By Rute Alonso
It has no been easy to be a lesbian in Brazil. The non-governmental Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), which works on mapping the homicides against the LGBTI (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals and intersex), shows that there were 420 deads of LGBTI in Brazil in 2018 (320 people killed and 100 suicides). Yet, according to the NGO Transgender Europe (TGEU). Brazil is the country in which more transexuals are killed.
However, there were important achievements, rights and space guaranteed fo the LGBTI population in the last decade.
In 2011, for instance, we achieved the right to register civil partnership for homosexuals, due to a decision made by the Supreme Federal Court. In 2013, Brazilian registry offices were obliged to convert civil patnerships into marriage. In 2018, transgenders had the right to alter their name and gender at the registry office, if they wished, independently of gender surgeries or hormonal treatments.
In June 2019, we celebrated the criminalisation of homolesbotransphobia, with a legislation which includes the definition of crimes derived from racism either by ethinicity or colour. This is the most recent achievement of the LGBTI rights in Brazil.
Beyond these achievement at Judicial Power level, we can also mention achievements at the Executive Power, where there are possibilities to work on stopping and preventing violence against LGBTI population due to the investment in development of social policies which can promote dignity to this cohort of the population. Likewise, we can acknowledge health policies which aim to promote the health of LGBTI people (Politica Nacional de Saude Integral de Lesbicas, Gays, Bisexuals, Tranvestites and Transexuals – LGBT) seeking to eliminate discrimination and institutional racism, while trying to reduce inequalitites and the consolidation of the univesal health services (Sistema Unico de Saude – SUS).
Moreover, the transexualising process (Processo Transsexualizador), which has very few places available, has been carried out free of charge through SUS. It guarantees full access to health services since the social name, hormonal therapies to gender surgeries in order to adjust the biological body to one’s gender identity.
Granted those, in order to understand the high numbers of violence against LGBTI, we should remember the sociologist Heleieth Saffioti. She highlights that gender violence consists in a specific pattern of violence based on hierarchy and inequality of social sexual places, which undermine the women, while expanding and becoming directly proportional to the threat of male power. The more this patriarchal power is threatened, the more is the overreaction, in a way to maintain the order as it is, in a violent attempt to stop rights and achievements.
Thus, the setbacks can be noticed as an overreaction to these achievements and rights. In the light of the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president, even though he had a history of homophobic positioning throughout his political journey.
Damares Alves, current minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, said that Brazil was entering into a new phase, in which from that moment on, “boys wear blue and girls wear pink”, at the cerimony of receiving the ministry.
With this in mind, the Brazil governed by Bolsonaro has been demonstrated to the LGBTI population that they are not welcomed “into this new era”. As an illustration, on his first act as a president and while establishing the ministries, the LGBTI population was never ever mentioned.
Still, to mark the setbacks, we cannot forget Marielle Franco. She was a black woman from the favela (shantytown), mother, bisexual, sociologist and councilor elected in Rio de Janeiro. She spent her life to fight against inequalities, women’s rights, black people’s rights, rights of people living in the ‘favelas’, LGBTI people and all people who lived under any type of oppression. In March 14, 2018, she was cowardly killed in an attack to the car where she was in. 13 shots hit the car and killed also the driver Anderson Pedro Gomes. Yet, we still have no asnwer to the question: Who asked to kill Marielle?
Not to mention the former federal deputy Jean Willys, who gave up on taking over on his third mandate, as a result of the systematically life threats he had been receiving. He decided to live abroad in order to keep his life. Jean Willys suffered countless homophobic discriminations from the currrent president and his sons.
On the other hand, our history of seeking for rights is made up of many fights, social mobilisation and resistance. It is marked by bloodshed, sweat, tears, and unfourtunatelly loss of many lives of activists throughtout history. Especially those who reported the violence suffered, particularly by the State. They were seeking ways to build an inclusive society in which the lives of LGBTI people matter as much as any other lives.
We should remember the LGBTI resistance at the time of the Brazilian dictatorship (1964 – 1985), which happened as a fact, even though Bolsonaro denies it. During this period 20.000 people were tortured and 434 were killed or disappeared under the army regime. This resistance allowed that at the end of 1970s, LGBTI groups joined to fight for re-democratisation, against the oppression by the State and for the amplification of rights. For this reason, the active participation of LGBTI movements coordinated by Triangulo Rosa, aimed to present specific demands to the rights of this part of the population during the Assembleia Nacional Constituinte in 1988. Yet, beyond the equality between men and women, LGBTI people had very few achievements on that occasion.
Nonetheless, LGBTI movement kept on fighting and extending their representation in society. In 2018, there was an increase of 386% in the number of LGBTI candidates, for the State and Federal legislative in relation to 2014, for instance. We have had 160 LGBTI candidacies, which resulted in the election of 8 people in the whole country: 06 out of them are occupying the Legislative Assembly in Sao Paulo, Distrito Federal e Pernambuco, 01 federal deputy and 01 senator. Among these, we can mention Erica Malunguinho da Silva, who was elected the first transsexual woman to occupy a chair in the conservative Legislative Assemby of Sao Paulo, which is a very important mark to the country.
Moreover, the rise of representation of the LGBTI population has expanded not only withing the political parties. Nowadays we have various names of reference nationally and internationally in the culture, arts, sports, academia, sciences, etc. There is no doubt that our rights and
representation were achieved due to fights, and to to keep them, and to also amplify them, we will keep on fighting and resisting as we have done throughout our History. That is to say that only through our colective resistance we will advance in our rights formally achieved to carry on building a society which is more just and equal. So Brazil can drop its high statistic positions on LGBTI people being killed.
Rute Alonso, lawyer, femininst, lesbian. Vice president of Uniao de Mulheres de Sao Paulo (Union of Women of Sao Paulo). She is co-coordinatior of Promotoras Legais Populares. She coordinates a Centro de Defesa e Convivencia de Mulheres (Community Centre to support women suffering domestic violence)
You can find her on Twitter at @RuteAlonsoCNM or on Facebook at Rute Alonso