Your Value in Someone Else’s Hands – a March between Love and Violence

São Paulo, the 18th of June, midday – bright sun makes thousands of people squint their eyes as the stare at the colorful celebrating mass of happiness. Balloons with the big print “PRIDE – since 1997” over the countless heads, faces with glitter and rainbow flags in the crowd, music humming through the air, people dancing, talking, laughing, drinking, kissing while loud shouts “beija, beija, beija” (“kiss, kiss, kiss”) arise from the people around them.

You read slogans like “The only choice I made was being myself”, “against homophobia”, and “Equality and Humanity – say no to LGBT-phobia” on big banners and carried posters – it’s the 21st São Paulo Gay Pride Parade 2017 (21ª Parada do Orgulho LGBT de São Paulo 2017), annually happening on the Paulista, São Paulo’s most famous street.

Between the high buildings, shooting up in the bright balloon filled sky like white silhouettes, the 3 million people wave their slogans, dancing in the burning sun to Brazilian music, hands in the air, everything colorful, every kind coming together – gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, straight people, all with one goal: celebrate freedom. Celebrate pride. Be unique.

This since 1997 yearly happening parade was in 2013 declared the biggest gay parade in the world and it certainly is. And it’s not only a celebration – it is also a demonstration, it is fight for equality, for approval, for civic rights, for justice and representation within the government and within the law – battling homophobia, battling lesbophobia, battling transphobia.

And don’t let the rainbow mass idealize your perception of actuality. While São Paulo, especially in the Centro, on the surface appears to be such a free individual city with an open diverse society, behind this colorful image, conservatism and hate still are deeply rooted within the society and millions of people still fall victim to discrimination and assaults and crimes against humanity. Millions too many.

“The assailant struck, as Gabriel Figueira Lima, 21, stood on a street two weeks ago in a city in the Amazon, plunging a knife into his neck and speeding off on the back of a motorcycle, leaving him to die.

A few days earlier, in the coastal state of Bahia, two beloved teachers, Edivaldo Silva de Oliveira and Jeovan Bandeira, were killed as well, their charred remains found in the trunk of a burning car.

Late last month, it was Wellington Júlio de Castro Mendonça, a shy, 24-year-old retail clerk, who was bludgeoned and stoned to death near a highway in a city northwest of Rio.”

That is, what the New York Times reported in August 2016, along with calling Brazil the “world’s deadliest place for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.”

And it’s not dramatic storytelling. It is facts. Every 25 hours a LGBT person is killed. Alone in the last five years, over 1.600 victims have been counted. The year 2004: 159 LGBT community members – killed. Violence realized by police officers. Epidemic of Anti-Gay violence rushing through the state. While some might glorify themselves and the government with the same legal protection LGBT people have within the books, that is what is still happening in Brazil.

And all these death news and all these death numbers are only a fraction of reality, reported by activists and individual groups because despite all the inhuman crimes, the state still doesn’t grant actual equality and equal respect to all it’s members but dishonors their suffering by not reporting crimes that were motivated by the victim’s identity, by omitting anti-LGBT animus.

Brazil – a land that carries a storied image of happiness, freedom and individuality – suffering from unspeakable brutality and inhumanity and anti-gay violence, lawlessness and inequality and impunity.

We all strive for equality, freedom, unique is considered beautiful – so we state in glorious stories and dramatized images but the ugly truth is that we should not be able to breath without feeling the incredible shame this puts on all of us.

How can one praise individualism and yet stand by and do nothing, as those of us who despite all stereotyped prejudices and reactionary consequences, who despite the horrible weight our so greatly progressive conform society puts on them still decide to be the most individualistic of all, are disgraced, hated and ignominiously killed and in front of us?

Don’t we all strive for true love? And yet some, many judge and discriminate those who stand to theirs.

It is not ours to decide value of love. It is not ours to decide value of humans. It is not for us to diminish another’s truth as worthless oddity.

It is our duty to respect. And it is on us to fight. Instead we so often stand by and watch inhumanity kill our souls.

It is each and everyone’s need to wake up and stand up and realize the brutality of categorization and discrimination and degradation that is happening in our present world.

We are not innocent as we stand by.
Not in Brazil. Not in the World.

“The rights of gays, lesbians and transvestites are human rights”
– slogan of the Gay Pride Parade 1998IMG_6003

Lina Selg

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