Brazil

Esquerda Online: An anticapitalist LGBTQIA+ program for Brazil’s municipal elections

November 15 and 29 will see two rounds of municipal elections across Brazil and will provide a snapshot of the strength of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration alongside the centrist and left-wing opposition forces. No Borders News will provide in depth analysis of the contending parties and movements over the next month. The statement below reflects the views of the Resistência current within the Party of Solidarity and Freedom (PSOL). Originally published by Esquerda Online and translated by Bobby Sparks.

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The reality of the LGBTQIA+ population in Brazil

The very lack of data about this part of the population, as seen in the census data of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), is just a sample of how previous governments have neglected it.

Fortunately, the LGBTQIA+ movement has managed to achieve the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the records of the Notifiable Diseases Information System (SINAN), part of the publically funded Unified Health System (SUS). Between 2015 and 2017, a total of 778,527 cases of violence were recorded by SINAN. In 24,564 of these cases, the victim was LGBT [1]. Sadly, data on violence against those who are intersex (whose biological sex is somewhere between what medicine considers to be male or female) is lacking.

SINAN data shows that violence happens primarily in the residence of the victim (61%) and to a lesser extent in public (21%). In 27% of cases the aggressor was the victim’s intimate partner; in 17% of cases the aggressor was unknown; in 16% of cases it was a friend or acquaintance; and in 12% a family member of the victim [2]. For victims with children between 10 and 14 years old, 29% of reported cases had a relative of the victim as the aggressor; in 22% of cases it was a friend or acquaintance; in 16% an intimate partner; and an unknown person in only 10% of cases. Among victims aged 60 and over, the aggressor was a relative of the victim in 39% of cases.

These facts demolish the fundamentalists’ argument that “respect is taught at home” and not at school. Unfortunately, in most cases of violence against the LGBTQIA+ population, the aggressor is either a relative or an intimate partner of the victim.

Around the world, estimates of the numbers of transgender people (i.e., who have a gender identity different from that assigned at birth) are limited, but they range from 0.05% to 0.2% of the total population [3]. Yet violence against these people amounts to 1.5% (11,435) of the cases recorded by SINAN. That equates to 47% of all LGBT victims. Therefore, a trans person is 7 to 30 times more likely to be a victim of violence than heterosexual and cisgender people.

SINAN data also shows that there are a higher proportion of female-gendered victims than there are male: among the victims, 33% are lesbians and 25% are gay, 6% are cross-dressers, 32% are trans women and 9% trans men.

[Read next, Valerio Aracy: A sad Brazil.]

With respect to race, and with only looking at those records in which the victim declared their race, the proportion is similar to the general population: 54% of the victims were black, 44% are white and only 2% are either indigenous or Asian. Since in the vast majority of cases the aggressors are relatives or acquaintances of the victims, this indicates that discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people is similar in both black and white families and neighborhoods.

Of all the fatal hate crimes against trans people recorded last year, 82% of victims were black [4]. This indicates that hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ people, an extreme case of such violence, are combined with racial hatred.

Transgender people continue to be victims of police violence, a reality also seen in other countries. In a survey carried out by Argentina’s Fundacion Huesped (Guest Foundation) of 498 trans people [5], 80% of trans women reported that they have been arrested, and of those arrested, 62% reported having suffered psychological violence, 48% suffered physical violence and 43% suffered sexual abuse at the hands of security agents (police or prison officers). This police violence also has a racist character, as black transgender people are more frequent victims of this violence than white transgender people [6].

Access to employment is also seriously affected by prejudice. For example, an Elancers survey of 10,000 companies indicated that 18% of those surveyed do not hire LGBT people (7% for any position, 11% for certain positions) [7]. In another survey of 230 LGBT people by Santo Caos, 40% of those surveyed reported discrimination at work and only 47% had revealed their sexual identity at work [8].

Among transgender people, access to formal employment is even more difficult, which pushes them into prostitution. In the Fundacion Huesped survey, 61% of trans women said that they were currently performing sex work and a further 23% said that they had done this type of work in the past. Reports in Brazil demonstrate that the reality here is similar to Argentina.

Therefore, in order to combat the prejudice that trans people face, discrimination against sex workers must also be confronted.

