Gay males in Brazil understand religious intolerance all too well
November 10, 2008 by William K. Wolfrum
If there was one thing that was drilled into our collective heads during the intense, and ultimately successful campaign to insert blatantly discriminatory language into the California constitution it is this – many prominent religious organizations want all citizens of a nation to follow their rules, regardless of whether or not they follow their religion.
Not that this comes as much of a surprise. History is littered with the attempts of organized religious bodies to leap out of their churches and into the day-to-lives of ordinary citizens, believers or not. All other issues aside, nothing showcases the disconnect between God’s teachings and the humanity in charge of translating those teachings than the all-too secular ambitions of the James Dobsons of the world. And history has shown us repeatedly the dangers that come with radically ambitious people who feel they are on a mission from God.
The religious right’s latest crusade against the LBGTQ community made me think quite a bit of Brazil and the problems that have been injected into Brazilian society by Catholicism (and Mormonism, which has grown sharply due to a barrage of Mormon missionaries). There is a societal paradox in Brazil – while the majority of Brazilians lean far to the left on political issues, on social issues they lean much more to the right. And that rightward lean can be attributed directly to the Catholic Church.
I recently spoke with a few gay males here in Brazil about Proposition 8 and about how they viewed their acceptance in Brazilian society. Not surprisingly, they were well aware of Prop 8. And while Brazil is still a dangerous country for those in the LBGTQ community, they have seen progress and seen acceptance gain a modicum of momentum over the years.
“Brazil is very liberal but very socially conservative. There’s currently a law going through the senate to approve civil unions, but the evangelicals are trying to stop it before it comes to a vote. The difference between marriage and civil unions is that there is still discrimination, but just getting gay marriage would be a big step.”
“There are some areas in Brazil that are much more accepting of gays, notably in Rio. But there has been a noticeable improvement in public perception over the past few years. I think that’s mostly due to the novellas on television. More and more they are depicting more gays as real people with real problems and lives. Rede Globo has been very good about that and it’s helped.”
“What we see here is that gays are discriminated against and segregated. I have been hit before by a guy and I know that it was just because I am a gay male. As far as civil unions and gay marriage, marriage is for straight people. We have to fight for a new kind of relationship that is respected. We have to live with prejudice here, but I don’t want to be a heterosexual. I want my own gay rights. The same way I accept hetero relationships, they should respect my rights as a gay male. I don’t want to have to conform.”
* Names have been changed.