Women of the Amazon Series

Keivan Hamoud shares her struggles to overcome prejudice and be recognized in society

May, 2023 – Prejudice, fear, doubt, emotional – and often – physical violence. This is what life is like for many transgender people who struggle for acceptance. Keivan Hamoud started transitioning in 2020, when she was 26 and wanted to show the world her authentic self. 

"It was not easy. Before my transition, I did not feel comfortable revealing my sexual orientation. I grew up in the countryside, where people tend to be more conservative, and so I often felt repressed when I was younger. I felt wrong. I thought I could never be who I really am," says Keivan. 

Keivan comes from Beruri, a town about 200 km from Manaus, capital of Amazonas state – which means a full day away by boat. That is where she returned after spending four years studying Business Administration in Manaus. Keivan was invited to become Project Director at ASSOAB, a community-based association that works with the Brazil nut value chain in the region. 

Upon her return—and after taking up her new role and meeting her new partners in the Brazil nut value chain—Keivan felt safer to transition. "Before that, I did not feel valued. I thought that exposing my condition would close doors for me, and I would never be successful in my career," says Keivan, adding that she was surprised by how receptive everyone was. 

Keivan has shoulder-length red hair. In the photo, she is looking down, holding a bag of Brazil nuts in her hands.

"When ASSOAB had a chance to work with USAID on other projects, I saw an opportunity to visit other cities and meet other people. The way they welcomed me at training programs and events made me feel very comfortable, and so I started focusing more on myself. During the pandemic, I started showing symptoms of depression, and so I realized that everything that was negative in my life derived from how much I repressed myself. So I started facing the fears that held me back," explains Keivan. 

She felt welcome at work, and found strength to be herself. At ASSOAB, she was encouraged to use her spaces to fight for the causes she believes in, such as the defense of forest peoples and their territories, and now the LGBTQIA+ cause. "Our partners helped me a lot. I felt at home in an area dominated by men, and was even welcomed by the extractive communities with whom we work."

June is celebrated as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month around the world. Many Pride parades and events mark the struggle of the LGBTQIA+ movement for freedom, respect, and security. In the heart of the Amazon, Keivan has become a reference in the fight for these rights. She often encourages other trans women to overcome their fears and come out, so they can feel truly free and happy. "Gather the courage and never give up on your dreams. Believe in yourselves, and face your fears and prejudice. Our courage must be greater than our fears." 

Series – Throughout 2023, the PCAB newsletter will share stories of women's struggles and success, as told by women themselves. They include Indigenous and riverine women who work and contribute to the development of their traditional communities, and who live in protected areas of the Amazon rainforest with all its ecological diversity.