"The only problem is unsolved death. I say this have felt many times on the edge, but always at the last minute, there was a way out or a helping hand to assist me in a way likely to the light."
– Anderson Bigode Herzer
(TW: discussion of suicide)
Tonight, with four more articles in our daily series, we are going to look at the life of Anderson Bigode Herzer and the implications his legacy has on revealing the lives of queer youth. Our community doesn’t have much information on Anderson, especially in comparison to the other people we have covered, as he was young and relatively unknown. He was a transgender poet from Brazil but never reached the fame many of the other people in our articles have. Though he did have an eventful life, it was not a long one, so there isn’t much information on him. We will, however, explore what we have.
Anderson was not given a good start in life. His father was shot in a bar when he was only four, and his mother was unable to support herself and her child. Anderson first lived with his grandparents and then moved in with his uncle, where he began drinking at a young age. From there, life did not get easier for him. At thirteen, his boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident, and Anderson began to have troubles in school. At that point, still identifying as female, he began to identify as a lesbian. Soon after, he was sent to FEBEM, a correctional facility for delinquent youth, though he had committed no crimes.
The FEBEM was an underfunded detention system that was heavily overcrowded and known throughout the international community for its inhumane practices. We will not be going into detail about the conditions and treatment within the facilities, but it is important to note that FEBEM is often compared to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. The people running the facilities were often abusive, and if they were not, they allowed abuse to happen under their watch.
Anderson, a young child, just beginning to explore his identity, was brought to one of these facilities. There, he discovered that he was transgender and began using his new name, the same name he began writing poetry under. He, like many others within the community, wrote poetry about his experiences, which included poetry about his gender, his imprisonment, and the hardships he’d been dealt. He published his poetry not long before his release from FEBEM at the age of seventeen and found a relatively supportive community waiting for him. His poetry had reached many people, and it was through them that he met Eduardo Suplicy, a member of parliament who reached out to Anderson and hired him as an intern. Despite Suplicy’s efforts, as well as the general improvements in Anderson’s life, the poet committed suicide at age twenty.
This is what we know about Anderson, a young poet who was deeply traumatized time and again throughout his youth and died far too young.
A short life is not an unusual thing in our community. With the average life expectancy of transgender people being between 30-35 years old, we as a community need to take a long look at the reasons behind that. One of those reasons is obviously violent crime, as trans people are not only more likely to be victims of violent crime, but hey are already in a vulnerable position. Because law enforcement is less likely to pursue hate crimes, trans people are less likely to report them, and crimes against the transgender community often go unreported. Though that is a topic that needs to be explored, we are going to look at Anderson’s death: suicide.
Suicide is horrifically common in our community, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t look at some of the reasons behind that. Life for queer youth has never been particularly easy. Discovering that you aren’t cisgender and/or heterosexual in such a cisheteronormative society is almost a herculean task, and it doesn’t get easier from there.
We are surrounded by a society that thinks our queerness is something to be ashamed of, or that we should hide. Faced with so many obstacles, the community is often forced to stay quiet, thus making it harder to connect with each other. Though it has become significantly easier with the Internet, it is still so difficult. For example, people have equated pedophilia with the queer community for ages, thus making it harder for the younger generation to reach out and find help.
This equation also has many negative effects for the adult community, alienating them from much of the growing community. This false connection makes parents afraid of letting their children around queer adults. Anderson, however, was a barely out of his teens, so we want to look to the youth. Queer youth are completely separated from their elders, which leads them to have no connection to their community or their history often. They are left to try and understand everything about themselves, what to expect, and how to take care of themselves on their own.
Because of the false notion that queerness is inherently sexual, any talk of queerness is left strictly unspoken around children. This only further cements the idea that what a child may be feeling is wrong and abnormal. We are often stuck with no role models, no one to look at and see a happy ending, no example that says we can create homes and families and live long, healthy lives. Add that queer history is not taught in schools, and we have a complete break between generations. Queer kids are denied access to elders, to written histories, and to basic information about the queer community. Is it any wonder that so many of us think we’re alone? Even most our safe spaces are inaccessible to people under eighteen years old.
The younger members of the queer community still lack a vital component: guidance. The youth in our community is isolated, yet they are expected to figure out so much about their identities and lives on their own. This separation has caused us to lose so many, including Anderson. A poet who was never given a break in life, who was left alone without any support system, and who deserved better. All of our youth deserve better.
Combating the false correlation between pedophilia and queerness is difficult, so bridging the gap between the older and younger generations will undoubtedly be difficult. We never want to encourage anyone within our community to throw caution to the side, especially in times like these. However, it is so important for the older parts of the community to connect with the younger and have our history accessible to the queer youth. That’s part of why this project was founded in the first place. It is vital that we close the generational gap within our community. It is our job to offer queer youth a safe and open community to learn about their history and provide an example of how great their futures can be.
[Disclaimer: some of the sources may contain triggering material]
A Gender Variance Who’s Who. (2010, February 25.) Anderson Bigode Herzer (1962 – 1982)
poet. Retrieved August 14 2016 from https://zagria.blogspot.ca/2010/02/anderson-bigode-herzer-1962-1982-poet.html
Revolvy. Anderson Bigode Herzer. Retrieved August 14 2016 from