"The only problem is unsolved death. I 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 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 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. 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 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 transgender people are not only more likely to be victims of violent crime, but they are already in a vulnerable position. 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 queer adults as well, 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. They are left to try and understand everything about themselves, what to expect, and how to take care of themselves on their own.
The younger members of the queer community lack a vital component: guidance. They are isolated, and 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 also 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.
But it was not the generational gap alone that led to Herzer's suicide, there was also a great deal of trauma he was never able to fully deal with, even when he was given access to mentors. Through an already difficult childhood, he was pushed into an understaffed and overcrowded detention facility where he was given the worst care possible.
Anderson was failed by every community he interacted with, time and time again given the worst each of them had to offer. Not all of this is fixable by individuals, but we find our role in a quote from Anderson himself:
"I 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 to the light."
Let us all take the time to learn to be a way out, or a helping hand, because while not everything is fixable, the power of that small thing cannot be overstated.
[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