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Objekt of the Month September: Portrait of Brazilian Activist Luana Muniz

1. September 2018

Luana Muniz was a Brazilian activist known for sheltering other transvestites, besides transexuals, prostitutes, and HIV-positive people, in her big house in Rio de Janeiro’s downtown. She also was one of the creators of a project that offered education for the trans community of that city.

Muniz, already famous in Rio’s underground scene, became a national sensation after being interviewed and filmed working as prostitute by a documentary television show broadcast on primetime in 2010. After a doubtful man approached her on the street, she reprehended him in front of the cameras and asked: “Do you think you can mess with transvestites?”

The rhetorical question went viral and, since then, turned into an informal motto, a way to claim respect for the entire LGBTIQ* community in Brazil. Later on, Muniz called attention for being friends with other Brazilian stars, including catholic priest Fábio de Melo, who publicly admitted he had prejudice against her before knowing her social work.

She died at age 59 on May 6th 2017, due to a cardiac arrest following a strong pneumonia. Just two months later, the documentary Luana Muniz: Daughter of the Moon, by Rian Córdova and Leonardo Menezes, was released.

Photographer Pedro Stephan already knew Muniz before her catchphrase was aired. His portraits of her and her universe, taken in the late 2000s, have been exhibited in Brazil, Portugal, and Italy.

This photo series is now part of the Schwules Museum archive, thanks to a large donation from various Brazilians artists and activists.

Text by José Gabriel Navarro.