Being gay, married and an expat in Brazil !

  • same-sex couple
Published 2020-07-13 08:37

Last week, Thailand's Cabinet approved a draft bill aiming at recognising same-sex civil partnerships. If this bill is passed into law, Thailand would be the second country in Asia to back same-sex unions after Taiwan. Russia, for its part, publicly announced the prohibition of same-sex marriages. But how does it feel to be a same-sex couple abroad? Al, an American expat in Brazil, talks to about LGBT rights and his everyday life in his host country.

Can you please introduce yourself briefly?

My name is Al. I'm a dual national, United States and Brazil. Most recently, I lived in the Chicago Area of Illinois, in the United States. I moved to Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, in 2017.

What brought you to Brazil?

I moved here because it's my husband's home and where he plans to build his career. I've had a lifelong connection to Brazil, speak fluent Portuguese, and always expected to spend time in Brazil to be part of my life, but I never expected to live here permanently!

Is Brazil a gay-friendly country? What are your views?

In general, yes. The legal climate is pleasant, and the Brazilian society is very live-and-let-live. There is prejudice, of course, but we seldom encounter it directly.

How are same-sex unions regarded in Brazil?

Both Civil Unions (Uniões Estáveis) and Marriage are available equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and in our experience, are treated with equal respect. If anything, we seem to be held in a little additional regard because we opted for marriage.

How do you and your partner socialise in Brazil? Are there any specific gay-friendly groups or communities that you have joined?

My husband has been out since he was 18, so a lot of his friends are gay, and some of our socialising is with them, naturally. He's also in law school, so we have a mixed group of friends who are students. We have a group of older friends, too, whom we met through and are mixed. And we socialise with his extended family, like all Brazilians. Neither of us is much of a "joiner", and don't have a lot of spare time for organisations anyway.

Have you ever been victim of any stereotypes?

Only once. A local churrascaria was having a "Couples Night", so we asked for the couples' discount. The waiter told us, "Oh, that's only for romantic couples", so we flashed our wedding rings, and asked again. We had to talk to the manager, and he didn't seem very happy, but he gave us the discount!

There's a noticeable age difference between us (I'm older), and that attracts some attention when we're in a new situation. But it usually manifests as bemusement rather than hostility.

What are the do's and don'ts for same-sex couples in Brazil?

Street crime is always a potential problem in Brazil, and the Golden Rule is "don't draw attention to yourself". I don't think that this applies any more to same-sex couples than to anyone else, but in a lot of areas, public displays of affection probably aren't a great idea. Aside from that, Brazil has a lot to offer, so enjoy it!

Do you feel you're better off in Brazil than you would have been in the US or anywhere else?

Not better off or worse off in terms of acceptance. The weather sure is better in Brazil, though, and so is the cost of living.

Do you feel comfortable when travelling around with your partner?

We've travelled extensively in Brazil, and the United States, and plan to go to Western Europe soon. We both feel very comfortable in all of those places.

Do you believe expatriation is the only solution if same-sex couples want to get married but cannot do so in their home countries?

Expatriation is certainly an option to be considered, but it's not easy. For people in countries that will let them live their lives in peace and dignity, but just without legal recognition, it may seem like an extreme step. For those in countries where their lives and freedom are in constant danger, though, it may seem a very attractive solution.

Are there any countries that you avoid?

We would avoid any countries that discriminate against LGBT people whether the laws are currently enforced or not. So, that puts neighbouring Guyana, Russia, most of Sub-Saharan Africa, and a number of Asia-Pacific nations off our list of potential destinations, at least at present.

How do you feel LGBT issues are evolving in Brazil, back in your home country and across the world?

The present situation in Brazil is good. However, it's based on court decisions, not statutes or direct constitutional language. The current President is an outspoken foe of LGBT rights who thinks nothing of slandering gay people, and is supported in his stated desire to roll them back by the Evangelical (Protestant) Caucus in the National Congress. I doubt that they can make that happen, but just in case, I did become a Brazilian citizen at my earliest legal opportunity. Now, even in the unlikely event that they succeed and can somehow annul our marriage, they can't cancel my residency.

The US is in a somewhat similar situation, but there, fortunately, the Executive is weaker, and the Courts are stronger than here, and I expect little or no backsliding.

Across the world, I am guardedly optimistic. I don't expect that we'll see the huge gains that we've seen during the first 20 years of this century, but I do expect continued and gradual progress.