Category: City: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Diego, Strategic Planner, Rio De Janeiro

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photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong

Diego, in his own words: “Being gay is just one kind of expressions of human sexuality and behaviour.

For me, IT doesn’t make me different or special – it is just me being myself.
I’m gay, but before this I’m just another man who wants to discover the world, build a family, have nice friends, show my own talent, and ultimately be happy.

I once saw in a movie something like this: “In life, you can make a choice: to be happy or to be sad. I choose to be happy.” Yes… I choose it too.”

Alcinoo, Photographer, Rio De Janeiro

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photo by Kevin Truong

Alcinoo, in his own words: “Being gay is a definition like any other, and like all definitions it has a place in my world in as much as it needs to be taken apart at the seams. And fundamentally it has meant many things at different times. So while there were times when it meant defining my persona, my place (or lack of) within the groups I frequented or wanted to be part of, now it is less an opportunity to define as something to discover and ultimately to let go of. I find having to think of myself as gay as a peculiar opportunity. Its biggest blessing has lied in forcing my own evolution as a human being to include rather than exclude, to grow compassionately and remain open. I always felt that it served that purpose from the day I had to start to define anything related to my sexuality. A way to be more open, accepting, humble, understanding. Ultimately making me into a better person through all the nuances of what it meant growing up gay in the 70s and 80s. Being on the edge of things keeps me on my toes.

I have a big issue with gay-ness mostly being related to the sexual act, or serving as a definition for sexual preference. It beggars belief how anyone could be referred to and defined so heavily just by that, as I see myself as so many things beyond my sexuality. Yet it becomes an issue and in a way as gay men we are forced into mental and physical ghettos.

Learning first hand about the significance of preconceptions is invaluable none the less as they define all human interactions.

You ask what the gay community in Rio is like, but I am probably not the best person to ask, and I don’t have many good things to say about it. I know lots of gay men in Rio, friends and acquaintances and I find it hard to put them in a box, or a community, because each one is defined by their own personal trajectory. I find that the gay community in Rio is a group made of so many ricocheting individuals drawn together by a need to belong and gelled by drugs and sex into that whole. Reason why I don’t frequent bars, clubs, saunas, beaches.

There are many gay communities in Rio. I like to think I create a gay community every time I meet with my friends. Whether they be gay or not!”

Tiago, Geographer/Master’s Student in Urban and Regional Planning, Rio De Janeiro

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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Tiago, in his own words: “Se me perguntassem “o que ser brasileiro significa para você” ou “o que ter irmãos significa para você”, eu responderia que essas são condições essenciais da minha vida. Claro que são classificações e como qualquer classificação são carregadas de significados e relações de poder, mas o fato de eu ser gay é também uma condição da minha vida. Certamente, como membro de um grupo social marginal, eu estou sujeito a situações de preconceito e violência, tanto física quanto verbal, mas eu não consigo pensar numa resposta mais simples e, ao mesmo tempo, mais certa para essa pergunta que não seja “significa ser eu mesmo”. Escrevendo essa resposta fiquei pensando que a pergunta ideal seria ao contrário: “o que ser você significa para ser gay?”. Assim a condição de sujeito viria antes da sexualidade, mas acho que esse é um caminho longo de desconstrução de categorias que acabam criando padrões e gerando preconceito com tudo o que está fora do padrão.

Eu não consigo ver sucessos associados diretamente ao fato de eu ser gay. Já desafios, eu acho que o maior deles foi o meu próprio reconhecimento enquanto sujeito, o que tem a ver com um movimento de enfrentamento em relação a vários valores sociais, familiares e religiosos.

Eu não costumo frequentar lugares especificamente gays no Rio de Janeiro. Nunca gostei muito de guetos e prefiro os espaços menos direcionados a um grupo particular, onde circulam todos os tipos de pessoa. Mas eu acho o Rio de Janeiro, pelo menos as partes da cidade por onde circulo, amistoso em relação aos gays. Talvez isso tenha a ver com a vida na cidade grande. Eu venho de uma cidade bem menor que o Rio, onde raramente você é anônimo nos lugares que frequenta, o que acaba favorecendo a criação de guetos. De forma bem geral, eu acho que os gays circulam bastante entre os diferentes grupos aqui no Rio, e isso parece gerar uma melhor aceitação por parte da sociedade.

