As Brazil counts down to their next elections, a potential Presidential candidate, Governor Eduardo Leite of Rio Grande do Sul on Thursday evening came out as gay during a television interview with the country’s top broadcaster TV Globo.
“I have never spoken about a subject related to my private life. But during this moment of low integrity in Brazil, I have nothing to hide, I am gay– and I’m a governor who is gay rather than a gay governor. Just as Obama in the United States wasn’t a black president, but a president who was black. And I’m proud of this,” said Leite.
Many were quick to applaud Leite for his announcement, including fellow politician, and the first openly gay member of Brazil’s senate Fabiano Contarato who tweeted “I know the pain the prison of the closet represents, particularly in a conservative environment like politics.”
Parabenizo o gov. @EduardoLeite_ pela bravura! Sei a dor que é a prisão do armário, sobretudo num ambiente conservador como a Política, e cada um deve descobrir seu momento certo para esse gesto. Seja feliz e siga seu ótimo trabalho: a vida será mais leve! https://t.co/R0Mg5SZLq7
— Fabiano Contarato (@ContaratoSenado) July 2, 2021
“You’ve made history,” veteran LGBT campaigner Toni Reis wrote on Facebook.
Taking On Homophobic Bolsonaro
Leite was elected the youngest governor in Brazil’s history during the 2018 state elections, which saw him walk away with 53.62% of votes. Leite is a member of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democratic party (PSDB). Many hope that at next year’s elections he will topple Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, who time and again has declared himself a proud homophobe.
In 2013, during an interview with Stephen Fry, in a moment the UK personality would later call “one of the most chilling confrontations I’ve ever had with a human being,” Bolsonaro declared that “Brazilian society doesn’t like homosexuals.”
In the same year, Bolsonaro claimed, “no father would ever take pride in having a gay son”.
Last year, as Brazil continued to be decimated by the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, Bolsonaro is alleged to have taunted staffers at The Folha de São Paulo, a leading broadsheet, for wearing masks to protect against Covid-19 by claiming they were “for fairies”.
Bolsonaro’s mishandling of the pandemic has seen Brazil recording over half a million deaths – Leite claims this is what pushed him to challenge the President in the upcoming elections.
However not everyone is convinced by Leite’s revelation. Many have been quick to point out that Leite had in fact backed Bolsonaro during the 2018 elections, despite his repeated attacks on LGBTQI communities.
None have been more cutting in their appraisal than Jean Wylls, who in 2018 became the first openly member of Brazil’s Congress.
“This chap had many opportunities to defend the LGBT community and he didn’t. On the contrary … he was a Bolsonarista until yesterday – and he’s probably still one today, because at no point has he retracted his support for Bolsonaro,” Wylls said of the presidential candidate hopeful.
“So I don’t celebrate this. I’m not part of this team of people who are commemorating this chap coming out of the closet as if it was some great accomplishment for Brazil’s LGBT community.”
And Leite should know all too well the kind of homophobia being pedalled by Bolsonaro. Last year, he bizarrely suggested that supporters of Leite might have concealed federal resources in his anus. As recently as Friday, Bolsonaro had told supporters that Leite was trying to use his coming out as a “business card” for the presidential campaign.
“I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others,” claimed Bolsonaro.
Leite, was not bothered by Bolsonaro’s hate.
As inúmeras mensagens de carinho e apoio que estou recebendo me deixam absolutamente seguro: o amor vai vencer o ódio! Muito muito muito obrigado a todos! ❤️
— Eduardo Leite (@EduardoLeite_) July 2, 2021
In a post on Twitter, Leite thanked the messages of support that he had received after his coming out. “The countless messages of affection and support I am receiving make me absolutely sure: love will conquer hate! Thank you very, very much everyone!” he tweeted.