Trans politician forced to flee Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil after chilling death threats

Benny Briolly poses in a rainbow top

In the upshot of a local election that saw countless LGBT+ people elected in Brazil, a trans councillor flees the country after being pelted with relentless death threats.

Benny Briolly, the first trans woman to sit on Niteroí’s City Council in the state of Rio de Janeiro, announced on Twitter 13 May that she has been forced “temporarily” into exile.

In a lengthy social media statement, Briolly’s office confirmed that since her election in 2020, she has received email death threats that quoted her residential address.

And while social media users wished she would be killed with a “machine gun”, her fellow city representatives called on voters to “attack” her.

Such hate is not surprising, the statement said, considering that Briolly, a Black trans member of the Socialism and Liberty Party, has long been “dehumanised” by misogyny and racism.

A sense of hope swept over Brazil, a country increasingly inured to transphobic violence, last year when trans and intersex candidates shored up huge gains in the elections.

For a brief moment, the fear and anguish felt by so many trans Brazilians were replaced with pride – but the battle had only begun for many of the trans city councillors.

In the deadliest country in the world to be trans, officials were quickly targeted with violent threats. Masked assailants broke into their offices and some even opening fire on them.

Trans councillor flees Brazil due to hate. The state did nothing to help

“Councilwoman Benny Briolly had to leave the country temporarily due to threats to her physical integrity,” the statement in Portuguese read.

“It is not new that Black parliamentarians, transgender, women, LGBT+ and human rights defenders suffer from political violence inside and outside legislative and decision-making spaces.

“This practice is the result of the patriarchal and racist structure that dehumanizes our bodies and fears the progress of our political project for the transformation of society.”

“Since she was elected, Benny has suffered a series of violence,” it continued, describing how “Bolsonarists”, supporters of president Jair Bolsonaro, in the city council “urged voters to attack Benny”.

“Since then, there are countless aggressions on the streets and on social media networks.

“For example, an email quoting her address that required her to resign – otherwise they would go to your house and kill her. In addition, Benny received comments on her social networks hoping that ‘Ronnie Lessa’s machine gun’ would hit her.”

Lessa, a retired police sergeant, was arrested in 2018 in connection to the murder of Black lesbian Rio de Janeiro city representative Marielle Franco.

The statement added that the councillor’s office has flagged her departure to the state authorities, “but to date, no effective measures have been taken to protect her life”.

“It is impossible to not have a response from the Brazilian government,” Briolly said in a video uploaded to her Twitter 15 May. “This cannot stay this way.

“Brazil’s cries, demonstrations, and popular revolt demand an answer, demand my physical well-being, and demand that I, the woman most voted for Niteroí’s city council, be able to exercise my mandate with integrity.

“We are still fighting.”