Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

’Homophobia Helpline’ Goes Live in Brazil

By Kilian Melloy -
Mark Blasius, left, shows his wounds while still in Brazil.
Mark Blasius, left, shows his 
wounds while still in Brazil.

Images of flamboyant Pride celebrants in cities like São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro give Brazil an international image of a gay-friendly place. But beneath that facade there runs a current of anti-gay sentiment so strong that some gay Brazilians seek asylum from violence and persecution in the United States.

Now the nation has established a "homophobia helpline" in an effort to counter anti-gay violence and discrimination. A press release from Toni Reis of the Brazilian LGBT Association described how the Brazilian government has added an "LGBT module" to an existing service, the Human Rights Helpline."

"On Saturday, February 19th, I had the opportunity to take part in the launching ceremony of the LGBT module of the Human Rights Helpline (Dial 100), a national service dedicated to dealing with complaints of homophobic discrimination and violence," the release read.

"The service was launched by Maria do Rosário, Minister of the President of the Republic’s Human Rights Secretariat, accompanied by the Vice-Secretary of the Senate, Senator Marta Suplicy, Federal Congressman Jean Wyllys, São Paulo city Human Rights Secretary and former Justice Minister José Gregori, among other authorities," the release continued. "The event took place in São Paulo, which has recently been stage to highly publicized homophobic attacks."

The helpline’s launch comes in the wake of a prominent academic of gay politics having been apparently gay bashed last December, in São Paolo, while he was in the city to present at the International Lesbian & Gay Organization World Conference.

EDGE covered the story with a Feb. 14 article, noting that City University of New York professor emeritus Mark Blasius "has authored three books, including the highly influential textbook We Are Everywhere, the most complete compendium of key primary sources in same-sex gender-identity politics. He has written innumerable papers and has flown around the world to do presentations in conferences.

"Along the way, he has helped fledgling and struggling local LGBT groups get their footing," the EDGE article added.

"Blasius was staying at a hotel that is part of a large Brazilian chain," the article recounted. "Two days before the incident, he was working with the collaborators on his presentation. The night of the second day, a local guide from the conference escorted a group of attendees from the hotel to São Paulo’s major gay neighborhood, a 10-minute walk from the hotel, to grab a bite and take in the local color.

"The guide, a volunteer, ’told us this wasn’t a dangerous area," Blasius told EDGE. At a certain point, he and his two cohorts--a man and a woman--decided to go a dance club, where they hung out until 2 a.m. The other two were staying in hotels in the opposite direction.

" ’I had asked the guide if it was safe to walk alone at night,’ Blasius recalls. ’I asked if I should take a taxi. He said, "No, no, it’s too close. The taxi driver won’t take you directly there." ’

"Since Blasius doesn’t speak Portuguese, he thought it would be best to hoof it back," the article continued. "A few minutes after starting out, he was out of the gay area. This is how he describes what happened next:

" ’A man in the street started screaming at me in Portuguese. This was a wide boulevard with a divider in the middle, no cars out. After the first block, I heard him still screaming. He was following me.

" ’He looked as though he was talking to people who were hanging out on the street. I started walking down the middle of the boulevard. I turned to street hotel was on, half a block away. There were police kiosks around (empty). Just before I got to the hotel entrance, the guy jumped me, I got up. I started screaming, "Help, help!" At that point, he smashed his fist across my face and then ran away.

" ’I went into the hotel entrance; the security guy was right inside the front door. I tried to explain. Nobody there spoke English. They saw the bleeding. I wanted ice cubes to restrict the swelling. I sat in the blood. I started crying. I never thought this would happen. I asked them to call the police. Four came; none spoke English. They refused to make a report.’

"Blasius, who is in his 60s, went to meet his colleagues in the hotel restaurant the next day. When he got to the entrance, he fainted. He awoke in the hospital emergency room, where his wound was dressed, and returned to the conference.

"Blasius has only praise for the other attendees and his Portuguese hosts. Hundreds of activists from around the world were there, and every day, dozens of people asked him how he was doing.

" ’They congratulated me for staying to remind us of what we’re fighting against,’ he said."

A non-governmental organization in Rio de Janeiro had established a similar helpline in 2005, because the government had failed to do so., New American Media reported at the time. The helpline was affiliated with a referral center for LGBTs who had encountered anti-gay discrimination and violence.

"We do the work the government doesn’t," coordinator Yone Lindgren told New American Media.

"The service could not be more urgent," the article said. "National and international human rights organizations such as the Gay Group of Bahia, Global Justice, Amnesty International and the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights’ Commission consistently identify Brazil as a gross offender of homosexual rights, where hatred leads to torture and over 100 murders are reported in the national press each year."

Six years later, the situation remains alarming. "As international gay-rights activist Doug Ireland reported in New York’s Gay City News," the EDGE article read, "Grupo Gay de Bahia, a local gay-rights organization, has estimated that there were at least 250 gay-related murders in 2010.

"Between 1980 and 2009, at least 3,100 gay men (and lesbians) were murdered because of their sexual orientation," the article noted, going on to observe that there are reports of Brazilian police committing anti-gay, extra-judicial killings.

The new helpline service was initiated in conjunction with another governmental project, the media release said.

"Also launched on the same occasion was the Campaign ’Make Brazil a Territory Without Homophobia,’ " the release noted. "Following the launch, Minister Maria do Rosário stuck one of the adhesive campaign stamps [to publicize the program] in a prominent position on the Avenida Paulista. The intention is that the symbol be placed wherever LGBT people suffer violence, as a record and a protest." One thousand participants joined the March Against Homophobia, which proceeded down Avenida Paulista, the release said.

For victims of Brazilian anti-gay violence, however, such programs have come too late to avoid the psychological impact that victims suffer due to having been the targets of bias-driven attacks. The EDGE article recounted how Blasius continued to suffer, even once he was home in New York and his physical injuries had healed.

"For several weeks after returning from Brazil, he had recurring nightmares," EDGE reported. "They subsided, but the whole experience brought home to him the reality of why he had attended that conference in the first place."

"What I learned from this is that even though I live in a gay enclave [like Chelsea], if there’s somebody from out of town visiting for a conference, I’m not going to say you can walk around Chelsea, you can walk around any time of the night and feel safe because it’s a gay neighborhood," Blasius told EDGE. "It drives home that, no matter what your skin color, your wealth, your neighborhood, you’re still subject to hatred and even physical violence [if you are gay]."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.


No comments:

Post a Comment