In July 2018, Leandro Prior gave another man a peck on the lips while he was riding the subway in São Paulo. The kiss caused an uproar, leading to death threats and calls for him to quit his job. Why did this simple act unleash such a strong reaction in the city that hosts the largest LGBT+ pride parade in South America? It wasn’t what he was doing, but what he was wearing that made Mr. Prior a headline.

</p> <p>Leandro Prior was and still is a private in São Paulo’s military police. On that day on the subway, he was in uniform, and a bystander took a hidden video of him and his partner. The footage was shared on WhatsApp messenger and spread across groups until it reached the screens of fellow police officers. From that point on, Mr. Prior faced discrimination both from his colleagues and from the general public.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are no rules, official or otherwise, against public displays of affection by uniformed officers in Brazil, meaning the attacks meted out to the officer were acts of homophobia. At the time of the events, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled to make homophobia illegal. However, Mr. Prior and his superior officers understood that the intolerance and bigotry he faced were unacceptable. Mr. Prior reported the death threats, and actions were taken to investigate those responsible.</p> <p>Though Mr. Prior received support from his superior officers, the violent reactions the video elicited in his personal and professional circles left him shaken to the point of taking medical leave to seek psychiatric treatment.</p> <p>While the incident unveiled a deeply set prejudice against LGBT+ people in uniform, it also catalyzed the official start of the National Network of LGBTI+ Public Security (<a href="https://www.renosplgbti.org.br/?lang=en">RENOSP</a>), a countrywide organization that connects uniformed professionals who are part of the LGBT+ community. The network has existed informally since 2010, and Mr. Prior’s case demonstrated the need to unify and speak out publicly against the homophobia experienced by public security workers. </p> <script src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/299876/1333795-66-being-lgbt-in-bolsonaro-s-brazil.js?player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <h2>The fraught relationship between public security officers and the LGBT+ community</h2> <p>As in many countries, the Brazilian police system has a complicated relationship with the LGBT+ community. In fact, many are old enough to remember a time when the police had an open agenda against LGBT+ people. In 1980, police chief José Wilson Richetti launched “Operation Clean-Up” in São Paulo, which explicitly aimed to remove “crossdressers, prostitutes, and homosexuals” from the city center.</p> <p>“It’s no wonder LGBT+ people feel resentment and distrust toward uniformed officers,” says Jordhan Lessa, RENOSP coordinator in the South-east region. He does not find it surprising that homophobia still exists in public security institutions, given their history. Anti-discrimination clauses were only written into law with the <a href="https://brazilian.report/podcast-brazil/2018/10/05/podcast-brazilian-constitution/">Brazilian constitution of 1988</a>.</p> <p>Regardless, the purpose of these institutions is to preserve the safety and collective and individual welfare of all citizens, independent of identity or social factors, Mr. Lessa told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>. Mr. Lessa, who has worked as a municipal guard in Rio de Janeiro since 1998 and identifies as a trans man, aims to plant the seed to create a reality different to the one he experienced as a young guard.</p> <p>RENOSP provides education on LGBT+ issues—both online and in the form of training sessions—for public officers. Simply learning about human rights makes a massive difference in how officers conduct themselves, says RENOSP president Anderson Cavichioli.</p> <h2>Brazil is still a violent place</h2> <p>In addition to combating prejudice within public safety institutions, the organization also assists LGBT+ people seeking to report crimes. They receive dozens of reports through Instagram and emails, and are able to redirect victims to organizations and police departments trained to handle LGBT+ cases. The challenge, Mr. Cavichioli says, is that some states do not have departments specializing in this area. </p> <p>In terms of violence, Brazil is one of the most homophobic countries in the world. There were 420 homophobia related deaths registered last year, according to NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia. Over 82,000 instances of homophobia were reported in 2017, with 76 percent involving physical violence. Nearly 14 percent of these cases were directed against people identifying as transgender.</p> <p>The good news is that the reporting of crimes seems to have gone up. The number of LGBT+ homicides reported grew by 127 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the Institute for Applied Economics (IPEA). This likely reflects an increase in public confidence, rather than a proportional increase in crime. Still, many cases of homophobia go unreported due to fear and mistrust. RENOSP has a big fight ahead of them, as public perception regarding LGBT+ safety and acceptance reacts to <a href="https://brazilian.report/podcast-brazil/2019/06/26/being-lgbt-bolsonaro-brazil/">comments and actions from the sitting administration</a>.

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SocietyAug 12, 2019

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BY Juliana Costa

Juliana is a growth strategist and contributor to The Brazilian Report