Gay Brazil

    Gay Brazil

    Bars, movie theaters, hotels and other commerce catering
    exclusively to gays are doing brisk business in Brazil. A marketing research
    concluded that 10% of Rio’s population is gay. This new economic power
    is also forcing the doors of prejudice in the country.
    By Divya Shukla

    Is there room for pink and purple among the green, yellow, white and
    blue colors of the Brazilian flag? Maybe. Brazil is a country of contrasts:
    a religious carpet danced-on by sexual liberation. How does this environment
    treat its homosexual population?

    Brazilian businesses, covered by a veil of dollar signs, have set aside
    prejudices by supplying a record number of services aimed to cater to those
    with homosexual preferences. On the other hand, Congress, the Church and
    the population, at large, haven’t been as inviting. There are many barriers
    to be broken, even in a country as seemingly accepting of everything (and
    everyone) as Brazil.

    Brazilian anthropologist Luiz Mott concluded that Zumbi, leader of runaway
    slave colonies referred to as Quilombos, that lived 300 years ago, was
    a homosexual. This theory didn’t please Luiz Mott’s neighbors who responded
    by defacing the front wall of his house with graffiti and breaking the
    windshield of his car. Mott, resides in Salvador, the capital of Bahia,
    a Brazilian state mostly populated by descendants of African slaves.

    Mott is the President and founder of Grupo Gay da Bahia (a congregation
    for Bahia’s gay population). The association was conceived in 1979 after
    an episode of physical assault involving Mott, a male friend and a homophobic
    individual who inferred that Mott and his friend might have been gay lovers
    engaged on a romantic walk along the beach.

    Luiz Mott’s credentials are impressive. He obtained a doctorate at Unicamp,
    in the city of Campinas, in Anthropology and has a master’s degree in Ethnic
    Studies from Sorbonne, in France. He authored eight books based on studies
    about homosexuality, feminism and racism. Even though he is openly gay,
    he had a heterosexual phase from which he has two daughters. He remarried
    in 1994 to another male in a ceremony performed in Salvador (The priest
    that performed the ceremony returned to a house that had been set on fire).

    In a May of 1995 interview with Veja magazine, Mott said that
    the reaction to his controversial conclusion about Zumbi doesn’t come as
    a surprise. There are those that see a contradiction between Zumbi’s courage
    (viewed as a masculine trait) and his alleged homosexuality (viewed as
    a softened masculinity). Mott believes that these sort of studies are imperative
    to dispel notions that homosexuality is a trend, a phase or that it is
    a trait of the weaker segments of the population. It is a matter of finding
    heroes, or role models for the homosexual population.

    GAY GREEN

    Homosexuality is lucrative in Brazil. This is evidenced by the number
    of bars, movie theaters, hotels and other businesses that cater exclusively
    to the homosexual segment of the population. The homosexual population
    is considered to be "big spenders" perhaps due to the fact that
    most are professionals who don’t have children and tend to display a taste
    for expensive things.

    Rio has already discovered this source of money, and in its lust for
    Reais, Copacabana is erecting The Ball Club Tower, an entertainment complex
    dedicated exclusively to pleasures suited for homosexuals, at an estimated
    cost of $1.5 million.

    Paulo Magno, owner of Maxima, sells T-shirts that celebrate homosexual
    pride sporting phrases such as "I’m gay, if you don’t believe me,
    kiss me" and "I’m not gay, but my boyfriend is". Paulo Magno
    says that his business has no political objectives (he is heterosexual).

    Another businessman Alex Halter, homosexual, is the mastermind behind
    the Ball Club & Tower. This project will encompass a variety of options
    for gays such as hotel rooms, bars, clubs, restaurants, saunas, gym, stores,
    drugstores and a tourism agency. He believes that he’ll recover his investment
    in one year. Alex Halter isn’t a novice in this field, he owned a disco
    and a gay magazine during his stay in Switzerland and then he owned the
    Ball, a gay Copacabana nightclub. Alex Halter enlisted the services of
    a marketing firm prior to commencing the Ball Club & Tower project.
    The marketing research concluded that 10% of Rio’s population is gay and
    that their consumption preferences are, in descending order, clothing,
    bars, sound equipment, personal beauty products and restaurants.

    American credit agencies also recognize the purchasing power of the
    gay community. The Rainbow Card is a credit card aimed at gay customers.
    The Gay consumer is known to be a big spender. According to Álvaro
    Bezerra de Mello, president of Hotel and Tourism Association, gays spend
    on average $160 dollars for a daily tour of Rio, whereas an American tourist
    might spend $130.

