'The judiciary was fundamental in achieving practically all our rights'

Marcia Rocha is the first trans attorney to achieve the social name at the Brazilian Bar Association. She spoke to Leaders League about the process and the fight for inclusion for transgenders in the Brazilian market.

Posted mercredi, mars 8 2023
'The judiciary was fundamental in achieving practically all our rights'

Leaders League: You were the first trans woman to have her social name recognized by the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB). What is the impact of this milestone on the legal community?

Marcia Rocha: To achieve the social name, there was a three-year internal process at OAB. Many experts were studying the case, examining whether it could be legally feasible. When the decision for the social name came out, some judges spoke to me and even to other people close to me, inquiring how the name issue would work because there could be a fraud and things like that. But we stood our ground and always reasoned. In the end, it was granted. It was approved unanimously in 2017. This decision greatly impacted OAB and worldwide because I was the first person in the world to have two names in a government document: my registered name and my social name. We have no proof, but we suppose that because there was a legal study about it, the Supreme Court later granted the possibility for trans people to change their name and sex directly in the notary's office. This helped because much research was already being done within OAB. If the entity, which has many technical experts, understood that it was possible, it would be possible for everyone. Then the Supreme Court granted the name and sex changes. So, the impact was huge.


How do you currently see the inclusion of trans people in the legal market? And how do you believe that projects such as TransEmprego, to insert trans people in the job market, can contribute with this bridge to law firms?

Many trans attorneys already existed; I was not the first. I knew one from Pernambuco, who passed away and came well before me. And now the social name, and after I was in the Committee [of Sexual Diversity], in the State Board of OAB-SP, changed how the Brazilian Bar Association viewed us and made it more accessible. Today, transgender people are working in many large law offices. In São Paulo, almost all the leading law offices have trans people working - attorneys and non-attorneys. But practically all of them do. And it was something significant. And TransEmpregos also works by placing these people in leading law firms, making this bridge, and I also personally do this bridge with leading law firms all over Brazil.

Before your transition, you were perceived as a middle-class white male entering one of the most conservative markets in the country. How did your peers receive you during your transition process? Was there any reluctance in your practice as an attorney because of your gender identity?

I'm a businesswoman; I do not make my living as an attorney. When I started, I represented my companies mainly in real estate contracts. Still, after I joined the Diversity Committee, I also became involved in several LGBT rights issues that exist in Brazil. I helped in some debates and participated in some meetings. But when I came out in 2011, there was some resistance at first and in many other moments. For example, when I joined the Board, I heard attorneys saying that OAB is over now because it had a trans woman advisor.

So, prejudice exists, it is steadfast within people, but this is precisely what I fight with my existence. It is enough to be there to make a difference, show competence and reliability, and not make mistakes. I have a massive responsibility for my image because it has enormous repercussions, especially within OAB. And it is essential to maintain a consistent appearance, to avoid giving reason [for gossip]: "see, this person was put there; look what happened.” We must be cautious not to give cause for prejudice. In court, there were some situations, and some confrontations, but nothing too intense, because in São Paulo, especially, we already have law 10.948/2001, which is very strict and administratively punishes any discrimination against LGBT people. I often realized there was a concern about not discriminating against me in registry offices, police stations, and the courts. But not because of who I was but because of this law.


How do you evaluate the present panorama of civil rights for the LGBT+ population? How do you see the balance between what has already been conquered and what is yet to be conquered?

We have conquered a lot. We are one of the three best countries with the most LGBT rights in the world. There is little more to achieve. There is the issue of the bathroom, which is being judged, and there are some issues of prisons. These are challenging problems - especially in prisons. But in general, we conquered many things, and there is little more to achieve. We need to be very concerned that there are no setbacks and that we don't lose these rights. They are not guaranteed by law; they are rights won in the courts, all of them. So, we need to be very careful that there are no setbacks, mainly by keeping the configuration of the Supreme Court with people who are not highly conservative.


And what is the judicial system's role in this struggle for equality of rights for the LGBT+ population at this stage?

As I mentioned earlier, the judiciary was fundamental in achieving practically all our rights, especially at the national level. Our victories were all in court, based on Human Rights, equality, on constitutional issues, such as the dignity of the human person. So these conquests were in the judiciary, evaluated by technical experts. When they go to congress, many people don’t understand anything about legislation, and there is much prejudice, religious issues, and many other problems that hinder the approval of a law guaranteeing rights. So, the judiciary is the way, not only in Brazil; there are other countries too, like France, the United States, and many others, where the court becomes the means to achieve rights for the LGBT population.


By: Danilo Motta