Eu nunca me considerei muito dentro do armário, eu sempre soube que era gay. Ainda criança, mesmo que não tivesse consciência da sexualidade, eu sabia que não correspondia a muitas das posturas e gostos que se esperam de uma criança do sexo masculino. A partir de uma certa idade, fui me dando conta de que essas diferenças passavam pela sexualidade, uma sexualidade que eu reconhecia como minha e que eu nunca quis contrariar. De qualquer modo, eu não cresci despreocupado dessa definição, sentia que precisava me afirmar enquanto gay, o que eu acho um problema, já que essa não é uma preocupação explícita de um adolescente heterossexual que corresponde ao padrão socialmente aceitável. A minha saída oficial do armário foi aos 17 anos. Até então, por mais que eu soubesse que era gay, nunca tinha me relacionado com homens. Eu esperei que isso acontecesse para que eu pudesse me abrir para as pessoas. E com exceção de alguns amigos mais próximos, as primeiras pessoas a quem eu contei foram meus pais. Eu sentia profunda necessidade de mostrar a eles quem de fato e eu era, e isso foi fundamental para minha formação enquanto sujeito. De início, alguns conflitos surgiram, mas eu sempre mantive uma postura que chamo de “enfrentamento”. Nunca recuei e nem abri mão da minha sexualidade por conta da minha família. Hoje, eu acredito que essa postura influenciou na construção de uma relação de muito respeito entre nós, e cada vez mais eu acho que esse respeito está para além do fato de eu ser gay.

Como eu falei na primeira pergunta, eu acho que o melhor conselho seria “não se preocupe em se definir dentro de uma categoria, apenas viva de acordo com suas ideias, emoções e valores”. Mas eu acho que essa situação ainda é bastante utópica, então eu diria “não deixe de se afirmar da maneira como você é, respeitando a si mesmo dentro da sua diferença”.

in English:

“If someone asks me “what being Brazilian means to you” or “what having brothers means to you”, I’ll reply that those are essential conditions of my life. Of course they’re classifications full of meanings and relations of power, but the fact that I’m gay is also a condition of my life. Certainly, as any member of a marginal social group, I’m susceptible to situations of prejudice and physically and verbally violence, but I can’t think in a simple and at the same time right answer to this question than “means to be myself”. Writing this response I thought the ideal question would be: “what being you means to be gay?”. Thus the condition of the subject would come before sexuality, but I think it’s a long way of deconstruction of categories that create patterns and cause prejudice to everything defined nonstandard.

I can’t see successes directly associated with the fact I’m gay. One big challenge though it was my own recognition as a subject, which has to do with face up various social, family and religious values.

I don’t usually attend specifically gay places in Rio de Janeiro. I don’t really like ghettos instead I prefer spaces much less aimed to a particular group, where you can find every sort of people. But I think Rio, at least the places I’ve been, is friendly toward the gay public; maybe it has to do with life in a big city. I came from a smaller town where you’re rarely anonymous in places you go out, which favors the creation of ghettos. In Rio I think gay people circulate well among different groups and it seems to generate greater acceptance by society.

I never considered myself in the closet because I always knew I was gay. As a little child, even if I hadn’t be aware of sexuality, I knew that I didn’t correspond to many of the attitudes and tastes expected of a male child. As the years gone by, I realized that those differences were about the sexuality, which soon I recognized as mine without fighting against it. However I wasn’t that far of this definition, I needed to affirm myself, which was a problem because normally it wasn’t a preoccupation of a heterosexual guy, which socially fits in the acceptable patterns. I officially came out when I was 17. By then even if I knew I was gay, I’ve never had experienced a homosexual relationship. I’ve waited till then to let others to know it, and besides some close friends my parents were the first. I needed so much to let them kwon who I was and this was fundamental to my formation as a subject. At first there were some conflicts, but I’ve always been in a certain position that I call “enfrentamento” (In literally translation: to confront). I’ve never turned myself down and never gave up my sexuality for my family. Nowadays I believe this “enfrentamento” position have influenced me in the construction of a very respectful relationship between us, and day after day I think this respect is far beyond the fact I’m gay.