    Fantastic Tours, a tourism agency based in Rio, designs most of its
    tour packages to please the gay traveler because most of its clients happen
    to be homosexual. One such package is the Gay Paris. The Gay Paris tour
    introduces foreigners to the best that Paris has to offer to its homosexual
    visitor. At a cost of $1,320 (excluding air fare) and a duration of eight
    days and six nights, one will dine at the most famous gay restaurant in
    Paris, the Amazianiol, then stay at the Hotel Latitudes Saint Germain,
    among other pleasures.

    Lack of dependents (children) provides the gay person with a lessened
    financial burden and greater time availability for frequent travel. Schedule
    restrictions, such as travel only during school vacations, become non-existent.
    This is evidenced by the occupancy rate of hotels on islands along the
    coast of Rio, such as Angra dos Reis and Búzios. Hotels on these
    islands are occupied, on weekends, by mostly homosexual clientele.

    Nélson Feitosa recognized this new phenomenon in Brazil and created
    the magazine Sui Generis after relinquishing his job in a printing
    shop. The magazine was started as a partnership between Feitosa and his
    lover, José Vítor, and in one year’s time it experienced
    an increase in circulation from 1,500 readers to 30,000 readers which is
    the circulation level of Vogue in Brazil.

    Brazilian business is not an innovator in catering its services to homosexuals.
    American businesses have earned, on average, $17 billion from services
    that cater to homosexual customers. Recently, advertisement has became
    bolder by exhibiting gay ads such as an Ikea (a furniture store) ad in
    which a couple (two males) are buying a dining table, and other similar
    ads by American Express, albeit most of these ads are in magazines with
    a gay circulation.

    In May of 1995, Miami held a city-tour offered to representatives of
    17 European gay magazines. And in September, the tour was offered to 18
    representatives of American magazines. José Lima, spokesperson of
    the Convention & Tourism of Miami, says that this isn’t based on political
    or ideological positions, it is basically based on the acquisition power
    of the gay community.

    Other states in the United States are in accord. New York’s West Village
    offers a variety of bars and nightclubs aimed at the gay clientele. These
    businesses prefer the homosexual customer evidenced by the placement of
    rainbow-colored flags, the international icon for homosexuality, outside
    of these establishments.

    Cinema is following the bandwagon as well. TopCine Cobacabana, in Rio,
    shows films with gay themes every Thursday, such as Priscilla Queen of
    the Desert and Fried Green Tomatoes.

    Luciana Villas-Boas, editor-in-chief of the publishing company Record
    has created a department dedicated exclusively to publications with gay
    themes, called Contraluz.

    The Safe Bar is not just another trendy bar in Rio. Safe Bar’s manager
    Paulo Henrique Longo is also the president of Noss (Núcleo de Orientação
    em Saúde Social — Nucleus of Orientation in Social Health), which
    serves to promote safe sex practices and the prevention of AIDS in Brazil.
    Longo decorated each of Safe Bar’s interior walls with posters with anti-AIDS
    propaganda in order to educate the bar’s clientele. The Safe Bar’s customers
    also have access to an unlimited supply of condoms strategically placed
    on each table.

    GAY & GAY

    What about marriage? Is the government as open-minded as Brazilian businessmen
    are? There is a request pending in congressional bureaucracy which aims
    to legalize homosexual unions, albeit legalized marriage among same-sex
    partners might not be a reality in Brazil any time soon — this is a universal
    problem.

    For instance, Toni Reis and David Harrad faced permanent separation
    when Harrad’s visa expired. Harrad, a citizen of England, and Reis had
    lived together for six years. The couple became so desperate that Reis’
    mother, a widow, offered to marry Harrad. Fortunately, the organization
    Dignidade intervened by offering Harrad both, a job and a visa.

    The National Association of Bishops has voiced strong opposition against
    any recognition of gay unions. Archbishop of Fortaleza, Aloisio Lorscheider,
    in an interview with daily newspaper O Estado de São Paulo,
    said that homosexual unions are against the laws of nature. Archbishop
    Lorscheider is one of the leaders of the National Conference of Brazilian
    Bishops (CNBB). The CNBB has been outspoken in its criticism against the
    request in congress to legalize gay unions.

    Brazil, similar to the United States and many other nations in the world,
    is having difficulties suppressing its homosexual population. Political
    correctness, lucrative sales from products to gays and tolerance are clashing
    with religion, intolerance and closed-mindedness! Which side will prevail?
    This remains to be seen.

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