Page: Ipanema Beach in Rio is the Mecca for tanned, toned, Speedo-wearing partiers, and then there's us.
[Rap music playing]
I'm wearing shorts. That's a big deal.
Look at these.
I think mine are whiter.
I don't know. I think I'm whiter.
[Rap music continues]
We're arriving in Brazil at the peak of Carnival season, one of the most sexually liberated parties on the planet, to explore a country whose relationship with the q*eer community is complex and often extreme.
It's a country with some of the most progressive equality laws in Latin America, but also has the highest LGBTQ m*rder rate in the world.
So Ian and I are here to explore what's going on, and what it's really like to be q*eer in Brazil.
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ Oh, did you see them? ♪
♪ They're just walking around, yeah ♪
♪ Whoo! ♪
Close to 1 million tourists descend on Brazil for its annual Carnival.
Got my swimming jeans on.
We have, like, fall clothes on.
Very nice. You look good.
Taking some pics.
Today is Fat Tuesday. Carnival is happening.
And then tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when it ends, and then Lent begins, which goes until Easter.
And this originally was just like a massive, massive party to be had so that everyone got all their craziness and their sinning out of their system before looking well in the eyes of God.
I don't necessarily think that's technically the vibe anymore. But that's why Carnival is what it is, and why everyone's here getting their drink on.
Living it up.
On the beach.
Living the dream.
Hey, guys. Do you mind if we talk to you for a minute?
This is my friend Ellen.
We hear that Brazil is very open-minded.
You can be whatever you want to be.
And I also get that feeling when I'm here.
But you read about it, and you hear that Brazil has one of the highest m*rder rates of LGBT people in the world.
So we're trying to figure out, like, the reality of that. Do you... do you know about that?
Is that... is that true?
Page: I can see what makes Rio one of the most desirable LGBTQ destinations in the world, especially around Carnival time.
Carnival takes place all over the vast city.
But the main event is held at the Sambadrome, a mile-long purpose-built Carnival stadium where tickets are like gold dust.
It's costumes, glitter and glamour.
Carnival attracts the LGBTQ community in droves.
This year, a float celebrating sexual identity is one of the main attractions in the parade.
You just have to get into the building first.
Everybody should have one.
Go in through here?
I feel slightly discombobulated in the best possible of ways.
'Cause I think it's gonna be crazy.
But there's all these, like, costumes.
And then it's also, obviously, like, hyper-sexual.
But there's also, like, a familial vibe.
It's like, "How nice would it be if we had something like this?"
I like those, like, dolphin kind of dildo-y-looking costumes.
Got to get me one of those for the boudoir.
Up here? OK. Hi.
[Drums b*ating, music playing]
We're walking through the area where the samba schools congregate to prepare and get ready and wait to go out down the main sort of strip that we were just in in the Sambadrome.
The parade is made up of samba schools that each contribute up to eight floats and spend around nine months preparing for the event.
Some of the most important people of the night are the choreographers, who are responsible for the hundreds of dancers in the parade.
Hi, I'm Ellen.
Hi, I'm Fabio. How are you, Ellen?
Good. So, thanks so much for talking to us.
I'm sure this is an insane night. It's amazing.
It's like nothing I've ever seen.
It's your first time here?
First time in Brazil.
It's my first day here.
Do you know dance?
I mean, I can ... poorly. Yeah.
But I like it.
I will show you the dancers. Come in here.
And you can try it if you want.
Oh, man, I don't know.
Put it on my...
Cool! Is it a good look?
That's what you do?
Yeah, just keep doing this.
OK, yeah, all right.
Think I'm ready now?
What is the influence of gay, lesbian, trans culture in Carnival?
I was just wondering, like, the LGBT community, how it's influenced Carnival and the celebration.
You know, there's a very safe environment, a very welcoming environment.
When it ends, do people get to live safely?
I think everybody, in especially Rio, are accepting a lot the gay people.
And we are going to just not be like a problem or a question.
I think it's a fact, we're born like that.
Page: Despite his optimism, the world outside the celebration is somewhat harsher.
Just a few weeks before we got here, the d*ad body of 25-year-old transwoman Piu de Silva, one of Carnival's most prominent dancers, seen here in costume, was found tortured and sh*t in a favela near her home.
No arrests have been made in the case, and the exact motive is unclear, but many suspect transphobia.
De Silva is just one of the growing number of transgender victims in Brazil, a country with the greatest number of m*rder transpeople in the world.
Carnival is an over-the-top extravaganza and feels very accepting of everyone.
But in speaking to locals later, the world outside can feel very different.
As the biggest party on the planet winds down, it's gonna be interesting to see how Carnival compares to daily life for the q*eer community here in Rio.