Bolsonaro’s ideological campaign against the LGBTQIA+ population

Bolsonaro became famous before and during the 2018 elections for spreading hatred that targeted oppressed groups. He made racist, macho, and LGBT-phobic “jokes”, he spoke about fighting a supposed “gender ideology”, and he spread “fake news” that associated Haddad with a supposed “gay kit” and an alleged distribution of genital-shaped baby bottles. Bolsonaro’s ideological campaign against the LGBTQIA+ population continued after he was elected. He denounced the 2019 performance at Carnaval of a “golden shower” (an artistic presentation aimed at an adult audience), then censored the advertising campaigns of the Bank of Brazil (because they included young black LGBTQIA+ people), and the National Cinema Agency ANCINE (because he didn’t like the movie “Bruna Surfistinha” [“Little Surfer Girl Bruna”, which was renamed “Confessions of a Brazilian Call Girl” for English-speaking audiences]).

Along with all this, the president has promoted the dismantling of several public policies for the LGBTQIA+ population. These include the exclusion of the group from Human Rights Guidelines, the scrapping of the National Council for Combating LGBT+ Discrimination (CNCD LGBT+), and the dismantling of the Department for the Surveillance, Prevention and Control of STDs, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (DIAHV) public health unit.

LGBTQIA+ health under attack

Medicine has historically been used to legitimize a LGBTIphobic discourse through its establishment of norms regarding what it means to be a man and a woman. Those who do not fit these norms, whether through patterns of behavior, the way they dress, their affective or sexual orientation, gender identity, biological sex, etc. have been treated as psychologically abnormal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stopped referring to homosexuality and transgenderism as diseases in 1992 and 2018 respectively. Unfortunately, intersex persons are still seen as being ill and undergo medical mutilations when they are still babies or children.

[Read next, Donna Murch: Black Lives Matter won the ideological war.]

The Bolsonaristas have whipped up outrage against trans people and argue that the public Unified Health System (SUS) should stop performing surgeries that are part of the so-called ‘transsexualization process’ (such as gender reassignment surgery, breast removal and silicone implants) which are allowed for under WHO health protocols. For the Bolsonaristas, these surgeries are only acceptable if they are an imposition, a violence.

We stand for the opposite. Adult people, whether trans or intersex, have the right to choose to undergo surgery to better adapt their body to their self-image. On the other hand, doctors have no right to impose such surgery on people, especially on babies and intersex children before they are even old enough to choose the shape of their own body.

Furthermore, health care professionals must be trained to meet the needs of the LGBTQIA+ population, with its higher rates of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. It is unacceptable for prejudiced psychiatrists and psychologists to reinforce the current stigma and make the mental illness of LGBTQIA+ people who seek the help of the health system, especially transsexual and intersex persons, even worse.

It is also necessary to conduct campaigns in defense of safe sex that are adapted to the LGBTQIA+ public, through measures such as the distribution of both “male” and “female” condoms.

For an education system that defends diversity

LGBTQIA+ people, as well as black people and people with disabilities, are often bullied at school. This violence leads many LGBTQIA+ people to drop out of school. For example, in the survey conducted by the Fundacion Huesped, about half of those interviewed had dropped out of school at least once.

In 2011, the ‘Escola Sem Homofobia’ (School Without Homophobia) kit was created for distribution to schools for the promotion of respect for diversity. Unfortunately the then Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff, because of agreements reached with fundamentalist parliamentarians, vetoed the kit and said that she would not make any “propaganda of sexual choice”. Despite all this, Bolsonaro spread ‘fake news’ during the 2018 elections that this kit (which he opportunistically renamed the “gay kit”) had been created and distributed by the Workers’ Party. What was the point then of vetoing the kit?

Municipal education plans should combat all forms of prejudice and oppression and promote respect for and defense of gender diversity, sexual orientation, and biological sex. We must fight against the censorship policies of the fundamentalists. The only way to prevent the far-right from growing on the basis of such prejudice is by fighting this prejudice.

Fight violence, including police violence

The Bolsonaro government, through the Federal Attorney’s Office (AGU), is seeking to have the Federal Supreme Court (STF) decision that criminalizes LGBTIphobia reversed. We do not believe that criminalizing LGBTIphobia will end discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ population. Nevertheless, this Federal Supreme Court decision was an important milestone, especially in the fight against the far-right. It is not for nothing that the government now wants this decision reversed.

