Viviana Gonzalez vividly remembers her first day of high school.
She was 12, and imagined a future as a doctor, a teacher or an artist. But the school administrator in her home town in Argentina looked at her long hair, noticed the boy’s name on her ID and kicked her out “like a dog”, admonishing her for wearing “a costume”. She refused to cut her hair and wear a tie. “I was already Viviana. I didn’t want to dress up like a boy.”
When she was 15, Gonzalez, now 48, gave up on studying. She became a sex worker to survive, and also held other jobs, including one as a seamstress. Then, in 2016, a friend offered to help her get a housing subsidy; in reality, Gonzalez was being inveigled into a school for transgender people in Buenos Aires.
She recalls how a teacher helped her sign up: “He opened his arms and said: ‘OK, amiga, welcome to the Mocha Celis. You’re going to go to high school.’ I think I had been waiting for those words since I was 11 years old,” says Gonzalez, flicking away a tear.
“I know a lot of people would say: ‘Finishing high school, that’s nothing.’ For me, it was everything.”
Located in the neighbourhood of Chacarita, the Bachillerato Popular Trans Mocha Celis is the first school of its kind anywhere in the world. It is named after a trans woman who never went to school and was murdered (friends suspect a police officer). The three-year programme enables young people and adults to obtain their high school diploma, or finish elementary school.
Source The Guardian