By DANIEL LEAL DE MORAES SANTANA
Behind the exotic Brazilian stereotype according to which everyone is open to everything and everyone, there is a controversial cultural, social, and even economic background. As you may already know, one of our most famous holidays is the Carnaval. The week, expanded with two more week-ends, the pre-Carnaval and the post-Carnaval, represent a month of intense festivities all around the country: public parties in the middle of the street 24 hours a day; men and women constantly wearing costumes and makeup; a lot of alcohol, music, and openness towards the LGBTQ community. Nevertheless, Brazil is also known as the most transphobic country in the world, leading the position with 129 reported deaths in 2019, whereas the second one, Mexico had only 63, followed by the United States with 30. So, how can a country have the largest Pride event of the world, breaking the Guinness Record in 2019 with 4 million people in São Paulo, and at the same time hold that much hate and intolerance towards gender interpretation?
During Carnival it is not unusual to see foreigners choked with the majority of men using makeup in the street, LGBTQ speeches and music being played and danced with an enormous frequency, in my experience at least once a day, and transsexuals walking in the street with the respect and dignity that they deserve. The conception of gender during this time of the year becomes quite nebulous and flogging, and no one can distinguish if you are using male or female clothes, shoes, and makeup. Therefore, it is perceptible an admirable gender fluidity preceded by the openness of mind and mouth with ease. Yet, in the middle of March, the parties and openness of mind end, and everything gets back to normal. But why? Why is it so hard for a population to embrace such a vivid difference in everyday life? Okay, maybe I should start with something lighter: What defines you as a woman or a man? Until which point imposed abstract characteristics such as sensitiveness, delicacy or virility are going to predict your identity?
During the past few centuries, the idea of man and woman was built as structural components of a society, based on cis-gender conjugality. However, all of us know that the problem is not in cis heterosexual intercourse, but in its normalization. By not discerning a difference between sex and gender, we construct a social instruction that people are and will always be attached to the social characteristics related to their sex. Consequently, as we live in a sexist LGTBQphobic society, we perpetuate an identity intrinsic with social norms from this toxic society until there would be no liberty in interpreting the way your body and soul identifies within the world. Men are supposed to be viril, strong, and emotionless. Women are designated as delicate, sensitive, and fragile. If you don’t feel a little disturbed with these affirmations, I may question your sense of fluid identity. What is unquestionable, though, is the function of gender rigidity to an intolerant and sexist society. If people are constantly being labeled according to their femininity, or masculinity, its connotation enters the paradigm of sexual pleasure. And once you enter the world of sexuality, things can get quite messy and confusing, Freud himself would say, with his Oedipus complex.
On the whole, my point here is not only to talk about the importance of separating sex from gender but also to celebrate our pride of being whoever we are, no matter the connotation society gives to our gender interpretation. Man being sensitive and woman, strong. Nonetheless, we must never forget to bring all these ideas into practice. If there is something that the Brazilian example can teach us is that it is very convenient to stay in your comfort zone. Criticizing the sexist conceptions of gender but mistreating or not reacting to someone mistreating a feminine boy or a masculine girl is not only hypocritical and unacceptable but also convenient in a society that judges their allies. Staying in theory does not change reality. Not reacting feeds the oppression. And being yourself in your comfort zone does not change the world.