© September 2003
Luiza Bambine Moreira --
"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
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.
Luíz as a child
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)?
Roberta, age 18
Roberta, age 20
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.
Teenage Roberta with her parents
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.
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 and Roland
Book cover of 'Muito Prazer, Roberta Close'
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,
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
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
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
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.