Between their lessons on literature, music, and art, the pupils at Brazil’s new Escola Jovem LGBT (LGBT Youth School) can learn the fine art of “hairography” and “clothing customization” while also taking part in what may be the gayest glee club the world has ever seen.
When Escola Jovem opened in March in Campinas, a city of 1 million residents about 50 miles north of São Paulo, the media ran with the sensational story, and religious leaders within the Roman Catholic nation voiced opposition. To some degree, the resistance was to be expected—Escola Jovem makes New York’s gay-centric Harvey Milk High School look butch by comparison.
Principal Deco Ribeiro calls Escola Jovem a “school of gay arts,” with classes in dancing, fanzines, acting, cinema, and drag queen performance, where students learn about wig preparation, costume creation, stand-up routines, and lip synching.
“Some LGBT [people], lured by conservative media, voiced their concern, fearing the creation of a ghetto,” Ribeiro explains in an e-mail to The Advocate. “But after they get to know the project, the acceptance is massive.”
Support from Brazilian officials may have helped convince some of the doubters. Though run by the Brazilian LGBT Youth Network, a nongovernmental organization, the school is registered as a teaching institution with the Campinas city council and financed by the state secretary of culture and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.
The three-year school accepts students ranging in age from preteens to 30, though Ribeiro says most of his approximately four dozen students are between 18 and 25. Many of the teachers are also young and gay. Prospective students apply online, then undergo interviews at the school—parental permission is only required for those under the age of 12.
“Some [applicants voluntarily] came with their parents,” Ribeiro writes. “So cute!”