Author: Ruth Mello

Who tells the story: Anonymous

Organization: ULHT

Title: Homophobia Disguised as Respect

Level: Intermediate

Language: English

Abstract: This is the reflection of a gay person about his life path, his relationship with others, especially his family, prejudice and the struggle to be respected. He begins by telling an episode at a college party, in São Paulo, Brazil, and how the words of another young man present at that party marked him.

Keywords: Sexuality, homosexuality, homophobia, prejudice, acceptance.

Homophobia Disguised as Respect

This story takes place in 2018, at a Halloween-themed college party in São Paulo. My friends and I had agreed to go to this party. My sexuality is, and always has been, something I talk about openly. Ever since I found out that I am gay, I have been sincere about this with myself and with the people around. 

During the Halloween party, my friend’s cousin obviously started bringing up the subject of homosexuality. He stated that he respected homosexuals, but didn’t think it was right to be one. He also said that if it were, for example, for his cousin to be gay, he would be very upset about it. At the time, I didn’t even realize that what he was saying was problematic, or maybe I just ignored it. However, he continued, saying that he would accept his cousin eventually, although he would still be upset with him. He also adds that if he had a child, he would never, at any time, accept his son to be gay, as this would be a very big disappointment.

In the meantime, I was trying to explain that it is not like that, that being homosexual shouldn’t be anyone’s disappointment. At times, he hinted that it was a choice, and I debated saying no, it’s not a choice. That awkward conversation lasted for about forty minutes. I was getting annoyed with him and the situation, but at the same time, I was trying, and I was still extremely tolerant. He wasn’t directly aggressive, pointing the finger at my face and stuff like that. The problem was the way he talked about it and the soft speech, discussing about it in such a calm manner, so veiled that many people would interpret it as if it weren’t a type of homophobia, but it is. I prefer one’s discourse to be coherent and direct, rather than saying things like, “I don’t accept this, but I respect it.” 

To say that you don’t accept homosexuality, but that you respect it is to put it as if it were wrong. This idea upsets me, because it is something that many people, including me, have believed in for a long time. Most people grow up with a negative perception of homosexuality but going through life and realizing that things are not so black and white opens up your mind. As a gay person, I don’t only want respect. I am a normal person, and I think I should have a lot more than that. The way in which patriarchal people talk about homosexuality sounds like they are being super revolutionary for “at least” respecting us. 

I remember several things that he argued about, but I don’t remember how I felt. I was trying to defend myself, but I remember his face expression when, while looking at the floor, he said “Man, I would be very upset.” At that moment, I felt as if I wanted to react in a violent way, because his intolerance and ignorance maddened me. However, I decided to be the bigger person and act politely despite his rudeness. While this kind of encounters happen oftentimes, they don’t bother me on a daily basis, but that day and that specific argument made a lingering bad impression on me. I remember that I was with my friend and she was dating this person’s cousin, and at one point she pulled me aside and said “I thought that what he was telling you was stupid.” I was happy that my friend had my back and told her that there was nothing to be done as I had already tried to explain to him my side of things. 

I didn’t bring this up. He was the one who started the argument and I think it was for no good reason, it was out of the blue. To this day, I ask myself “Why do that?” why would someone approach a person in the middle of a party and say that they don’t agree with who they are? Luckily, this didn’t ruin my night as I moved on and tried to focus on my friends and on having a good time after all.

Telling this story is important, because most people don’t realize that they are being homophobic when, in fact, they are. This person was one, but I’m sure that if I had pointed the issue at him, saying “you are being homophobic,” he would say that he is not, as he “respects” gay people. I felt very defensive, because it’s as if “respecting” is what someone from the LGBTQIA+ community or anyone else who is discriminated against deserves, but this is not what respect actually means. My situation may not necessarily be one that shocks, but it is a small issue that happens on a daily basis, becoming a big problem and a stress cause. The moral of this event is that people should pay more attention to not bother others with their own insecurities and old-fashioned principles for no good reason. 

I am not that active in the LGBTQIA+ community, but I am who I am. Of course, I will speak up and defend myself and people alike when I am put in such a situation. For example, two of my friends are lesbians, and they dated for a while. This happened in 2016, when we were still in high school. They felt that there was chemistry between them, but they never had any kind of relationship or anything like that while being students. Rumours started about them in school. Someone created fake accounts on social media in order to spread fake news, and during a break they were called to the board. We were studying in a Catholic school and such ideas were rejected. 

The first friends I told I may be gay, when I still had some doubts were a little reluctant at the time, but they understood and our friendship did not change because of that. I am really grateful for the people that supported me. Back then I was in the eighth grade, and when you are twelve or thirteen years old, you are still trying to understand things… Now I am a student at university. The one I study in is very heteronormative. I try to avoid being discriminated against, so I don’t show much that I’m gay. I come across as straight to a lot of people. And believe me, it’s not because I want to, but because people are ignorant about it. 

It is very difficult to tell whether or not I feel a difference in people’s attitudes when I’m not paying attention to what they are looking at or saying about me. In my head, I question what they might be thinking, but when I’m on the street, I don’t care, I don’t care. 

One of the things that are most absurd about this issue is when people say that being gay influences others. I didn’t have any contact with the LGBTQIA+ culture until I was sixteen years old but I still knew I was gay. When I discovered myself, I didn’t talk right away with my parents. I grew up hearing that being gay is wrong, and it was hard to find out that I was for sure gay in such an environment, but I believe I have accepted myself after all.

First, I told my brother, who ended up not looking at me for two days, which I understood; he was a lot younger than me and it was more difficult for him to process all this. Then, I told my mother, and it was a little more complicated. She ended up telling my father. And it wasn’t until this year, in 2021, that we talked about everything.

When I asked my mother about what her biggest fear was, when she found out about me, besides her saying that her concern was actually about not having any control over the world and how I am going to be treated by people, she said that she grew up without learning about these issues and without having any kind of contact with this type of sexuality. I have never told anything to my extended family, except for two cousins who I really like and trust. My relatives are quite homophobic and there is a lot of prejudice, so that scares me and I prefer to keep the truth for myself and my close circle of people. 

It is difficult to live in a country in which a big part of the population is considered homophobic. There are many violent attacks against the LGBTQIA+ community because there aren’t enough policies to protect us. It took a long time for homophobia to be criminalized, and that just shows how Brazil is still behind on this issue.

1 LGBTQIA+ corresponds to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual movement, encompassing all the different possibilities of sexual orientation and gender identification that exist.

Project 2020-2-RO01-KA205-080819 STORYLINE

Funded by the Romanian National Agency of the Erasmus+ Programme

Start date: 01-11-2020

End date: 31-10-2022

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