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Entries in Brazil (1)

Monday
Feb012010

Visão Brasileira

From what I've seen and heard, people from different countries have difficulties when bringing up sexuality with their peers. In Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries, sex is not taboo anymore. Gay and lesbian people can have their normal life without people bothering them and are respected by society. On the other hand, homosexuals in the Middle East live in fear of being killed.  One of their politicians has even said  "we don't have any gay people in this country". Okay, I'm convinced.

In Brazil, things are quite different. Before talking about gay life and "how it is to be gay here" I need to say a few things most people don't know about the country of soccer and carnival.

Brazil is a huge, rich (with a lot of poor and a few überrich people), it is basically a catholic, prosperous and western country. To understand it you have to understand how it used to be 150 years ago. We basically export raw materials and import culture (first from the Europeans, then the Americans). The meaning of being successful 150 years ago was: to be catholic, to have a lot of slaves and a huge farm. "Just plant coffee (especially in the 19th century) and be happy".

After the British applied pressure over our owning of slaves we eventually set them all free. It sounds great, doesn't it? But we basically threw them in the street. Literally speaking. What happened in Germany after the end of the Soviet Union, in the 90's? The government guided the old soviet society, giving them money in order to fit the system. What happened in Brazil, 120 years ago? Nothing. Nothing was planned.

In the meantime a lot of immigrants from Europe and Japan arrived in Brazil, following the promise of a better life. They started living in the south of the country, in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

In this mix of cultures Brazil has had its industrial revolution. It became a republic, then a dictatorship and eventually (in 1988) a democracy.

What does the history of Brazil have to do with the gay experience here? Well, all the morals and the structure of the society has a lot of sad memories from those days. Poverty, patriarchy (we were a colony and then a monarchy), Iberian culture (our families were totally patriarchal) and Catholicism (Portuguese gift), African influence in popular arts (music, for example) and a mix of European modern ideals (populism, anarchy - my state, Paraná, has had the only anarchic experience in the world - atheism, communism, etc). 

So, when the slaves were set free they didn't have anywhere to go but to the mountains.  Nowadays there is a lot of poverty and violence in the big cities in the favelas (slums); we don't have a good educational system - most people are illiterate; people tend to focus on religion (especially the evangelicals) and the corruption is a sad part of our politics that is just endless (our monarchy heritage).

If you were poor, madly religious, in a violent city, in hot and tropical weather, what would you do? Watch TV, play soccer, don't pay any attention to politics except to blame it for everything, wait all the year for the carnival, listen to music with no meaning, etc. But, in my opinion, the worst of all is the lack of education seen in the whole population. People don't go to good schools and don't understand what they read plus the prices for books are extremely high.

 On the matter of homosexuality: what do people think about it?  Is there space for gays in a society full of people who don't read, who are part of a patriarchal and "apish" society, who don't respect the rights of people, who blindly follow religious dogma, etc.  I don't think so, when all society can think is "Those evil and nasty creatures must be discriminated against. Sodomites, burn in hell!" there is no room for gays (This would suit the 18th century. But it's scary to hear it nowadays).

 What about me? I'm sensitive, young, smart, full of ideas (and ideals) and gay. I don't show others that I am, but I don't hide it either. That's the difference. My family knows, my dad hates it, my mother supports me and I just have a few smart and pleasant friends who are good to be with.

I don't kiss in public; I don't hold my boyfriend's hand in public. But why am I ashamed of it? Better - why am I afraid of it? Well, probably I just want to avoid the people's judgments. Sound fair...?

Brazil is not Iran, but I am sure we are far, far away from Sweden. Maybe we are just stuck, the same and old Brazil... and here I am.

I am sure there will be a lot of changes in the next few years, at least I hope so. Later I'll write about the legal details, and the changes that appear to be coming through new laws to Brazil.

This is my country, my gay life and... me.