Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Gaydom in two different cultures

Even though the right to legally marry is still not extended to all gay people in America, I think this is one of the most tolerant societies when it comes to acceptance of gays.  We still have a long way to go, and we have to fight the Christian Right’s intolerance of gays and old fashioned view as people “with a curable disease” as opposed as a trait you are born with.

When talking to a co-worker recently,  I asked him where he lived. He said he lived with his boyfriend in XYZ. I was not a bit taken aback, having gotten used to hearing “my boyfriend” coming from a man and “my girlfriend” coming from a woman. But I have to confess that while living in Brazil, I was less used to hearing that, and I was wondering why.

Are Brazilians more prejudiced against gays? I think Brazilians make more fun of gays, and is considered acceptable to do so. We have derogatory names to call both homossexual men and women. Obviously we have them here too, but it is not politically correct to use them in social and professional circles.  But Brazil is a very politically incorrect country. Derogatory comments about Blacks, Gays, Asians (they call Japanese descendants “Japa”), Middle Eastern people (they call anyone from that part of the world “Turk”, usually meaning someone who is money greedy), poor and working class folks are tossed around in parties, groups of friends and inside families. The prejudice rolls from one generations to another.

From 1990 to 1996 I participated as a Sociologist in a talk show like “The View” in the city of Curitiba. The panel was made by men and women, and they would discuss current issues and events. There was sometimes a special guest. One of the shows we had was about gay rights. I remember defending then right for gay people to marry back then, when the discussion was not even on the plate. I think we will soon achieve this victory in America, with the more liberal winds that are blowing.

For some reason though, some American gay men think Rio is a gay paradise. The city, and Brazil itself, is very tolerant of gay men. This seems to conflict with the description I made above, so let me explain: Brazilians are more open minded about sex and showing their bodies. Our culture is less uptight. A gay man in Brazil is not afraid to dress “gay”, to wear colorful and feminine clothing (not to confuse with transvestites, who are also abundant  in Brazil) and to talk in a very effeminate way. People just see him as the “friendly gay”, the talented hairdresser, the exhuberant artist, the excentric fashion designer.  Almost like a charicature of gay men.  I often wondered when I was growing up, how these men lived their day to day, if they had families, a group of friends, places they frequented. Even though Brazilians treat them in a light and condescending way (Brazil does not many cases of violence against gay men, not persecution such as an Arab coutnries), they still are social mistfits, and do not belong to the normal, formal society of couplehood.

When I moved to America and then became single again, I was surprised by the fact that the gay men I met were normal people: serious, professional , with very little speech affection or feminine dress style.  Sometimes I would see a good looking male who would not make eye contact with me and laterI would  find out he was gay, feeling a bit deceived. I remember thinking I prefered gay men in Brazil, who were so “out there”, there was no chance of single women mistaking them for a potential love interest. 

I can say that living in America has taught me to respect both gay men and women more.  Not only that, my interest in Science has also opened my eyes that, contrary to what Miss California thinks, gay people are born that way, one more reason for us to embrace them and respect them. I hope a man saying “my husband” and a woman saying “my wife” will raise less and less eyebrows.

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May 12, 2009 - Posted by | Society

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