While in town, I'm meeting my friend Ana Rezende from the band CSS.
She was born and raised here, so I'm interested to get her take on being gay in Brazil.
Rezende: My experience doesn't necessarily reflect the experience of, like, the rest of Brazil.
Like, Brazil is a huge country and it's so hard to talk about the average Brazilian, because the average Brazilian almost doesn't exist in a way.
I guess I'm part of, like, a very privileged few.
In that wage disparity, I'm, like, probably more at the top.
We're sort of, like, protected by our privileges.
You were saying that, you know, here you feel comfortable, you feel safe, you feel all those things, but you don't hold your girlfriend's hand walking down the street.
What is that experience for you?
Like, what do you ... what happens if you were to hold your girlfriend's hand?
It's not normal for people to see that, so there's a lot of staring, and there's a lot of, like, it's as if you're, like, naked on the streets, and I just don't want to draw that kind of attention to me.
People don't perceive it as normal yet.
To be, like, just a normal woman and happen to be lesbian, it's like something that I believe a foreign concept to some people.
Like, I can go out here and hold hands with my girlfriend and hang out, and it's fine.
But I'm gonna draw a lot of attention and energy and stuff that maybe I'm not in the mood to do it, you know?
So that's why I don't do it, which is super sad.
Like, what do you think is gonna happen in Brazil to help it move forward?
I'm very optimistic about this stuff.
The extreme presence of the evangelicals and politics and this rise of, like, the right wing is actually a reflection of the progress that the gays have been making.
We're actually here, and we're actually fighting for our rights.
We already can get married.
Now we want h*m* to be criminalized.
And they're like, "Oh, I didn't know you had to have rights."
So, there's like this whole...
Oh, you need those crazy human-right things? God damn it.
Page: Day breaks over Rio, and the streets and beaches have returned to a relative calm, while the locals get back to doing one of the things they're best at... looking hot on the beach...
Daniel: There seem to be people that are just free living.
They're not really worried about how other people perceive them or if their body is chiseled or not.
And I think that, to me, everyone is looking good.
In America, you don't see men wearing Speedos as much.
Or, to be honest, letting their [bleep] shine through.
There's no... do you know what I mean?
You can definitely see a lot of people's [bleep] here through their bathing suit, fine.
And the women definitely have the "thong up the butt" vibe, and there's no shame.
So let's all do it. That's the vibe.
Page: Despite the heavy air of sexual confidence, conflicting opinions on being gay remain.
I don't think people are actually born gay.
I couldn't explain why I think it.
I just think that people aren't born gay.
It's an option. I think it's a choice, yeah.
One man who is taking a political stand on the fight to achieve equality and protection under the law is Jean Wyllys, a member of Brazil's Federal Parliament and the country's only openly gay politician.
Congressman Jair Bolsonaro is a major voice in the anti-gay movement in Brazil, and a main figurehead for a return to conservative Christian values.
I'm interested why you feel lesbians are more vulnerable.
It's shocking to hear about the v*olence that lesbians face in Brazil.
Buteskina is one of the most popular lesbian bars in Rio.
If these women are nervous about being open in public, they're doing a good job of hiding it.
[Dance music playing]
Strength is in numbers, and sticking together is a necessity in the face of prejudice.
But speaking to one of my new friends away from the party confirms the harsh realities that lesbians face here.
It's pretty hot out.
I've had a couple drinks of tequila.
I tend to get shy.
If I think a girl is cute, I'm shy.
You know, I'm typically wonderful at flirting with people who I don't mean to flirt with, and horrible at flirting with people who I mean to flirt with.
Story of my life.
[Dance music playing]
What's happening? What's happening?
Page: A couple of drinks may have turned into a few more, and before I know it, I'm at the center of a samba circle, and the less said about the crew, the better.
[Dance music playing]
[Cheers and applause]
Page: In Brazil, 35% of the LGBTQ m*rder are in the transgender community, and lack of acceptance keeps them on the margins of Brazilian society.
Daniel: So, what is it like out here every night?
How do you protect yourself on the street?
I'm on my way to meet Luana, who is the queen of Lapa, which is a famous red-light district in Rio.
Luana has become sort of the madam or the guru to the transgender sex workers in the area.
She herself has been a prost*tute since the age of 10.
Page: Luana, along with her friends, formed an organization for transgender sex workers as a way to legitimize and protect them in the eyes of the law.
Thanks so much.
Daniel: So, Luana has just left the premises in a blaze of glory.
But she's left us here in the house of Luana.
And we're gonna talk with some of the women that live here.
And if you're wondering about this beautiful kiss I have on my face, the kissing has already g*n.
Hi. This is your room?
Oh, thank you.
