Brazilian model Lea T will become the first transgender woman to participate, along with other local celebrities, in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which are set to begin on Aug. 5.
"I can’t say anything yet, we need to keep the surprise, but the message is clear ... include everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. We are all human beings and we are part of society. My role at the ceremony will help send this message, " Lea T told BBC.
Lea T was born biologically male before having sex reassignment surgery. As an adult she moved to Italy and worked with many international fashion brands, becoming the first transgender woman to sign a contract with an international beauty company.
"At this time, in which Rio de Janeiro and Brazil will be presented to the world, it’s essential that diversity is present. Brazil is a vast country and all its diversity should be somehow represented in this event,” she said.
According to NGO Transgender Europe, between Jan. 2008 and March 2014, 604 transgender women and men were killed in Brazil. The report also indicates that Brazil is one of the countries where cross-dressers and transgerder people face the greatest violence.
"Like any other transsexual, I raise a flag. I'm talking about transsexuality because it is part of my history, but I'm just another member of this community. I know I have the privilege that the media listens to me, but the daily struggle of transsexual is equally important for LGBT people," Lea T said.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee removed its previous recommendations for each international sports federation, where they suggested countries should prevent the participation of transsexual athletes.
For the 2016 games, the committee recommends that countries include transgender participants, but still requires them to analyze testosterone blood levels of athletes who have made the transition from male to female, stating it does so to avoid “unfair advantages.” Those who have made the transition from women to men can compete in the games without any restrictions.