The fundamentalists claim that the criminalization of LGBTIphobia will prejudice the exercising of religious freedom. In this way, they admit that they want to use “religious freedom” as a pretext for discrimination. After all, the pastors within the fundamentalist group of parliamentarians have gained their fame and money through the spreading of prejudice and channeling of hatred towards the oppressed and marginalized in our society, and the LGBTQIA+ population in particular.

[Siarhei Biareishyk: assessing the dynamics of mass protests in Belarus.]

The police persecution of transgender women is outrageous. The 2015 torture of Verônica Bolina, a black and transgender woman savagely beaten while in police custody, and the murder of Laura Vermont, stabbed in a fight and then shot by military police, are just two examples of this.

A new security model is needed. Police must be demilitarized and officers trained to respect human rights and oppose all forms of prejudice and oppression. Drug use needs to be legalized and not treated as a crime but as a public health issue. These are necessary measures in the fight against the policies of incarceration and genocide of transgender people.

An anti-capitalist program in defense of the LGBTQIA+ population

Ultimately, the goal of Bolsonaro and his supporters is to implement the politics of “morality and good custom”. They want people who do not fit the norms of gender, sexuality and biological sex to be considered enemies of the people and criminals, just as they were in practice during the dictatorship. This is the nature of Bolsonarista neo-fascism.

There are those on the left who assert that we should not defend LGBTQIA+ rights, as this will only act as a “smokescreen” to prevent the “more important” discussions about current reality. They are wrong: we must fight the prejudice that exists in the ‘common sense’ views of the population, because fundamentalists rely on this prejudice to win reputation, money, and support for their political projects that then attack the population.

Bolsonarismo grew through its criticism of supposed “gender ideology” and its spreading of discriminatory LGBTIphobic propaganda. Therefore, the fight against the far-right also involves the fight against all forms of oppression and discrimination.

Moreover, a program in defense of the LGBTQIA+ population must also be anti-capitalist. The vast majority of the LGBTQIA+ population is part of the working class. It is super-exploited by capitalism, confronts harassment and abuse, and receives lower salaries than the rest of our class. The interests of LGBTQIA+ workers are ultimately opposed to those of the capitalist class, including the portion that finances LGBTQIA+ parades and promotes LGBTQIA+ workplace “inclusion programs”. Capitalists do this in order to exploit our labor.

Our needs, our interests and our dreams do not fit into capitalism. Our socialist revolution will have all the colors of the rainbow!

[For international news and analysis from working-class, oppressed peoples, and socialist points of view, read No Borders News.]

Notes

[1] Perfil das notificações de violências em lésbicas, gays, bissexuais, travestis e transexuais registradas no Sistema de Informação de Agravos de Notificação, Brasil, 2015 a 2017 (Profile of the notifications of violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual people recorded by the Notifiable Diseases Information System, Brazil, 2015-2017); https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1415-790X2020000200404&lng=es&nrm=iso.

[2] This field was multiple choice in the research. The aggressor was not identified in around 20% of reports.

[3] Some of these estimates are summarized in “Transgeneridade na ponta do lápis!” (Transgenderism at the tip of the pencil!); http://travestisocialista.blogspot.com/2015/04/transgeneridade-na-ponta-do-lapis.html.

[4] “Brasil registrou 124 assassinatos de pessoas transgênero em 2019” (Brazil recorded 124 murders of transgender people in 2019); https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/direitos-humanos/noticia/2020-01/brasil-registra-124-assassinatos-de-pessoas-transgenero-em-2019.

[5] “Informe sobre la situación de las personas trans en Argentina” (Report on the situation of trans people in Argentina); https://www.huesped.org.ar/noticias/informe-situacion-trans/.

[6] A study by the National LGBTQ Task Force (United States) also points out that police violence is more frequent against black than white transgender people. Available at: https://www.thetaskforce.org/injustice-every-turn-report-national-transgender-discrimination-survey/.

[7] “1 em cada 5 empresas não contrataria homossexuais, diz estudo” (1 in 5 companies would not hire homosexuals, study says); http://g1.globo.com/concursos-e-emprego/noticia/2015/05/1-em-cada-5-empresas-nao-contrataria-homossexuais-diz-estudo.html.

[8] “40% dos profissionais LGBTs já sofreram discriminação no trabalho” (40% of LGBT professionals have suffered discrimination at work); http://g1.globo.com/concursos-e-emprego/noticia/2015/04/40-dos-profissionais-lgbts-ja-sofreram-discriminacao-no-trabalho.html.

Categories: Brazil, Latin America

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