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Six members of Brazil’s LGBT+ community open up about living in a country ruled by a right-wing, homophobic president

The LGBT+ community in Brazil has come under threat since the election of Jair Bolsonaro

By Steve Brown

Since the election of Brazil’s right-wing, homophobic president, Jair Bolsonaro, the rights of the LGBT+ community have come under threat.

And in Attitude’s March Style issue – which is available to download and buy now – we sat down with six members of Brazil’s LGBT+ community to speak about their fears, hopes and how they feel about the future of their country.

Speaking to Attitude, Mauricio Sacramento, 23, and Wesley Miranda, 26, open up about how the LGBT+ community are treated in the South American country.

Mauricio tells us: “I come from Nordeste de Amaralina, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Salvador in the Bahia region. It’s the city with the highest proportion of black people outside Africa.

“It’s a place that isn’t reached by politicians: what my family knows about politics and democracy is what the sensationalist media shows on TV. They don’t engage with politics because they think it can have no positive impact on them.

“Even so, the reasons not to elect someone with a history of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and intolerance in general, and without any solid government plan, seemed obvious.

“The only family member I’ve been able to share my sexuality with in an honest way is my mum. She never made me feel uncomfortable about it and has always been very open to learn.

“Indirectly, my father showed that he wasn’t happy about the fact I am gay, so I moved away from him about five years ago. The rest of my family doesn’t talk about it and I don’t really care.

“Bolsonaro’s dangerous rhetoric isn’t just hot air. Within a week of being elected, he signed a provisional measure that withdraws the LGBT+ population from human rights guidelines.

“When a president has a homophobic past and defends hate speech and torture, he encourages and emboldens others who have similar prejudices.

“With attacks against the LGBT+ community increasing day by day, I founded BATEKOO to try to create a safe space for minorities (those who don’t fit the white, European, sculpted standard) to celebrate their identities and use their art and culture to break down barriers and prejudices.

“Although I do experience homophobia regularly — once during carnival, I was attacked for kissing another man — I suffer more with racism.

“My racial identity is way more stereotyped than my sexuality; I realise I’m seen as a threat because of my colour, my look and my identity as a poor black man.”

Wesley – an art director, DJ and producer – goes on to say how LGBT+ people in Brazil ‘pretend to be straight’ and even ‘censor themselves online’.

Wesley continues: “In the past few years, conservatism has grown in Brazil. Several cases of anti-gay and religious intolerance forewarned that Brazil’s future was going to be chaotic.

“When people increasingly use religion — Christianity — to justify being vocal against progressive ideas including abortion and [same-sex] marriage, it’s no surprise that someone like Bolsonaro, who offers hope to these majority white and rich people, would win.

“I’m out to my family, and my mother hates Bolsonaro. My father though, is a supporter. He’s militant and homophobic, even though he has two gay sons but says he votes for him because he hates PT (Worker’s Party), the rival political party.

“But I know that he supports a lot of Bolsonaro’s hateful ideas. I’m not OK with that but I haven’t lived with my dad since 2015, so it doesn’t affect me too much.

“During the election race, when there was a spike in attacks against LGBT+ people — trans people in particular — a lot of the aggressors were identified as Bolsonaro supporters.

“They did it to alert the LGBT+ community to the level of violence that was going to be the new norm if Bolsonaro won.

“To stay safe, some people have had to pretend to be straight, avoid wearing red because it’s seen to represent communism, and even censor themselves online because people have been hunted down for voicing political opinions.

“Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been playing the media and the people against one another, claiming the news is full of lies. His supporters are suspicious of the media and believe blindly in everything he says and does.

“But the Brazilian LGBT+ community is strong and unafraid. We have always had to resist — the trans community in particular — so we’re going to continue to do that, by organising ourselves into groups and collectives to defend our rights and to help other groups, such as women whose rights are also being targeted.”

Other Brazilian LGBT+ people share their stories in Attitude’s March Style issue, out now.

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: three issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.