Meet “Mocha Celis”, the world’s first transsexual school

The project incorporates gender issues in all areas. Even with empowerment, transsexuals suffer a lot to get jobs after leaving school

“Bigender”, “Transgender” and “Transsexual” are just some of the terms students and students of the popular baccalaureate “Mocha Celis” learn in English classes in the world’s first transsexual school in Buenos Aires.

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The project, founded in 2011 by Francisco Quiñones, Agustín Fuchs and Vida Morant, and which has already been replicated in Brazil, is located in the neighborhood of Chacarita and operates in the fifth apartment of an abandoned building that was recovered in 2001. The “Mocha Celis” does not rule under a binary thought: his world is not divided into men and women, pink and blue, cars and dolls.

The project was idealized when Quiñones found that 70% of Argentinian transgender people do not finish high school, according to figures from activist Lohana Berkins. The name of the project was Berkins’s idea, which refers to an Argentine transsexual murdered by police officers.

Quiñones explained to Efe that every time Celis was arrested, her cellmates taught her to read and write. For this “educational and popular act” that “reflects the reality of trans in Argentina,” they wanted to honor it.

The classes began in March 2012. Two months later, the project became known among the LGBT community in Argentina along with the celebration of the sanction of the Gender Identity Law, which allows, among other things, transsexuals to be registered in their documents with the name and the sex chosen by them.

“At school, we decided to incorporate (the theme of gender and sexuality) into all matters: in English, you teach LGBT vocabulary, in mathematics, read the numbers of a clinical analysis and in history, speak of minorities,” said Maryanne Lettieri, English teacher. “We can not forget, too, that we have young people who do not belong to the LGBT community and who are learning integrated,” he added.

Several trans students who study at Mocha Celis suffered harassment or discrimination at school, so they decided to leave her in her teens and only retake her into adulthood. “Often, the removal of education was because there were no adequate places to study, because these people had to respond to a name that did not correspond to them, or because they had to go through the discrimination of going to a men’s room,” explained Alma Fernández, student who left school when she was young.

“For us, to come to school is to recover a lost stage, because, at the age of high school, we are prostituting ourselves on a corner to survive in a system that has forced us all our lives to live in illegality,” he said.

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In addition to serving as an academic center, “Mocha Celis” is a place of political formation: “We generate militancy to occupy places that others (heterosexuals) take from us in society under the arguments that we are not prepared or that we do not know how to speak, for example, “Explained Fernández.

The halls assigned by the Mutual Sentimento building, where the project works, are maintained by collections made by the team since the school does not have full state funding.

Quiñones denounced that although trans people leave the baccalaureate very capable, companies still do not hire them. “There is no access to work, health, housing like other people simply because of prejudice or decide, and especially because there was historically a persecution of the state when there should be reparation,” said the director.

“It’s more important for society to give you a condom than real, safe work. The life expectancy in our community is 35 years, we are dying and for the state, it does not seem to matter. So I hug this place and take care of it because if it closes, let’s go back to the streets, “Fernandez concluded.

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