Can you describe to me what kind of clients you have, and what your clients are looking for, specifically?
Welcome to Lapa.
Hi. Come in here, baby.
You want me to carry?
Oh, thank you.
I don't think any man wants to...
OK, Jessica, come in here, business.
All right, darling, fine.
I can do that.
Yes, I like. Yes.
There's my girl.
Page: A two-hour flight south of Rio brings us to Sao Paulo.
We're meeting a woman who is redefining what it means to be a transwoman in Brazil.
We're here to interview Carol Marra, who is a transwoman who broke through as a model, who's now shifting to acting, did the first trans kiss on Brazil television, ever.
Ellen. Nice to meet you.
Ian. Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
Page: So, what's going on today? You're doing a photo sh**t?
Daniel: Thanks so much for letting us watch you today at your photo sh**t. You seem really confident and really, like, into it.
What was your life like growing up, and where are you from?
Has your family changed at all?
Like, are they coming around?
So, then, how do you feel that you've overcome those odds?
You know, I want to say that your confidence does spread.
It's very infectious.
And I feel more confident being around you.
It's like an infectious thing.
It's a beautiful thing.
You interview people who are filled with such strength and beauty and hope and courage.
We're all born into a h*m* society.
We just are.
We're in some places that are better than others, no doubt.
But the moment you are a conscious being, every story you're told, every movie you see, almost every song you hear is heterosexual, and typically also hetero-sexist.
And infused in you is a feeling of shame.
And sometimes I think you don't even know how much that's affecting you for a really, really long time.
Particularly after coming out, it became so clear to me how much that held me back.
I just wish people could get over it.
There's gay people.
There's trans people.
Can we move on?
Page: Here we are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is an absolutely gorgeous city.
Seems like just a stunning urban paradise.
And we're here to explore the LGBT culture and what people here are facing.
At first glance, Brazil is a welcoming place for the gay traveler.
It's been on the forefront of LGBTQ rights in South America, being the first country in the southern hemisphere to allow gay people to marry and adopt children.
It's also home to the largest number of Catholics in the world, and in recent years has seen a rise in conservative evangelism.
These religious conservatives regard h*m* as an abomination, and some even perform exorcisms to rid the body of h*m* tendencies.
And now this religious extremism is having an influence on politics, which is threatening to repeal progressive laws and undermine the rights of the q*eer community.
Page: Jair Bolsonaro is a right-wing congressman and a major voice in the anti-gay movement in Brazil.
And he's agreed to meet with me.
So it's gonna be very interesting to have an honest discussion to understand why he has such difficulty with accepting LGBT people here.
I definitely feel, like, a little nervous, but I'm also interested to just go meet a human being and have a discussion and attempt to understand.
Thank you so much for meeting with us today.
I know you're a very, very busy man, and we really appreciate your generosity of your time.
Thank you. Well, thank you for doing that.
I believe you know why we're here and what we're making.
Maybe you could describe a little your political background and your current role in government as a deputy.
I've personally read things you've said, and the things you've said, to me, come across as very h*m*.
And, you know, I mean, you can, of course, you know, defend that now or explain it to me.
But I read a quote that said someone should b*at the gay out of their son.
And I'm wondering, I'm gay, so do you think that I should have been beaten as a child, to not be gay now?
Well, that's the issue right there, is you do not think it's normal.
You say that you should b*at your gay child, and you've said that you'd rather your son be d*ad than gay.
And you thinking it's not normal, it produces all this prejudice and all this hate.
It turns into shame in people.
And if they're getting made fun of, it turns into severe depression and su1c1de.
Well, as a gay person, if I can make you feel better about this fear you seem to have, I don't want anyone to be gay who's not gay.
I want gay people who are suffering and in the closet and suicidal to be OK and to love who they are.
But I don't want people who aren't gay to be gay.
Except maybe Kate Winslet. [Laughs]
All jokes aside, Bolsonaro is a politician with a great deal of power and influence.
And it's devastating to know that someone with so much influence has such a disdain for the q*eer community.
We've come to City Hall to hear firsthand the stories of families who have lost loved ones in violent h*m* att*cks.
I'm meeting with Gilmaria and Marco, the mother and boyfriend of Tom, who was tragically k*lled a few months ago.
If you feel OK about it, we'd love if you wanted to maybe share with us a little about your case, and what you've been dealing with.
Marco: Somebody calls me, one of his... one of his friends, and tells me that he's in the hospital, victim of two stabs in the neck.
And then my world crumbled right there.
Do you think he was, you know, targeted specifically because he was gay?
And so, were the people who did this, were they people that were people you knew, who were sort of in your world already, or were they strangers?
He's very beautiful.
