is necessary to pretend, to lie, to rectify your documents, to move away from everyone that knew you before the transition. They know too much, you are finally another person in the right body. If you like this and want to do these things, good for you!
Everything becomes easier, but still, laser hair removal is expensive and hurts, so do hormones. Feminine clothes are more expensive too. The sizes are smaller so you must make your body smaller. Begin to stop eating, be guilty when you eat, take a laxative when you eat too much. But don’t become neurotic, don’t get stressed, don’t lose your sweetness.
It also seems to me that a lot of these problems are also problems of the cis woman, the same way it compresses me, it compresses them. But this cannot be. They’re “machudas”, I am a man. They are women, I am only womanly. Woman until a certain point. If the feminine symbol is the vagina or menstruation, then Im out. Literally. I don’t have a vagina and I don’t menstruate. So I must not be a woman. I just know how to pretend really well. Good thing I was born pretty. Kind of. If you look closely you will see. I almost make them believe it. Who knows if one day I’ll be a good liar?
And I say this with no irony. I want to be “passable” so much. How could I not want to? Why would I choose to be disrespected everywhere I go? Because to you it is just a word, a pronoun. It makes no difference. To me its everything. It represents that you can see who I am. And whoever comes with the argument that looks don’t matter and that I shouldn’t worry about what others think can fuck themselves. You don’t know how it is. Stop pretending, if you are not in my place, you have no idea.
It is a bonus I have an you’ll never have. You don’t now what it is like to be me. You only perceive half of identity . I know how it is to be cis. I spent 19 years of my life being cis. I wasn’t that cis, we can argue that… but I have been in that place. I know how it is. That is why I can speak of gender better than all of you and you just have to conform. I speak and you’ll listen. Its not about accusing or diminishing anybody. Its about recognising my own strength. There were 19 years of being called the wrong name. There were 19 years feeling afraid. There were 19 years feeling ugly. 19 years lost. 19 years crying in my room because I couldn’t understand. 19 years without Agrippina. And still, I found the strength to change everything about me. Even though I was alone and tires I was able to invent myself. I wont let anyone take that away from me.
Unlike the seminar I presented at UERJ, I’ve realised today that it is not only in the public space that I face problems. I cant enter the sphere of intimacy, of privacy. Someone like me cannot love, someone like me cannot fall in love or be involved in romance. Firstly, I’m not someone, I am a body. A strange body that serves to quench desires of someone that feels horny. I am the one that always receives hard cocks, never flowers. I am the one that’s looked at with desire imagining the size of my cock inside my tight panties, my round bottom wearing a thong, always looking at the man with desire on a phone booth downtown.
Brazil is the country that has the highest search of trans people in internet pornography. The biggest part of the searches are for trans women. Researching in erotic story websites I noticed that stories with trans people are a minority. That is because they usually are small narrations about sexual fantasies, sometimes they create small romances where the story develops and the sex comes in as part of the plot. Or better, there are none that involve any relation that isn’t sexual. I’ve been in love with romances and love stories since I’ve been a child, it’s a corniness I allow myself to have. When I was 12 I read for the first time one of the books that remains one of my favourites today: Tristan and Isolde. It’s is a tragic love story that inspired Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet. I’ve tried since to imagine a story like that for people like me. The only book I’ve found I re-read 3 times, happy to find it. In the story, however, the protagonist doesn’t reveal it’s trans. She spends the whole book passing as a cis girl and in the end when she tells her boyfriend he breaks up with her.
Actually, he doesn’t break up with her, the book leaves that open. But it is clear something has changed. Something always changes when I tell. The vibe gets weird and suddenly I seem to be from another planet. Something changes without anything changes. It is also interesting that in the story, the protagonist is 16 but she has already had the operation. That is the message that is sent to us. To be loved, that is the path. There is no law that changes that, no awareness campaign that will make it different. I don’t want to be your compassion, I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. That is not why I’m here.
I need you all to review how you naturalise things. To me, the most natural actions become a theme. Not only because I’m trans, but because I am me. I don’t need permission to be loved beyond being trans, because all the rest that I am isn’t of interest. I end my speech with the following saying: I don’t need any of you. Or better, I need you the same way that you need me.“