On January 28th, Leandro Ramos, a young campaigner with All Out Brazil, emailed me to ask me whether I would like to be interviewed by The Guardian‘s Matthew Jenkin about the “gay cure.” Obviously, I took it.
As some of you may have known by now, I used to believe in those “therapies” and took part in them. In 1997, two friends and I founded a group dedicated to helping people overcome homosexuality. Those were dark times, but fortunately I woke up from that nightmare and grew strong enough to come out and publicly discredit such practices. Almost thirteen years have gone by and I still wonder how I could have withstood that evangelical fundamentalism for eighteen years; the last seven being overwhelmed with “gay conversion therapies.”
Anyway, Matthew Jenkin got in touch and scheduled the interview for the following Friday morning. We talked for over one hour; The Guardian‘s goal was to cover more than one story. Jenkin interviewed people from all around the world.
The article can be accessed here:
Turning around from UK’s The Guardian to Brazilian landscapes, the third week of February was a heated time in Rio de Janeiro. Nothing to do with our blazing summer, though. The thing is, the Governor had to correct a terrible mistake: he had hired a homophobe to chair a secretary, whose principal job is to prevent and correct violations against human rights. What a shame! What did the Governor have in mind, holy glitter?
A big mistake
Luiz Fernando Pezão, the Governor of Rio de Janeiro State, invited Ezequiel Teixeira to chair the secretariat of human and minorities’ rights. Teixeira is a Pentecostal pastor, known for some homophobic stances and for discriminatory preaching against people who follow Afro-Brazilian religions. Pezão appointed Teixeira to be charged with protecting the very rights that he despises. Stormy days could be foreseen–quickly came to fruition within just a few short weeks after Teixeira was sworn in.
Rio Without Homophobia, a program dedicated to promoting LGBT rights at state level, was promptly targeted by the pastor. It remains to be seen how anyone could have expected otherwise. If you hire a fox to take care of a henhouse, don’t expect to have omelets for breakfast, darling.
What’s Rio without Homophobia?
Coordinated by Claudio Nascimento, who was subordinated by the pastor, Rio Without Homophobia is the widest and most active program against homophobia and transphobia operating at the state level in Brazil, running several centers devised to assist LGBT citizens and their families.
Assistance ranges from psychological help to legal advice. The program offers a 24/7 hotline. Citizens who call receive support and information on services. Additionally, all the data gathered allows for official statistics on homophobia and transphobia.
LGBTQIA+ citizens protested the Pastor’s directive by fire-storming social media. Claudio Nascimento questioned the pastor’s actions and the issue caused a media frenzy. Nonetheless, the pastor did not bother to hide his homophobia. He said that he believed in the “gay cure,” adding that the Governor knew what he stood for when he decided to invite him. Without haste, Teixeira managed to shut down four reference centers held by Rio Without Homophobia, each one in a different city of the State.
Really daring, but nonetheless unwise. With so much inconsistency, Governor Pezão immediately removed Teixeira from office. Good, but not good enough. Catastrophe could have been avoided if the Governor had listened to his assistants and passed on Teixeira’s initial appointment.
After the storm, comes the rainbow
The new coordinator is Cladio Nascimento, who will certainly enhance the program. He will run the program more efficiently and with greater visibility. He is prepared, hardworking, and sensitive. He has teamed up with great crew: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender clerks and volunteers. Besides, they can count on many allies who support equality and inclusion.
I am glad to inform you that Rio Without Homophobia has promoted several mass wedding ceremonies with hundreds of people tying the knot in a totally LGBTQIA+ friendly environment. There are many more to come. And may the (rainbow) force be with you, Claudio!
When ignorance is a choice
Different from homosexuality, Teixeira’s apparent ignorance is a matter of choice. If he really wanted to revise his moldy ideas about sexual diversity, he would have found several interesting theological sources contemplating inclusion and anti-discriminatory ethics. Europe, the USA, and Latin America are full of interesting examples in that field.
These dinosaurs will not survive the new atmosphere of inclusion and celebration of diversity. Adapt or die out, dinos! Otherwise, time will just sweep your hatred away. Trust me, we won’t miss your bad breath at all.
One thing I know for sure: I have evolved. And I am still evolving every day, thanks to so many wonderful people in my life. How could anyone insist on living against their self? How can we not enjoy ourselves and the wonderful things life brings us. Take my word, brothers and sisters in the rainbow, it’s worth shaking off the dust of prejudice and self-hatred and loving one another.