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It is time to reclaim and move forward: our rights in full, not halfway

On June 28th, we celebrate the history of struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s Pride Day, a time to not only celebrate our achievements but also reflect on the challenges we face in achieving a Brazil that embraces the diversity of its people without fear.

Mídia Ninja

On June 28th, we celebrate the history of struggles of the LGBTI+ community. It’s Pride Day, and this year, in particular, we have much to celebrate. It’s the first Pride Day after witnessing a fascist leaving the presidency, where he remained for 4 years. Bolsonaro reached the highest position in Brazilian politics with the help of LGBTIphobia. In 2022, we made progress, and now we see Lula returning to power. It was during his governments that we saw the first concrete initiatives of public policies specifically for LGBTI+ individuals. However, it was also during the PT governments that many of these policies were dismantled or suffocated due to lack of resources. Today, as we celebrate our achievements, it is a moment to reflect on the challenges we face in achieving a Brazil that embraces the diversity of its people without fear.

Policies for LGBTI+ in Brazil: a story of rise and fall.

The beginning of the 21st century is an international milestone for LGBTI+ rights. After decades of struggle, this movement found itself achieving important rights, such as the recognition of family relationships and laws protecting against prejudice and discrimination. In Brazil, the early 2000s were marked by Lula’s first victory and the beginning of his presidency in 2003, which represented a turning point in the history of public policies for our community.

It is true that the beginning of LGBTI+ public policies took place in the field of health, still in the 1990s, but with initiatives mostly focused on combating the AIDS epidemic and strongly linked to the third sector. The first government program to address homophobia explicitly and work on this issue as part of a public policy agenda was the Brazil Without Homophobia Program (BSH), launched during Lula’s first term in 2004, within the framework of the Multi-Year Plan – PPA 2004/2007 – under the “Human Rights Program, Rights for All” initiative. It was a significant achievement that would change the course of our victories in Brazil.

This resulted in an agenda involving different ministries. From the BSH, the General Coordination for the Promotion of LGBT Rights (2009) was established. Later, the CNCD (National Council to Combat Discrimination ), which originally encompassed various themes such as racial equality and women’s rights, underwent a reformulation in 2010. Specific councils were created for these areas, and the CNCD shifted its focus exclusively to LGBTI+ policies, adopting the name CNCD/LGBT. It was responsible for implementing and monitoring the National Plan for the Promotion of LGBT Rights and Citizenship (2009), which was the result of the First National Conference on LGBT Public Policies and Human Rights (2008). Additionally, the First and Second National Conferences on LGBT Public Policies and Human Rights took place in 2008 and 2011, respectively. In 2010, the Ministry of Health established the National Policy for Comprehensive LGBT Health. These are just a few examples of the significant advancements made during this period.

However, the governments of Dilma Rousseff, despite maintaining some of the progress made in previous years, had explicit initiatives to distance themselves from LGBTI+ issues due to increasing pressure from religious leaders and conservative politicians. It is worth noting that the former president, arguing that “the government will not promote sexual orientation,” decided to suspend the School Without Homophobia program – which was already prepared for implementation – in 2011 (1). Additionally, in the 2010 election, the first female president of Brazil had to face a harsh campaign with misogynistic undertones, aiming to discredit her with a conservative agenda against the right to abortion and the decriminalization of drugs. At that time, we were witnessing the beginning of a sexual dispute offensive in Brazil and Latin America, through the tactic of moral panic regarding sexuality, which manifested in the spread of falsehoods such as the so-called “Gay Kit,” gender ideology, and later contributed to a negative shift in the balance of power between social classes.

Therefore, despite the fact that it was during the governments of the Workers’ Party (PT) that the LGBTI+ population achieved the most gains in our entire history, the limited scope, lack of investment, and precarious legal and political nature of government initiatives for LGBTI+ citizenship gave way to successive concessions to the right in the name of a conservative governance. The policies implemented during the PT governments had limited coverage, lacked significant financial resources, and, in many cases, depended on the goodwill of a few administrators willing to confront prevailing institutional LGBTI+phobia. The concessions made in favor of governance with right-wing and “centrist” sectors were not enough to stop the “conservative wave,” which later paved the way for the 2016 coup and the election of Bolsonaro.

