Bernardo, Counsel on Uber’s Litigation team in Brazil, was just named one of the Best LGBTQ+ Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association for his legal work and profound commitment to LGBTIQA+ equality. Bernardo advocates for LGBTIQA+ representation and inclusion across Latin America and also here at Uber, and his passion shines through in everything he does.
From the time I was a child, my choices and preferences were far from typical societal norms, so questioning everything was always a habit of mine. I was constantly told that I should “act like a girl,” but I never understood why anyone should have to change their true self to be accepted.
Since I looked so different as a teenager, society felt the uncontrollable need to label me. It never felt odd to me personally to have relationships with people regardless of their gender identity or sex assigned at birth. On the contrary, what bothered me was more the idea that my affection should only be reserved for the opposite gender. However, even though my sexual orientation has always been a well-resolved topic, I was still living in a state of permanent distress for not knowing who I truly was.
At the time, not knowing my own identity affected not only my self-esteem but also my relationship with the world as a whole. When I had no knowledge about the reasons behind my uneasiness, my choices, or my fears, very few things sparked my interest. But Uber, maybe because of its disruptive tone, its urgency for innovation, or its valorization of diversity, was one of those things.
I was born and raised in Manaus, a region of northern Brazil, which was very far from any tech companies. So walking through Uber’s front door in Sao Paulo to work on the Legal team each day without anyone questioning my “non-lawyer” appearance was a very important mark for me. Through my time working at Uber, I came to understand that change and acceptance were possible in the world and that it was time for me to be happy by expressing to the world who I truly am.
I learned about Pride at Uber, an employee resource group (ERG) focused on the LGBTQIAP+ community. I volunteered to be part of it and started working to help with the internal inclusion of transgender people. Joining Pride at Uber felt like my destiny. I would wake up, work, eat, and sleep thinking about how my feelings felt so much clearer. One day, while talking with other transgender employees at work, I felt safe enough to share that I was one of them. I cried the tears that I had held back for more than a quarter of a century, and I was intensely hugged.
Being accepted without judgment at Uber, working on a diverse team, and feeling that people truly valued me for being exactly who I am changed my life and gave me the strength that I needed to go through the daily challenges of being a transgender person in Brazil. Uber taught me that it’s only by knowing and listening to people with different experiences and backgrounds that it’s possible to set the world in motion.
Today, 4 years after starting my gender transition, I’m honored to co-lead the Pride at Uber ERG in Latin America, working on a variety of projects to promote respect and inclusiveness for Uber’s internal and external LGBTQIAP+ communities by both leveraging the business and enabling true allyship.
When I left my hometown, I was not close to any transgender people, personally. And I didn’t even know who João W. Nery, Marsha P. Johnson, or Laerte Coutinho were, or about any of the countless other brave transgender people who fought and still fight every day for our right to live. If today I can celebrate my life and the bravery of so many people to live openly and authentically and if today I can bring awareness to the discrimination that my community still faces, it is because of all these people that came before me and fought so that our bodies could occupy the spaces that once rejected us.
It is essential here to talk about visibility – a person’s right to be, to exist, and to resist – in a society full of prejudices, where the right to work, right to health, right to legal protection, and the right to housing are not fulfilled.
No one should be afraid to lose their life simply because of who they are. That’s why I invite you to seek out more information, to raise awareness, to not replicate transphobia, to respect chosen names and preferred pronouns, and, most of all, to see us for who we truly are. We can be on the streets, at your work, or a part of your family. Visibility brings hope, and my community needs it.
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