Rio’s LGBT community shoots for visibility during Olympic Games

Arwood_pridehouseVictor da Silva Oliveira identifies as a transgender person whose preferred pronoun is “they.”

Brazilian native Vitor da Silva Oliveira was 14 years old when they saw a TV show about transsexuals. It was the first time they thought about dressing “like a girl.”

“I thought it was pretty, and I thought, ‘I wanna be like this. I wanna use makeup and dress up as a girl,’” da Silva Oliveira said. “I didn’t tell anyone. I grabbed some of my friend’s clothes, dressed up and went out.”

People recognized da Silva Oliveira on the street and told their parents, who are evangelical Christians. The next day, their parents kicked them out of their house.

Da Silva Oliveira went into the foster system and was returned to their parents.

“I was abused,” da Silva Oliveira said. “My dad made me eat food out of the toilet.”

Because da Silva Oliveira is a trans person, they said they were unemployable and became a prostitute.

In “A critical analysis of Public Policies on Education and LGBT Rights in Brazil,” Ilana Mountian reports on sexuality poverty and law in Brazil. The report was published in March 2014 by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, an organization that educates workplaces in “equality for all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to their website.

“Research has shown that many LGBT people stopped attending their school after suffering violence there. As a result, access to employment for LGBT people with low levels of schooling is severely limited,” Mountian’s report says. “In the case of transgenders and transsexual women, for example, these processes of exclusion persisted beyond their experience of violence and discrimination in school.”

Da Silva Oliveira moved into Casa Nem, a homeless shelter for the LGBT community, six days ago. In addition to housing the homeless, Casa Nem offers liberal arts classes and programs to rehabilitate those who have been prostituting, said Indianara Siqueira, the Casa Nem coordinator.

Pride House Rio, a division of Pride House International, was opened Aug. 6 to support the LGBT community and to foster open communication during the Olympic Games, said Rio Pride House co-organizer Yone Lindgren. Casa Nem donated their space to become Pride House Rio.

Pride House International is an organization that sets up a hospitality house for the LGBT community, similar to hospitality houses for competing nations, during the Olympic and Paralympic. The first Pride House was established for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, according to the Pride House International website.

“Modeled after a traditional Olympic hospitality house, Pride House is a venue welcoming LGBTIQ+ athletes, fans and their allies during large-scale international sporting events. Typically, they are welcoming places to view the competitions, experience the event with others, learn about LGBTIQ+ sport and homophobia in sport and build a relationship with mainstream sport,” according to the “About” page on the Pride House International website.

Unlike the USA house, which is located on a busy street right across from Ipanema Beach, Pride House Rio is just one of many row houses in Lapa, a bohemian neighborhood packed with old buildings and famous monuments.

The only thing distinguishing Casa Nem from its neighbors is a painting of God with cat ears playing a guitar and a Pride House banner hung from the windows. People have visited for parties, and Pride House accepts food donations as a cover charge, said Yone Lindgren, co-organizer of Pride House Rio. 

The house has expanded its regular services of continuing education courses for transsexuals to daily events open to the public. Events include craft fairs, parties, debates, lectures, a nightly trans talk show and yoga classes, said Lindgren.

The goal of the Pride House is to be a place for freedom of personal expression for anyone during the Olympics, said Lindgren.

“[The house] is a place of visibility for this population that’s inserted in this society, where the athletes can be who the are and show the world their sexuality for the society,” Lindgren said, “It’s important when the athletes come out as LGBT so then that society can realize how important this is and most of all how natural sexuality and gender identity is.”

While dialogue and visibility may be the goal of the Pride House Rio, de Silva Oliveira and França said they are dreaming for a world in which they’d be allowed to exist.

“[My real wish] was to be born as a straight man,” Oliveira said, “You know why? Because this is a really tough life.”


Victor Gouvea is a Brazilian journalist and has acted as a host, working and living with Ball State at the Games through the duration of their time in Brazil.

When Victor Gouvea came out as gay to his parents, they told him they loved him and welcome Gouvea’s new boyfriend.

In a country that has an average of over 300 LGBT murders per year, according to Grupe Gay da Bahia (GGB), a site that compiles statistics on LGBT deaths, Victor said he is the lucky one.

“[It is] guessed that [double] that number are not reported as murder because the police are homophobic and will write it as a crime of passion,” Gouvea said.

In smaller towns in Brazil, it is common for those who come out to be beaten and abused by their parents. If an LGBT child leaves home, they can be “adopted” by the community, said Gouvea.

Sao Paulo, Gouvea’s hometown, has the biggest pride parade in the world, according to Gouvea attends it and other events every year.

Some protest, some petition. Gouvea has chosen to fight the inequality by making his presence known and showing love.

“I rub hands. I hold. I kiss,” Victor said. “This is how I fight.”

Laura Arwood is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Laura Arwood

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