© September 2003

Luiza Bambine Moreira --
   "Roberta Close"

"I am Brazil's happiest woman because, at last, I could reunite my body to my soul which has always been deeply feminine."

At one time (and perhaps still) the most famous trans woman of the Latin world, the facts of the life of Roberta Close have been embroidered extensively by scandal-sheets, and perhaps publicists. Many of the stories were clearly total inventions, but still eagerly consumed.
     Just to affirm the successful life of such a famous, and beautiful, teen-transitioned transsexual, we have tried to cut things down to the undisputed basic information.
Luíz as a child
     Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Map), in December 1964 and christened Luíz Roberto Gambine Moreira, Roberta started to live as a girl full-time in her mid-teens, much to the dismay of her family. She also began secretly having female hormone injections. In 1981, age 17, her career started to take-off and she increasingly became a media darling, appearing in many magazines, periodicals and in advertisements.
Roberta, age 18

Roberta, age 20
     When called up for Brazil's compulsory military service (for males) at 18 she reported wearing a white dress and looking ultra-feminine. The confused guard asked her tell "her brother" to report the next day; the examining Sergeant quickly arranged her exemption from service. Her scandalized father (a senior military officer) disowned her for several years after that. But what else could she have done (see picture of her at that age, right)?

Teenage Roberta with her parents
      By the time she reached 20 she was famous as a model and actress. In 1984 one weekly periodical even had a front page headline declaring that "The world's most beautiful model is really a man", referring to Roberta. She starred in the 1986 movie Si tu vas a Rio... tu meurs and became the inspiration of the hit song Close by Roberto and Erasmo Carlos.
     She had Sex Reassignment Surgery in London, England, in August 1989. In 1993 she married her Swiss manager, Roland Granacher, in Europe, since it would not have been allowed in Brazil. For many years she lived with him in Zurich and Paris.They are said to have separated in 2000, but have not divorced.
Roberta and Roland

Book cover of 'Muito Prazer, Roberta Close'
     The results of her surgery, and the rest of her 5' 10½", 37", 30½", 40½" body, were prominently featured in the men's magazine Sexy in the mid-1990's.
     Roberta, by commuting across the Atlantic, continued her media career. She played a cabaret singer in the television "soap" Mandacaru (soap operas are huge in Brazil) and hosted a late night talk show called De Noite na Cama (In Bed at Night), modelled and featured in advertisements.
     Roberta has been trying to have her Brazilian documents changed to her female name and identity ever since her surgery, but the Brazilian state has raised every obstacle.She has been having to manage with a Swiss name change, and unchanged documents in Brazil. In the process she has even faced charges in that country of using false documents for not using her old, male name.
     Astonishingly, in the Brazilian Supreme Court in February 1997 Flávio Giron, the federal vice-prosecutor, opposed the change, arguing that "the expert exams carried out have confirmed the male sexuality of the petitioner." Even more surreal is that the court accepted that.
     In Brazil for Carnival, Roberta didn't want to comment on the prosecutor's decision, but others stood up for her. Among them was Brazilian writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro, who wrote in his column in the weekly Manchete magazine.

"Hypocrisy, too much hypocrisy, this business of denying Roberta Close the right of being a woman, when she already is patently a woman, only forced to carry a masculine name," "Let's give the girl the new ID card, let's stop being pharisees."

      In 2000, Pablo Sergio Flauzino de Oliveira, 31, was allowed by a Brazilian court in Matto Grosso province to change her name to Layne de Paula, following her reassignment surgery the previous year, becoming only the sixth such successful legal petition in the country. Roberta Close, in a subsequent interview with the magazine Legal Advisor, highlighted how this was "a situation of human beings whose genetic characteristics impose upon them a condition that the society resists admitting. It is particularly cruel for a person, for example, to be dressed as a woman and being called in a place, such as a hospital, by their masculine legal name."
     In February 2003 - 14 years after her reassignment surgery - Roberta was again frustrated in her quest, by being unable to attend a court hearing set at the very last minute.
     Being unable to become pregnant and bear children is the one great dissatisfaction with life that Roberta has consistently voiced in interviews in recent years. Writers have reacted by inventing, time and again, rumours that she has become pregnant, by one or other of the many famous, entertainment-industry admirers who have been seen in her company; the cruellest of taunts.
     Roberta's "kiss-and-tell" autobiography, Muito Prazer, Roberta Close (Much Pleasure, Roberta Close) was published in 1998. It is only available in Portuguese. Her official website has been withdrawn from the Net.