SAO PAULO – A documentary that premiered this week on Netflix explores the life of a Brazilian transgender cartoonist who says she wants to break taboos surrounding her decision to transition to her identified sex.
Laerte Coutinho, better known as simply Laerte and one of Brazil’s best-known cartoonists and comic strip artists, decided to come out as a crossdresser in her late 50s and then as a transgender woman five years later, although she has not changed her name.
“I’m at a point where all of that ceased to be taboo for me. It stopped being a problem, and so for that to become a positive experience for other people I think is great,” Laerte, now 65, said in Sao Paulo during the presentation of “Laerte-se,” a Tru3Lab production for Netflix.
The decision to come out as a woman required no courage on her part, according to the artist, who said that unlike many other people she had already forged a successful career and had an open-minded family.
“People are terrified of risk. I ran a little bit of risk. My risk was calculated,” she added.
A film sprinkled with humor and featuring some rehearsed scenes, the documentary takes viewers inside Laerte’s home and provides insight into her life and career.
Laerte says that it was through her cartoons – and particularly the character Hugo, a man in a constant state of transition who converses with his female alter-ego, Muriel – that she began to explore the woman inside of her.
Her illustrations complement the dialogue throughout the documentary, which was directed by journalist Eliane Brum and filmmaker Lygia Barbosa da Silva.
A camera accompanied Laerte for months and captured different aspects of her life, including renovations she made to her home; her relationships with her loved ones, especially her grandson, who calls her “vovo” (grandad); and the death of one of her children in an accident.