As the start of a new series highlighting the state of LGBTQ+ citizens worldwide, Fabrice Houdart, Managing Director of Global Equality Initiatives at Out Leadership reached out to Pri Bertucci, Brazilian artist, educator, diversity researcher and CEO of [DIVERSITY BBOX] to hear about the state of LGBT equality in Brazil.
Amid the public health crisis in the country, Brazil has recently achieved two significant victories for the right to education and the rights of LGBT people by overturning bans on so-called “gender ideology” content. How do you experience the contrast of a very conservative government and yet some progressive legal victories?
We are pushing back and hard! We have three important trans women in federal office, and grassroots movements are getting stronger, more mature, and more organized. On social media, a small group of allies are starting to wake up to their own privilege. People are voting on petitions online and participating more. I guess looking from this angle, all of this political retraces and nonsense is stimulating the marginalized groups to grow in numbers and strength.
Brazil legalized same-gender marriage and banned conversion therapy before the United States and France, do you believe that it continues to be one of the most progressive countries on LGBT issues?
I don’t think so. Because those things happened here first, I think it can look from the outside that we are “more free and equal”, but the system does not support queer people and the new government here is worse than in the United States and France. Those who took power are a gang of Mafiosi and militiamen from the third world; they are openly sexist, LGBT-phobic, and racist. Bolsonaro’s coup is underway, it’s already happening: the time to fight for democracy is now. At this moment, just mourning is a sign of weakness. While we are mourning at the dinner table, the noise of preparing weapons is already coming through the door… Bolsonaro was never stopped: neither by military justice nor by civil justice. Right now we are living the questions, deep listening and learning from diverse ways of knowing – these are all ways to transform consciousness and thereby create cultural and behavioral change and how we will fight for our survival.
What has been the impact of the current administration anti-LGBT rhetoric and the COVID-19 pandemic on our community in Brazil?
The impact is enormous. In Brazil, 99% of trans people live on the informal labor market and with the domino effect of COVID-19, their lives and economic condition is brutally affected. Many NGOs have been doing the work of collecting food and masks for this population in recent months, and we at the [SSEX BBOX] Institute are managing to engage some companies in donations to the vulnerable LGBTQIA + community.
It’s also important to mention the labor market; we can already see that with the wave of layoffs happening in the chain, minority groups are also being the most affected.
Racism and inequalities are a huge issue in Brazil. Is the current conversation on racial inequalities in neighboring US affecting Brazil?
Absolutely, we have been seeing lots of protests on the streets after the tragedy in the US.
What happened with George Floyd has a big impact in our history as humans. To understand better, I would like to illustrate that at least five black people were assassinated in the past week, including two kids from police violence. This happens almost every week in Brazil for several years now. But this time we saw a national commotion that made a lot of noise in social media and got people on the streets marching and protesting for justice and to stop out of control policy violence in the favelas. On one hand, it is a little sad that we need some kind of “inspiration” from the USA to move forward and push back against the issue of racism in Brazil with more strength. Even though 56.9% of the population in Brazil is black, we haven’t woken up to what it means to be living in a country where the laws are there to only sustain and protect the status of white people.
You work closely with corporations, are they playing their role in supporting LGBT+ people in this hostile context?
The change in corporate behavior accelerated under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating economic crisis, coupled with brutal events that the world watched in awe via social networks, such as the death of George Floyd.
We see more and more companies noticing that they must be in the “right side of the force” and provide support for the people, especially black LGBTQAI+.
In Brazil, some companies have positioned themselves alongside the movements with unusual speed, demonstrating a world that no longer allows anyone to be exempt. These companies were inspired by some brands like Netflix and Disney that in the USA have shown their support in their profiles on social networks, and other companies including Facebook, Lego, Glossier, Uber and Nike, who also announced donations to organizations working for the cause.
What is your organization and yourself focusing on for the next 6 to 12 months?
At the [SSEX BBOX] institute, we are launching a trust fund #JuntesPorUmaCausa (Together For a Cause) in collaboration with Large Multinationals to support a large number of projects and organizations not only to survive the hostile context but grow, flourish and thrive. We also will be providing, in addition to financial support, a program where employers from partner companies will offer hourly mentorship for LGBTQA+ communities and other marginalized groups.
Pri Bertucci is a social artist, educator and researcher in the area of diversity for at least two decades. They identify as a gender-queer person of color. They are also the CEO of [DIVERSITY BBOX], a consultancy specializing in diversity and equity and are the founder of the [SSEX BBOX] institute, a pioneering project in Brazil on the theme of social justice that has been operating in San Francisco, São Paulo, Berlin and Barcelona since 2011. Pri also served as the creator and executive producer of the São Paulo Trans Pride March, (First Trans Pride in Brazil). They use creative skills of multimedia art, somatic approach and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to work with people and organizations in their communities, to bring new ways of thinking and being, and to pose social challenges to the world.