Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – A 21-year-old art student who identified as genderqueer and was reported missing a week ago was murdered in a northern Rio de Janeiro favela, police in the Brazilian city said on Monday after discovering the victim’s burned body.
The killing of Matheus Passareli, who went by the name “Theusa” and refused to be categorized as either male or female, plunged Rio’s LGBTQI community into mourning and became a trending topic on Brazil’s social network feeds.
Theusa, a bohemian figure studying at the Rio de Janeiro State University, was well-known in the community, which encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and intersex people born with any of several variations in sex charachteristics.
“The victim was murdered early on Sunday April 29 while leaving a party” in the slum area, Rio police said in a statement.
“Investigations are being carried out through various avenues with the aim of finding the perpetrators of the crime and sending them to prison,” it said.
Friends and relatives of Theusa had created a Facebook group to highlight the student’s disappearance and request public help in resolving it.
On Monday, Theusa’s brother Gabriel Passareli, who also identified as genderless, said in a Facebook message that police had notified the family that Theusa’s body “was burned and there is little chance of finding solid evidence” of who carried out the murder.
“I am sorry to have chosen to be so carefree in the face of so much cruelty that my sister and myself… were exposed to,” wrote the sibling, who goes by the name Gabe. The post added that the family had retreated to their home town in rural Rio de Janeiro state for their grieving.
Theusa’s murder came less than two months after the slaying of Marielle Franco, a black city councillor in Rio and a lesbian who fought against racism and lobbied for rights for the LGBTQI community and favela residents.
Although the LGBTQI community is relatively tolerated in big urban centers in Brazil, the country has one of the highest murder rates of homosexuals in the world.
In 2016, 343 people were killed in crimes linked to their LGBTQI orientations, according to the Bahia Gay Group, an association active in promoting the community’s rights.