My eyes didn’t water nor did my limbs shake. I can’t say I was surprised, for I had seen countless other events such as this one. Nonetheless, I was angry. I’ve been angry for quite some time. At the pit of my stomach laid an untoward feeling, rumbling in disgust. What happened, you ask? Well, what has been happening for years now: homophobia. Sheer prejudice disguised behind the mask of “protecting the traditional Brazilian family”.
Let me get straight to the point: on Thursday, 24th of September, the Brazilian Minister for Education, Milton Ribeiro, said that homosexuality was a choice and bloomed in “families of misfits” during an interview for the newspaper “Estadão”. Throughout the interview, the Presbyterian pastor made several harmful remarks regarding the LGBT+ community, including calling discussions about gender identity “not important”.
What we see here is nothing new: Damares Alves, the Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, continuously belittling LGBT+ people, affirming the community needs a cure for its unworthy and dishonorable lifestyle.
This only proves us Brazilians have been living in a government which has repeatedly put a social minority down – and let’s face it, that’s certainly not ideal. Furthermore, as we delve deeper into what it means to be LGBT+ in Brazil, we see other reasons as to why it isn’t a safe country for the community: Brazil has one of the highest LGBT+ reported mortality rates. According to the GGB’s (“Grupo Gay da Bahia”, literal translation: Bahia’s Gay Group) report, Brazil finds itself in one of the leading positions in the rank. In 2019 there were 329 violent deaths, including murders and suicides.
As I sat on the cobalt-blue couch, my eyes fixated on the bright television screen, I felt a pang of energy on my fingertips. Reaching for my phone, I had to remind myself which date had just passed and, as it set all my thoughts in perspective, I realized the irony of it all. Just as it takes one day to paint a picture – depending on your level of artistry and the size of the canvas – it took Milton Ribeiro one day to forget Bisexuality Awareness Day, which had been the day before: 23rd of September. To be quite fair, I like to think he knew that. To be even more fair (and considering all his disregard toward the community) I don’t think he did.
Another often forgotten yet nevertheless important date is May 17th, chosen as the International Day to Fight Against LGBTphobia. In this date, in 1990, the WHO (World Health Organization) declassified homosexuality as a disease. In Portuguese, the Minister’s claims included the term “homossexualismo”, which has a connotation pointing to an illness with the -ismo suffix – whereas “homosexualidade” is a widely preffered word.
Not so shockingly, his claims could fall under the definition of the homophobia crime, a law that passed on June 13th, 2019. Said law states that whoever discriminates against LGBT+ people should be condemned and serve 1 to 3 years of jail time – besides the fine – equating this crime with the one of racism. According to the newspaper “Folha de Pernambuco”, the GaDvs (“Grupo de Advogados para a Diversidade Sexual”, literal translation: Lawyer’s Group for Sexual Diversity) is filing a criminal complaint against the minister, accusing him of the aforementioned crime. However, as Milton Ribeiro himself posted on his Twitter account, the claims were “taken out of context” and he “never wanted to discriminate or promote any form of discrimination in relation to sexual orientation”. In addition, he apologized to anyone who might have felt offended with his claims.
All in all, the said event sheds light on the negligence the Brazilian government has often shown in regards to LGBT+-related issues. The Minister for Education himself stating LGBT+ discourse (such as gender identity, for example) shouldn’t be included in the obligatory curriculum for schools; the Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights supporting gay cure and conversion therapy. That and many other occurrences have proven us, as Brazilian citizens, that the government has no idea whatsoever on how to progress on LGBT+ topics, illustrating how society’s conservatism gives room for an outdated – and even retrograde – administration to take place.
Turning off the TV, it came to my senses I had been staring, baffled, for way too long. With my thin legs finally up straight and moving toward my writing desk, I began to type my anger down, letting the ink – the Times New Roman font, that’s more like it – run across the paper. With swift motions and a determined mindset, I put my indignation on paper. I hope it suffices for change in the benefit of a better world.
Here are some sites you can access to help LGBT-led NGOs, or even learn more about May 17th. If you have the time, do check them out, please.
Saiba o que fazer e como denunciar casos de homofobia – Como denunciar homofobia (literal translation: how to denounce homophobia), Catraca Livre.
ONGs e projetos LGBTs para você ajudar (e conhecer) em sua cidade – Projetos e ONGs LGBTs para ajudar (literal translation: LGBT projects and NGOs to help), Catraca Livre.
https://may17.org/about/ – Know more about May 17th.
SOURCES / FONTES
Ministro da Educação faz comentários homofóbicos em entrevista – Fala Universidades
https://www.conjur.com.br/2020-set-26/pgr-stf-abertura-inquerito-ministro-educação – Consultor Juridico
Brasil é o país que mais mata LGBTs no mundo: 1 a cada 19 horas – Catraca Livre
Saiba o que fazer e como denunciar casos de homofobia – Como denunciar homofobia, Catraca Livre
ONGs e projetos LGBTs para você ajudar (e conhecer) em sua cidade – Projetos e ONGs LGBTs para ajudar, Catraca Livre
17 de Maio: Dia Internacional de Luta Contra a LGBTfobia – Defensoria Pública do Estado do Paraná
https://may17.org/about/ – May17 Org