These LGBTQ Politicians Are Fighting for Queer Lives Under Brazil’s New Bigoted President

President Jair Bolsonaro began attacking the LGBTQ community and other minorities on his first day in office.

LGBTQ politicians are battling for the lives and rights of the queer community in Brazil, which recently elected homophobic and transphobic ultra-conservative politician Jair Bolsonaro as president.

Bolsonaro (below) has said he would rather his son be dead than gay, and made hateful rhetoric a staple of his campaign.

president jair bolsonaro
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The administration began attacking the LGBTQ community and other minority groups on day one, removing concerns of the LGBTQ community from consideration by the new human rights ministry. He has also announced plans to remove all references to homosexuality, feminism, and violence against women from textbooks, and allow the military to take over some public schools.

Last year, the Brazilian independent advocacy organization Grupo Gay de Bahia reported a 30% increase in anti-LGBTQ homicides from 2016 to 2017. In March of 2018, Marielle Franco, a lesbian city councilor in Rio de Janeiro, was shot and killed. Two months later, a 21-year-old non-binary model was murdered in Rio.

Marielle Franco tribute
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A wheat-paste piece of street art by artist Luis Bueno honoring Franco, who, along with her driver Anderson Gomes, was shot dead in the heart of Rio. The crime is still unsolved, but the investigations point to the participation of cops. Marielle was a critic of police violence.

franco mourners
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Brazilians mourn Franco in a large-scale demonstration outside Rio’s Municipal Chamber, in downtown Rio de Janeiro.

One gay politician, Jean Wyllys, a former congressman, fled the country shortly after winning re-election after he received death threats directed both at himself and his family.

“I don’t want to sacrifice myself,” he told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “I want to take care of myself and stay alive.”

Wyllys has been replaced by another gay lawmaker, Rio councilman David Miranda (pictured at top, at left, carrying Franco’s casket), who is married to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

“I felt like this was a big blow for democracy,” Miranda told Reuters of Wyllys’s exile.

“But at the same time, I know the work that I’m going to do, and how I’m going to be a strong voice for the LGBT community, for the black community, and for democracy in general in Brazil. And that makes me eager to fight for my country in this moment of need.”

While the October general election managed to sweep Bolsonaro into office, it also saw a number of high-profile victories for LGBTQ candidates, including Marcelo Calero, only the third openly gay man ever elected to Brazil’s lower house of parliament, and Fabiano Contarato, the country’s first ever openly gay senator.

Two transgender deputies were also elected, in the country’s most populous state, Sao Paulo: Erica Malunguinho and Erika Hilton.

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Enquanto nos disserem como “o outro”, enquanto apenas intercederem sobre as questões estruturais, não há possibilidade de mudança. Não deveria ser difícil entender que se os “problemas sociais” do Brasil dizem respeito diretamente a nós, nada mais verdadeiro, coerente e justo que sejamos nós que estejamos a frente dos espaços de tomada de decisão. O que aconteceu com Marielle não foi por causa da “cultura do ódio”, dizer isso esvazia a profundidade deste crime. Foi uma ideologia-sistema de opressão chamado racismo que prevê a morte da favela, e uma vez que alguma de nós se levanta com corpo-espirito favela como princípio e fundamento, a ideologia-sistema de opressão racista se volta novamente contra nós. #alternanciadepoder #4p #eleicoes2018 #racism #racismo #feminismonegro #transgender Este vídeo faz parte da série #afronta da @tvpreta.com.br

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“We have a president who makes very violent statements about LGBT people, about black people, about women,” said Malunguinho, adding that it has become even more essential “to be a guiding force in guaranteeing our rights.”

Hilton said it brought her “a sense of euphoria and inner joy” to see minorities making their concerns heard, as well as “profound sadness that for so long, our voices have been silenced.”

An increase in more progressive, younger voters is butting up against older, more conservative Brazilians, who Javier Corrales, professor of political science at Amherst College, told Reuters are getting “more organized and vocal.”

“I’m going to be afraid, but I’m going with a lot of courage too,” Miranda said of his new role and the increased visibility that comes with it. “No steps back, only going forward. That’s the only thing we know.”

He added that he hopes to build a shelter for LGBTQ individuals, and noted that there are “many leaders in our community who are going to step up and start making changes.”

“We’re going to start a real revolution for LGBT people,” he pledged.

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