I'm so, so sorry.
Should I wrap it? Um...
Thank you so much, uh, for coming and being so open-hearted and sharing your story. Um, I cannot begin to imagine the pain.
I'm so sorry.
Page: A large part of Rio's landscape is occupied by favelas.
And it's in places like this where the highest percentage of LGBTQ m*rder take place.
I'm totally kind of bl*wn away by it.
We're in one of the largest favelas in Rio.
Over 300,000 people live in this area, and you'll see it's on a high hilltop.
So the government has installed these hovering cable cars for people to be able to get from one area to the next.
So, every year there's a gay-pride parade that happens in this favela.
Last year, the organizer of the parade was sh*t.
So we're here to kind of explore what's going on this year, if there are tensions in the area, what it's like to be gay and to hang out here for Carnival.
What did he say?
Tell me what he's saying.
Man: He said are you taking the piss out of him?
No, no, no, not at all. In fact, the opposite.
You can tell him that I'm the same way.
Yes, come on, now.
No making fun of anybody.
Making fun of myself.
Come on, now. [Laughs]
What is it like to be gay and live in a favela in Brazil?
Page: As we've seen throughout Carnival season, there seems to be a practice of cross-dressing, particularly among the men.
But in talking to some of them, we realized this was more about a dress-up tradition rather than a reflection of tolerance or their identity.
So, you obviously don't normally dress like this, or do you?
I'm kind of dizzy.
How do I look?
Page: Today's spirit of acceptance and abandon is inspiring.
But these communities are still vulnerable to danger.
We're nearing the end of our time in Brazil, and one final meeting looms.
A meeting which, if I'm honest, I'm not even sure I want to have.
Right now we're on our way to go interview a gentleman who we'll be interviewing anonymously, and happens to be a cop.
But he also happens to be someone who really hates h*m*, and has k*lled gay people, um, and also sometimes works as a contract k*ller.
We're gonna go talk to him and try and gain an idea of why he has such hatred towards LGBT people.
We know that you're a cop that you also did other work on the side.
And we're wondering if, maybe in your own words, you could describe that work.
So when you say that you were keeping peace on the streets, what exactly did that work entail?
And how did you know that those people were gay?
The way they acted?
Did you k*ll gay men and gay women as well?
How many gay people do you think that you've k*lled?
Did you not at all feel like k*lling gay people was interfering with what your job was, what you were being paid to do, to protect people?
I want to say that I'm gay.
Do you think that's safe?
Do you want me to say you, too, or no?
We're gay, and I'm wondering if you think it's better for the world for us to be d*ad.
Page: I'm standing in front of a serial k*ller of gay people, and I've just revealed that Ian and I are gay.
What is it exactly about it that troubles you to such a degree that you want to k*ll people?
How old was he when he... when he told you he was gay, and did he just come right out and tell you about it, or you found out another way?
So did he just disappear?
Is he... did he run away? Where did he go?
Are there a lot of other men out there like you?
That are k*lling gay people?
This is probably one of the longest conversations you've had with two gay people, or one gay person.
How are you feeling, talking to us right now?
Well, this is obviously really hard for us to listen to.
Yeah, it's... it's something that we will never forget.
It does leave you speechless, honestly.
It's hard, because he looks like such a fragile, old man that has some sort of heart in there that...
You know, that's what it's like.
Can you get in there a little bit and cr*ck a little ounce of love out of you...
I mean, I don't think so.
... for people that are different than you?
And it didn't seem like that was possible.
And on some level, you feel hopeless, because it doesn't seem like there's a way to stop it.
There's no justice for these people.
It seems like nothing's even talked about.
No one even knows who these people are.
You know, because it's like, "How do you stop that?"
Page: I've never stood in front of someone in my life who would think it's better for the world to have me d*ad.
And there's lots of those people, but I've never stood in front of one of them, and who's k*lled many people of the minority that you're a part of.
It's a crazy-ass experience.
This trip to Brazil has been intense.
On the one hand, I experienced a vibrant, fun, and proud q*eer community.
And on the other, a deep-rooted hatred towards LGBTQ people.
Like so many aspects of Brazilian life, the contrasts here are extreme.
But it's impossible not to be inspired by people that live so freely, and in such joyous celebration of who they are.
Especially in the face of v*olence and intimidation.
I hope that the spirit of Carnival the spirit of love and acceptance and joy is what wins out in the end.
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01x02 - Brazil
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Gaycation". Aired: February 2016 to April 2017.
"Gaycation" follows Ellen and Ian as they set off to explore LGBT cultures around the world. From Japan to Brazil to Jamaica to the USA, the two meet some fascinating people during their travels and hear their stories.
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1 post • Page 1 of 1