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"They Thought Sofia Was Copying Me" — The World's First Trans Twins Share Their Story

Identical twins Mayla and Sofia were 19 when they became the first twins to transition together. Now, two years later, and living separately, the two Brazilian trans women talk with Argentine daily Clarín about how family support and their love for each other have helped them through hard times.

Twins, Sofia and Mayla, take a mirror selfie.

Twins, Sofia and Mayla, take a mirror selfie.

Guadalupe Rivero

BUENOS AIRES — A lot has been said about the special bonds that exist between twins. In the case of Mayla and Sofia, 21-year-old twins born in Brazil, the two have also made history together. They are the first twins in the world to undergo gender-affirming surgery (GAS), and the youngest Brazilians so far to have done it.

A documentary made about them depicts the challenges, joys and grief they faced along the way, though never alone. In 2021, at the age of 19, the sisters had surgery in a clinic in the city of Blumenau in southern Brazil. It wasn't simple or affordable, and their grandfather sold his home to pay for it. Today, Mayla lives in Buenos Aires where she studies medicine and Sofia lives in São Paulo studying engineering.

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According to statistics from Brazil's ANTRA, a trans advocacy organization, 151 members of the collective were murdered in Brazil in 2022. The NGO, which provides help and advice to the community, also reports high levels of violence and bullying against transgender children and teenagers at school. The twins were no exception in that respect. Every school day, including playtime activities where they should have been able to make friends, became challenging, a setting for mindless hostility. Luckily, they say, they were together.

As children, they found adults to have "closed minds and preconceptions," which meant there was little help or advice available to them. Teachers had no particular gender perspective or sense of diversity. One schoolmistress said the school should have separate bathrooms for trans women, Sofia recalls.

Fear and violence

Their family was nevertheless supportive from the start, in spite of their fears. Their mother's role was crucial, they say. "My mother was afraid, not because of how we were, but how society would treat us," Mayla says. "The main fear is that Brazil is the country where most (trans people) are killed, and our life expectancy is 35 years — and that's not for any illness but just for being who we are. It's really sad."

It was never an easy ride, they say. "When we discovered this, it was all very difficult for (our family). It is very difficult being who we are, but it was even harder 11 years ago. We had to give it time, but they always backed us," Mayla says. "My mom knew I identified with other things. Initially, they thought Sofia was copying me, but I knew she wasn't. She always says it was a relief when I discovered myself and had a chat with her."

Taking this path together made a huge difference. Each had the other to look to for advice. "I was with my sister, and (had) my family's support," Mayla says. "When we were girls, we didn't look on Google but learned together. What I learned, I would show her, and she did the same with me. When we suffered prejudices at school, we were always together; we had someone to count on and talk to. I don't know how all of this would have ended without her."

Gemelas Transgénero | Trailer | HBO Max

Souls have no gender

Intolerance, discrimination, persecutions and online harassment are among the issues ANTRA blames for the 20 trans people who reportedly took their own lives in Brazil in 2022. Mayla has no doubts: "I always say in interviews that the family must back their children because all of us have tried suicide once in our lives."

Do good by your neighbor

The twins live apart now. Mayla says she feels freer in Argentina. "There is much more respect here. They know who I am here and it doesn't matter," she says. But medicine wasn't the only thing that drew her to Argentina: "It's a beautiful country. I love living here."

The twins have acquired in their still-youthful lives the grit and resilience of an entire lifetime. "My grandmother taught us souls have no gender," Mayla says. "Sofia taught me that when God judges us, it will be for what we wrote in the book of our lives, not for what we did with our bodies. I am here to love, respect and do good by my neighbor."

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Migrant Lives

A Train Journey With Bengal Migrants Looking For A Living Far Away

Finding a seat on the Karmabhoomi Express is close to impossible. A closer look at why so many migrant workers travel on it, and out of Bengal, offers a grim picture.

image of a train

The Karmabhoomi Express runs from Kamakhya to Mumbai in a 3 day journey.

India Rail Info
Joydeep Sarkar

WEST BENGAL — Welcome aboard the 22512 Kamakhya-LTT Karmabhoomi Express — a metaphor, if any, of the acuteness of Bengal’s unemployment problem.

It is 10.28 pm at north Bengal’s Alipurduar Junction and the crowd has swollen to its peak. This is when the Karmabhoomi Express appears at the station. It is bound for Mumbai. Finding a seat on it is close to impossible. It is always chock full and there are always hundreds struggling to get a spot in the unreserved general compartment.

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