Since his first federal election in 1990, Bolsonaro was already identified with reactionary positions, such as advocating for the military dictatorship and criticizing the left and communism. However, between 2010 and 2014, he gained national notoriety with the help of the repercussions of his homophobic and misogynistic views, which propelled his political career as a federal deputy. He went from receiving 120,000 votes in 2010 to 464,000 votes in 2014. During this period, Bolsonaro took the lead in opposing the “gay kit,” claiming that the Ministry of Education and LGBT groups were promoting “homosexuality and promiscuity,” thereby threatening childhood and making children “easy prey for pedophiles.” As a self-professed homophobe, Bolsonaro had pamphlets distributed in Rio de Janeiro’s subway stations, misleadingly warning that the “gay kit” was being implemented in schools.

In 2016, the reactionary coup that ousted President Dilma crowned this process, being proclaimed in the name of morality and family values. What followed was the destruction of LGBTI+ public policies, especially during the long four years of the Bolsonaro government. We witnessed the dismantling of the National Council, the exclusion of dedicated budgetary measures for LGBTI+ policies from the Annual Budget Law (LOA), and the closure of the Department for the Promotion of LGBT Rights, among many other examples. Above all, we saw the federal government turning into an agitator against the lives of LGBTI+ individuals, portraying them as public enemies of the nation.

It is time to reclaim and move forward.

Today, we turn the page on this history. But we do not do it to sweep the past under the rug, but rather to overcome it. The new Lula government has started, in these first months of its administration, the resumption of the cycle of LGBTI+ public policies.

Learning from past mistakes, when the cycle of policies began without competent organizations for oversight and monitoring by civil society and social movements. Today, we already have a National LGBTI+ Secretariat – the first in history – and a National Council. These are progressive measures, signaling the resumption and promotion of our rights, and aiming to protect us from violence and inequalities.

But the challenges are enormous. Brazil continues to be the country with the highest number of LGBTI+ homicides in the world, and our rights, such as criminalization and the possibility of marriage, are precarious from a legal and political standpoint. The National Congress remains silent, having not passed any laws specifically for our protection. And the new composition of the Congress, as well as that of state and municipal legislatures, carries significant weight from neofascist and conservative sectors.

Since the beginning of this legislative term, we have witnessed the actions of these sectors in the National Congress, blackmailing the government to obtain more positions and benefits from the state. Recently, during the approval of the Provisional Measure that structured the government’s ministries, this sector launched an offensive against the government’s socio-environmental agenda, stripping the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and the Ministry of the Environment of their competencies. Unfortunately, faced with this offensive, the government made concessions once again in the name of conservative governability.

We are aware that the LGBTI+ agenda will also be attacked, sooner or later, and the coalition government led by PT will once again face a test regarding its commitments to diversity. This challenge will take into account that within the broad alliances that make up the current government, there are left-wing sectors allied to our cause, but there are also conservative and right-wing segments that are against it. In the face of this, the movement must be alert and strong. This should be reflected in the composition of social participation bodies, such as the National Council and the Working Group on human rights violations within the ministry. It requires pressure on the government and lawmakers, but also, and most importantly, a resumption of direct action on the streets. Without struggle, there will be no recovery, let alone advancements in our rights.

On this June 28th, a day to celebrate our history of struggles, let us engage in a “cultural anthropophagy”, feeding ourselves on the strength of our warrior fighters who, over the last decades, gave their lives in the name of our right to shine. Let us feed on their audacity. Let us feed on their mockery. Let us feed on their courage. For the courageous also die, but only once. Cowards go through life without truly living, confined by their fears. Long live our courage, that of the past, and especially that of the future.


1 Disponível em: http://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/2011/05/governo-nao-fara-propaganda-de- opcao-sexual-diz-dilma-sobre-kit.html