Despite years of homophobic bullying from fellow students and teachers, Talles de Oliveira Faria, a 24-year-old recent graduate of Brazil’s Aeronautic Technology Institute of the Air Force, has always felt comfortable expressing his gender identity in ways that defy traditional ideas of masculinity.
“Since childhood they teach us that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual is a shame and then we take a lot of time to heal those injuries,” Faria recalled in a recent interview with Globo. “They insulted me, they laughed at me and tried to make me invisible.”
Rather than letting the taunts and threats of violence drive him away from his education this so often the case with LGBTQ youth, Faria held his own and took the opportunity to stick it to those that doubted him during his graduation ceremony last month.
As Faria’s name was called during the gathering of the university’s students, he glided across the stage in the traditional cap and gown, only to suddenly strike a pose and tear the fabric from his body, revealing a striking red T-shirt dress and vertigo-inducing heels he’d been wearing underneath.
“When I arrived at the institute I decided that it was enough,” he told Globo. “Either you accept me as I am or you would be exposed for what you really are.”
Faria says that despite the mild commotion caused by his costume change, he hasn’t faced any backlash from the school in the days since, save for a single conversation after the ceremony where he had a chance to explain why he chose to wear the dress and to elaborate on his claims of institutional homophobia.
“It was just me talking for about an hour. They heard and said that some of the claims they were already discussing. But I said, ‘I do not trust your work, I do not think they’re really going to change anything,'” Faira said. “So I’ll keep doing what I think I should do.”