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Note: Will Kohl over at Back2Stonewall asked me if I’d write him a guest post about some of my experiences in Brazil. Here is that post, originally posted at Back2Stonewall.com
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t Gay friendly. But it took coming to Brazil for me to become a full-fledged Gay ally. That change started almost immediately upon my arrival.
Marcelo – my Brother-in-law – is a Gay Brazilian male. I was one of the few that knew this about him almost 10 years ago, when even he struggled admitting it to my wife and her sisters – his closest allies.
Marcelo didn’t fully come out of the closet until a year ago. He had been trapped there by his fears for 30 years. His coming out was met with love, acceptance and hugs. As he said afterward, “It was like farting in the ocean.”
Grupo Gay da Bahia, the oldest gay advocacy group in Brazil, published yesterday their yearly report on violent deaths of gay people in Brazil. According to the report, the number of people who are murdered because they are gay is up, 198 murders in 2009, compared to 189 in 2008.
Brazil leads the world in homosexual victims of murders. Mexico comes second (35 deaths) followed by the United States (25 deaths), according to the GGB.
Among the murdered, 117 were gay men (59%), 72 were transsexuals (37%) and 9 were lesbians (4%). Most of the crimes go unpunished (more than 90%).
It has been a joy watching Marcelo become the man he was always supposed to be this past year. With a cadre of Gay friends, he has gone from hiding and sneaking, to being open and proud. Not long ago, I asked him a question, only to be ignored as he was lost in Facebook conversation (he quickly learned and joined the Gay communities that permeate social media.)
“Marcelo,” I said, jokingly imitating the show Intervention. “Your Gayness is affecting me negatively in the following ways: You just ignored me.”
We laughed, knowing that just over a year ago, that joke could never have been made within earshot of others.
“It’s not that a homosexual can’t play ball. If he wants, than play it. However, form his own team and start another federation. Schedule games with those that prefer to fight against themselves.”
“By the way, this popular saying is very precise: Each one in their own area, each monkey in their own branch, each rooster in their own coop, each king in their own deck of cards.
That is what I think, and because I think like this, in the condition of a judge, I say it!”
– Brazilian Judge Manoel Maximiniano Junqueira Filho, in throwing out a defamation of character lawsuit filed by soccer player Richarlyson.
It has not just been Marcelo who has shown me the courage of being an openly Gay male in Brazil. In fact, the majority of my male friends in Brazil are openly Gay.
There is Paulino, a friend of my wife and her family for years. His life in Sao Paulo, where he is a well-regarded nutritionist. He told me of his first Gay experience, when his retainer kept falling falling out of his mouth.
“This is your first time, isn’t it?” His first partner kindly asked.
There is the flamboyant and wonderful Pedro – a successful businessman. Having never really spoken with a Gay male about how he learned he was Gay, I asked.
“All my fantasies were about men when I was young,”he said. “I thought it was a fetish or something. But then realized that’s all I fantasized about.”
My wife, sitting next to me, gave me a nudge, “You don’t have to talk only about Gay things, you know.”
Brazil’s 11-member Supreme Court decided that those in same-sex civil unions will have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
The move is a landmark achievement for Brazil – a nation that has struggled with violence against the gay and lesbian community. That move also is a stellar achievement for new President Dilma Rousseff, who had her top prosecutor, Attorney General Roberto Gurgel fight for the verdict.
“Homosexuality is a (the way people are), not a crime. So why can’t homosexuals have families? What has been preventing this is two things the Constitution finds abominable – intolerance and prejudice,” said Judge Luis Fux.
Brazil is often paradoxical when it comes to the Gay and Lesbian Community. There is an ingrained homophobia in many Brazilians, a homophobia stoked by the Catholic Church.
But it’s also a country that holds tightly to civil liberties. This was a nation under a military dictatorship not long ago, and this is something still in the minds of politicians and many Brazilians. There is a belief that the rights of all are of the utmost importance, and that belief has led to impressive actions.
Still, the horrifying specter of violence against Gay males is always hovering in my mind. I have fears for Marcelo, Paulino, Pedro and my other Gay friends. But they have chosen to live freely and openly, and if they are afraid, they don’t show it to me.
There is an incredible LGBT community in Brazil. It is based on Pride and determination. And they have seen their hard work pay off. They will not be defeated. And they will never stop.
This is what being a straight man in Brazil means to me. It is a nation where I became forever connected to the Gay community. It is a nation that has introduced me to some of the best men I’ve ever known. It is a nation where violence against Gay males remains at a horrifying level. It is a nation where I need to do more to be part of the fight.
But in the end, this is for Marcelo. I love you. And I couldn’t be more proud of you. Thank you for sharing so much with me. Thank you for helping my eyes grow wider.