LGBT+ resistance under Bolsonaro

What impact does this election have for the LGBT+ community in Brazil?
Photo: upslon /CC BY 2.0 /Flickr

“I won’t fight it or discriminate against it, but if I see two men kissing on the street, I’ll hit them”, this was the response that Bolsonaro had during an interview with Folha de São Paulo in 2002.

The newly elected President has held anti-LGBTQ+ stances since the beginning of his political career. In 2011, he once declared in an interview with Playboy magazine that he would rather have his son be dead than gay. Last year, in a public appearance, he stated: “the minorities should bow to the majorities”.  

This violent and hateful language has legitimised politically motivated violence and hatred between Brazilians.

The rise of political violence during election campaign

Brazil has not been a country with high levels of politically motivated murder, but during the elections, the magazine Exame published that there had been over 50 attacks with political motivation in less than 10 days, according to a report done by the news agency Agência Pública and the civil organisation Open Knowledge Brazil. This showed the increase in political violence, including the widely reported death of Moa do Katendê, a black man who practised afro-Brazilian religion, on the evening after the first election round.

Trans people seem to have been particularly targeted. Three trans women were killed in the week before the final round of the elections last month, according to news website Brasil de Fato. In all those cases, witnesses have come forward linking the deaths with supporters of Bolsonaro.

On the election day, trans rights activist Angela Lopes was attacked by a stranger with a hammer, who also shouted abuse about her sexuality and gender identity. She declared to website NLucon that she believed the crime was political, as she lives across the street from a polling station.

LGBTQ+ people in Brazil: a population already in danger

Words in the Bucket has previously reported on the staggering rates of violence against the LGTQ+ population in Brazil. The country ranks number one in the killing of trans people in the world, and the most recent reports demonstrate this has not changed.

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According to Grupo Gay da Bahia, so far in 2018 there were over 346 violent deaths due to the victims’ gender identity or sexuality and the current life expectancy of trans people is between 27 and 30 years old. That is almost an attack a day.

How does the election impact LGBTQ+ people?

The rise of the far-right in the country seems to be stoking the fears of the LGBTQ+ population. In an interview to El País Brasil, sociologist and trans woman Leona Wolf stated: “People that already looked at you with hate now look at you as if you are the personification of the evil Bolsonaro will fight. He presents himself as a saviour of the country, so his enemies are enemies of the people.”

Furthermore, Bolsonaro’s political agenda seems to be in direct opposition to the human rights of the LGBTQ+ population. His manifesto for the 2018 elections did not mention any of the issues affecting them and his cabinet also seems to have a decidedly anti-LGBTQ+ stance – for instance, the most likely name for Minister of Human Rights, Damares Alves, is a lawyer and evangelical priest that is known for her fight against LGBTQ+ rights.

” among the LGBTQ+ community, however, I don’t know one single exception. Everybody is feeling in danger”.

When asked about the situation of LGBT+ people under Bolsonaro, a Brazilian citizen who wishes to remain anonymous says “Hard to say… But I believe the LGBT is the most vulnerable minority. Maybe I have this feeling because it is the nearest minority to me” he said.  “All of them feel very in danger”, he continues, specifying that he knows people who are part of minorities and have voted for Bolsonaro, but that ” among the LGBTQ+ community, however, I don’t know one single exception. Everybody is feeling in danger”.

Beyond Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies have also taken a turn to the right. According to a report by El País Brasil the president-elect will have wide support from the growth of his own party and of those who supported his candidacy, including the caucuses of evangelicals, supporters of lax gun control and the agribusiness. This will mean that anti-LGBTQ+ proposals might pass with relative ease if put to vote

And such proposals do exist – there are over 20 anti-LGBTQ+ law projects currently pending, according to research done by news portal Catraca Livre. Therefore, the LGBTQ+ population is preparing for the worst. For example, the newspaper Folha de São Paulo has reported that many couples are marrying in a hurry to guarantee that their rights be kept

Resisting violence through representation

On September 23rd, Folha de São Paulo reported that the 2018 Brazilian elections had a record number of transgender candidates for both Executive and Legislative positions, with 45 candidates. This was hailed as a victory for the Brazilian trans community. In the 2010 elections, only 5 transgender candidates had ran for office.

Érica Malunguinho, a black trans woman, became the first transgender person to be elected for the state assembly in São Paulo. Candidates Erika Hilton, from São Paulo, and Robeyoncé Lima, from Pernambuco, were also elected as part of collective caucuses to their states respective assemblies.

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In a Facebook post, Malunguinho declared that “Alesp [São Paulo’s state assembly] will now have a face that is not one, a face that is many people. Black and indigenous peoples, cis and trans women, cis and trans men, people that love same or different sexes, migrants and immigrants that have joined their votes on this face, that is the sum of all facets of the resistance”.

Erika Hilton, one of the elected trans women stated: “We are the first of thousands to come!” to indicate that these candidatures will only grow in number and support and that they will keep fighting for the human rights of the trans population in the country.

Despite the increasing violence and loss of rights that the Brazilian LGBTQ+ population are at risk of, it is important to take time to remember that there is an organised resistance to it. The election of Malunguinho, Hilton and Lima demonstrate that the fight for LGBT+ rights is still alive in Brazil. Being united in the face of hatred is what will make minorities of Brazil stand together in unison.

Joana Midena Perrone

Joana Perrone is a PhD candidate in Latin American Studies at the University of Oxford, where she researches feminicide in Brazil. She has a BA in International Relations from the University of Sussex and an MSt in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford. Her main research interests are gender-based violence and human rights, especially in Latin America. You can find her on twitter at @jollyjellyfish_
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