As I said in the first question, I think the best advice would be “don’t worry to define yourself within a category, just live according your ideas, emotions and values”. But I think this situation is still quite utopic, instead I would say, “Affirm and respect yourself the way you are within your difference”.

Pedro, PhD Student/Electrical Engineer, Rio De Janeiro (Visiting from Campinas)

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photo by Kevin Truong
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Pedro, in his own words: “Being gay really doesn’t have a meaning for me…when I first came out it felt like something wrong, but now its just normal.

Challenges I had are always related to my academic life, living abroad, and being accepted into one of the best universities in Brasil. My acomplishments are being able to live a comfortable life and visiting many countries around the world doing my work, as a researcher.

The gay comunity in Campinas is very closed minded. You have to be like all of them and everybody talks about everybody. Gossip is the rule.

Coming out was hard. I suffered a lot because I thought it was something wrong, but with time I realized it was just another characteristic, like being left handed. So, with the help of my friends and family, I can accept it just fine.

(If I could talk to myself before coming out, I’d say) Come out, to your loved ones. And do it fast.”

Neno, President of Mesquita´s Gay Association and Mesquita´s Subcoordinator of Sexual Diversity, Mesquita

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Neno, in his own words: “In 1988 when I started the association not much was being done to take care of LGBT people in the peripherical areas in Rio. Not at all to be honest. Once I was already present in every gay event, as an organizer or a participant, it was clear to me that I should engage in some kind of social work. AGANIM (acronym for my association) was born to talk HIV, prevent it and make sure these people´s rights were being respected.”

Paulo, Actor/Film Editor, Rio De Janeiro

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Paulo, in his own words: “I think most people have a very wrong impression when it comes to the way gay people feel.

Take me for an example. I was raised in a family – a loving family – but they couldn’t really quite understand homosexuals. Besides, I used to live in a distant neighborhood, far from the only gay places I knew. When I decided to come out (to myself at least), I had to leave my comfort zone and disobey my traditional family rules, going in the opposite direction of what they had chosen and expected of me, concerning sexuality, social life and career. It was as if I had a double life: one at home and another one completely different, with my friends and the other people I knew. I often had to sneak out to meet them.

My father was the most sexist and homophobic person I have ever known and when I finally came out for him, at 26 years old, he proved to be the most understanding and loving parent. In spite of his prejudiced personality, a result of the education he had, he told me he studied for years and spoke with many people about homosexuality, because he realized I was gay when I was 16. He even said that he came to the conclusion it was something normal. I know how hard it was on him. I became very proud of myself and found the courage to show who I was, putting an end to my double life. This changed my relationship with my father and also our lives. Today I have a true friend.

All this made me a plural, open-minded and free person (I work each day for that, at least). I can say that a lot of good things that happened in my life was because I am the way I am, and had the courage to recognize this so that I could live the way I wanted to.

So, when people have the opinion that every gay person suffers a lot (and often just for being gay and not accepting themselves), I say that it is the opposite for me. I am happy for being gay and I say this proudly, without a shadow of a doubt. If I had to start my life from the beginning, I would rather be a gay man again, but maybe in a more tolerant place. Although Rio has evolved to some extent, it is unfortunately still full of hypocrisy and prejudice. It is acceptable to be gay at home, in private parties and in gay places. But it´s embarrassing the reaction of people if you, for example, kiss your boyfriend on the street or hold hands. I have even seen homosexuals judging this behavior, which I find incomprehensible. Sadly, Rio registers many cases of homophobic violence and it is possible to be a victim just by demonstrating affection in public.

The funny thing is that some people have problems with others being gay and think that they need to change. Me? I love my life the way it is. If I could have met myself before coming out I would have told me: be strong and go ahead. I wouldn´t change anything.”

In Portuguese:

“Acho que muitas pessoas têm uma visão equivocada de como muitos gays se sentem.

