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Brazil's LGBTQ Activists Will Fight President's 'Barbarism'

Brazilian activists

LGBTQ Brazilians fear Jair Bolsonaro will encourage violence, but they'll go on fighting, says the sister of a slain activist.

LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups in Brazil won't be silenced despite the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president, says the sister of a murdered activist.

"I'm pretty sure LGBT organizations are not going to hide -- they are going to go to the fight and the front line, and say 'we exist,'" Anielle Franco told Agence France-Presse in an interview Tuesday during the Human Rights World Summit in Paris. "I think they will continue to be there, showing their faces and saying 'our love exists,' and stay there until better days come."

Franco's sister Marielle, a black lesbian who was a prominent human rights activist in Brazil, was shot to death in March in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Marielle Franco's allies believe her death was a professional hit ordered by her political enemies, who included police and paramilitary organizations. A member of Rio's city council, she had criticized police for targeting black residents of the city, and she had also campaigned for LGBTQ rights.

Her sister acknowledged that LGBTQ Brazilians and others felt endangered by Bolsonaro, who won the presidency in a runoff election Sunday. Currently a congressman, he has said he'd rather have a gay son than a dead one, and he has also made many racist and misogynistic statements. He will be sworn in as president January 1.

"Bolsonaro said he is going to 'clean' -- that's the way he said it -- homosexuals, poor people, and black people," Anielle Franco told AFP. She feared his words would lead to violence against these groups. "I think people were just hiding behind their opinions, and Bolsonaro now gives them the right to just say this crazy stuff out loud," she said. "So we are very scared and in danger."

There have already been homicides in which perpetrators have mentioned Bolsonaro's name. "A transgender woman was knifed to death in the northeastern state of Sergipe a week before Sunday's runoff election, and a drag queen was murdered in the center of Sao Paulo on October 16," NBC News reports. "The attackers invoked Bolsonaro's name during both assaults, according to local news reports."

Brazil has a long history of anti-transgender violence, but Bolsonaro's rise has created additional fears. "It's as if the gates of hell have been opened -- as if hunting season had been declared," Beto de Jesus, an LGBTQ activist and founder of Sao Paulo's Pride parade, told The Guardian. "It's barbarism."

Other LGBTQ activists expressed fear of violence unleashed by Bolsonaro, but Toni Reis, president of Brazil's National LGBTQ Alliance, told NBC News, "To the extent possible, we will try to have a dialogue with this government."

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