Society

The story of the first trans woman in Brazil’s Armed Forces

Maria Luiza da Silva was kicked out of the Air Force after coming out as a trans woman. Decades on, her rights were finally recognized

transgender armed forces
Born José Carlos, Maria Luiza became the first trans woman in Brazil’s Armed Forces. Photo: Diego Bresani/Divulgação

In the year 2000, Corporal Maria Luiza da Silva was kicked out of the Brazilian Air Force, two years after telling her superior officers that she was a transgender woman. Across her 22-year military career — where she enlisted with her birth name, José Carlos — Ms. Da Silva excelled as an aviation mechanic, for which she won a series of medals and the respect of her male colleagues.

That all changed in 1998 when she came out as transgender. A medical report from the Air Force deemed Maria Luiza to be “definitively incapable of serving in the military” and...

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