Eu, por exemplo, nasci em uma família que, embora amorosa, não sabia lidar e entender bem como eram os homossexuais. Além disso, vivia num bairro afastado da Zona Sul do Rio, único lugar onde eu sabia que havia lugares gays naquela época. Então, quando me descobri, tive que sair da minha zona de conforto e desobedecer as regras tradicionalistas da minha família, indo na contramão do que eles queriam pra mim, tanto em termos de sexualidade, quanto de vida social, profissão e etc. Eu vivia uma vida dupla. Uma em casa e outra na rua, com amigos e conhecidos. Tinha até que sair escondido de casa para estar com eles.

Meu pai era a pessoa mais machista e homofóbica que eu conhecia e quando eu me assumi pra ele, aos 26 anos, ele se mostrou o pai mais compreensivo e amoroso. Apesar de todo seu preconceito, que veio de sua educação, ele me contou que estudou anos e falou com muitas pessoas sobre a homossexualidade, porque se deu conta que eu era gay desde os meus 16 anos. E ainda completou dizendo que tinha chegado à conclusão de que era algo normal. Eu sei o quanto isso foi difícil pra ele. Fiquei muito orgulhoso de mim, por ter a coragem de mostrar como eu era, acabando com minha vida dupla. Isso transformou a minha relação com meu pai e também nossas vidas. Hoje eu tenho um amigo de verdade.

Tudo isso fez de mim uma pessoa plural, mente aberta e livre (cada dia trabalho mais pra isso). Posso dizer que muitas coisas boas que aconteceram na minha vida se devem ao fato de eu ser como sou e ter coragem para reconhecer isso e viver como eu quero.

Então, quando as pessoas têm a opinião de que todos os gays sofrem muito (e muitas vezes apenas por serem gays e por não se aceitarem), eu digo que para mim é o contrário. Eu sou feliz por ser gay e digo isso com orgulho e sem a menor sombra de dúvida.

Se eu pudesse escolher voltar a viver, eu escolheria nascer gay novamente, mas talvez em um lugar mais tolerante.

Apesar de no Rio ter havido algum avanço, infelizmente continua sendo um lugar preconceituoso e hipócrita. Você pode ser gay em casa, em festas privadas, em lugares gays. Mas é constrangedora a reação das pessoas se você, por exemplo, beijar seu namorado na rua ou andar de mãos dadas. Inclusive já vi homossexuais sendo preconceituosos com esse tipo de situação, o que pra mim é incompreensível. No Rio, se registra muitos casos de violência provocada por homofobia e é possível ser uma vítima simplesmente por demonstrar afeto em público.

O engraçado é que as pessoas é que têm problemas com os gays e acham que eles deveriam mudar. Já eu? Eu adoro minha vida do jeito que ela é. Se eu pudesse falar comigo antes de me assumir, eu simplesmente diria: força, vá em frente. Não faria nada diferente.”

Rafucko, Videomaker and Artivist, Rio De Janeiro

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Rafucko, in his own words: “O que ser gay significa para você?

The simple answer for that is: it means the best thing there is, simply because it’s too much fun. But being gay made me feel in my own skin the prejudice many people suffer in our society – especially in Brazil. So it brought me closer to the fights for human rights.

The challenge is being myself despite everything and everyone and getting over people’s opinion about you. The success is understanding that the freedom to be whatever you want to be is worth more than money, status or any other material thing.

In Rio de Janeiro, “looking like” is more important than actually “being”. That rule is very strong amongst the gay community. Looking masculine, looking handsome, looking nice seems more important than being happy, being free, being as effeminate or as gay as you really want to be. It’s a bit uncomfortable and, comparing to other cities in the world, many gay men are very closed in their own groups and tribes (but the handsome men at the beach are really something, I have to admit, haha :)

It took me almost 20 years to come out of the closet. It was liberating – only after that I feel that I started existing. But it was also more simple than I could imagine and less dramatic as I thought it would be when I was inside the closet.

(If I could give myself advice before coming out, I’d say) Dont’t stay inside the closet longer than the necessary time to chose the right clothes. Outside is so much brighter, life is short and there’s a lot to enjoy out there. :)”