Casa Chama

Refuge for transgender people

Casa Chama

Refuge for transgender people

Refuge, arts, survival and living

By: Raissa Testahy

"Education, health, food, work, housing, leisure, security, social security, protection for maternity and childhood are social rights , assistance for the destitute"  

The text above, from article 6 taken from the 1988 Federal Constitution, highlights that the Democratic State should guarantee such rights to each Brazilian citizen. However, a large part of the Brazilian population does not have at least one of the rights guaranteed. When we talk about transgender people, the data is even more alarming.  

According to a 2014 survey, carried out by the Project Além do Arco-Íris, from the NGO Afro Reggae, 72% of the Brazilian trans population had not completed high school and 56% had not even finished elementary school.  

This has an explanation: most transvestites and trans people are marginalized by their own families and are expelled from home, on average, at the age of 13, according to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (Antra).  

Furthermore, discrimination, lack of acceptance and the absence of public policies in the area of health keep trans and transvestites away from the necessary care. Refusal of social name or lack of contact are some of the barriers that these people encounter.  

The life expectancy of a trans person in Brazil is just 35 years, less than half of the cisgender population, which is 76, according to Antra. This highlights that the existence of organizations like Casa Chama is essential for the resistance and existence of trans people in the country, their placement in the job market and socialization.

The Casa Chama

Promoting dignity and autonomy for transgender people since 2018, Casa Chama is a safe and affectionate living space, which was founded by Matuzza Sankofa and Digg Franco during a period of increased racist, misogynistic and LGBTphobic speeches in the country. 

Digg tells us that the organization's initiatives have changed over time. "In the beginning, it was a more feminist place, for sharing art. Then we started some political group activities, self-defense, artistic residency, etc. With the arrival of the elections and many conflicts with LGBTQIAPN+ people, a call was opened and a WhatsApp group was opened where people started to meet", he comments. 

First drawing of the Casa Chama project

The importance of this socialization space has transformed the lives of many people. In the old headquarters, in the neighborhood of Perdizes, in São Paulo, the house hosted 27 trans people in vulnerable situations due to lack of housing. It was also there that Digg, in addition to welcoming, was welcomed. He highlights that all the support and socialization were fundamental in his journey.  

"We have the first drawings of Casa Chama and we realize that we didn’t know several things. There were issues that we already wanted to address, such as housing, health, psychology, we didn't understand that these three things belonged to a category called psychosocial, what do we have today", reports Digg.   

Education, health and survival

The organization's work today is divided into five categories of services:  

In 2020, the Psychological Care Center was founded, which, in partnership with allied professionals, developed a project for continued monitoring of the people receiving care. This front has weekly meetings to discuss cases and a study group that aims to develop careful and specialized treatment. 
Legal assistance
The legal advice front is built through a partnership with volunteer lawyers, with the main focus being the rectification of name and gender in the documentation, but also working with other legal demands of the sheltered people. 
The cultural production front is one of the organization's main ones, and through it they reach thousands of people throughout Brazil and also internationally.
Education – for cis and trans people
Casa Chama participates in numerous seminars, lectures and forums promoting its values and work, raising awareness and bringing people allies to the cause and the fight. For trans people, they have training, courses, workshops, etc. 
Financial autonomy 
This center aims at the professional development of trans people and their insertion into the job market, the majority of whom have not had salaried experience and/or in a safe environment, without the risk of suffering from transphobia. 
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Transformative initiatives

In 2022, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, in Araraquara, the Casa Chama team set up and created a model of Shelter for LGBTQIAPN+ people. "It was managed in conjunction with the city of Araraquara and 17 trans people were hired for the job. Imagine how much impact we have on the people we welcome? The idea is to extend our lives", highlights Digg. 

The space has the capacity to house 12 people and offered psychological and social care to residents. The site also has a 24-hour technical service with a team of social caregivers. 


Ricardo Correâ da Silva Welcome Home Photo: Casa Chama Disclosure

In 2023, the House promotes the 2nd Trans Health Congress, which already has the support of the German Embassy. The first edition was held in 2021 and had professionals from different specialties, addressing the most relevant issues for transgender people and its main objective was to raise awareness, specialization and sensitization of health professionals (cis/allies).

1st Trans Health Congress - Photo: Acevo Casa Chama?

Casa Chama believes in the power of culture as a political tool for denouncing and including trans bodies in all spaces. The culture center has several pocket shows, exhibitions, audiovisual productions, etc. According to Digg, the organization's priority is to hire only trans people and/or black women, which has resulted in more than 600 salaries over the years. 

Recently, the organization presented the exhibition “TRANS____borda/the oppositional gaze in trans art”. Thirteen trans artists from different states in Brazil brought their art that reports on the struggle of the trans population for rights and spaces denied throughout history.  

In the sea of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are not all in the same boat

If compulsory social vulnerability immensely affects the trans population, in the scenario of the Covid-19 pandemic the situation has worsened. In 2020, Casa Chama had to temporarily occupy a welfare location.  

In addition to distributing hundreds of basic food baskets (including decent food baskets), they also distributed protection, hygiene and harm reduction kits. They also continued on other fronts, such as psychological care, legal services and housing assistance.  

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assisted people
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basic food baskets distributed
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hygiene items
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with housing assistance (R$315.00)

Welcoming trans people all year round, not just in June

The biggest challenges encountered by Digg and Matuzza are training successors for management and long-term support to guarantee the organization's financial stability.  

?We tried t“We try every opportunity we have, we open paths everywhere. We do not have long-term support. Support is punctual, most in June (LGBTQIAPN+ Awareness Month). We throw seeds everywhere, wherever the wind hits, we are prepared”, he declares. LGBTQIAPN+). We throw seeds everywhere, wherever the wind hits, are we prepared?, declares. 

Matuzza Sankofa and Digg Franco, founders of Casa Chama

After living as “nomads”, Casa Chama’s headquarters now have a new address. In the Bixiga neighborhood, in São Paulo, the mansion had the support of Trident for part of the renovation work.  

"We worked really hard to get to where we are. We still don't have our own headquarters (they live on rent). We also still don't see people to replace us. There are many longevity challenges" declares Digg. 

This is how, thinking about innovative mechanisms, the story of Sitawi met that of Casa Chama. In partnership with Endowments do Brasil, the first Heritage Fund focused on the LGBTQIAPN+ cause was created in the country.  

The Trans Endowment - Casa Chama's purpose is to contribute to the financial sustainability of the organization through income from invested resources, coming from donations. All this income will be reinvested and the organization will be able to use it in projects that continue to welcome thousands of trans people.

The fund manager is Endowments do Brasil, the first multi-cause Patrimonial Fund Management (OGFP) organization, adhering to law 13.800/19.

?This innovative mechanism benefits Casa Chama by reducing costs. Without this structure, Casa Chama would be forced to create its own OGFP, for example, which would only be economically viable with around R$ 20 million (for the income to be sufficient to pay for the OGFP structure and still be able to direct resources to the cause).", highlights Leonardo Letelier, CEO of Sitawi and executive director of Endowments do Brasil.  

"The Fund is a great possibility, as it is a guarantee of allocating resources to live off its income and not go through the ups and downs that risk closing the house. We want to ensure that, even when we are no longer here, it still fulfills its role of welcoming and helping the trans population", highlights Digg.

When asked about the future, he highlights that the most serious demand is housing. "Older trans women, with very difficult lives, are aging and in precariousness. We need housing for these people. I think of a project like Minha Casa Minha Vida Trans", he declares.


the impact

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