For my [Lisa's] birthday this year, I had the amazing luxury of picking a country to begin my 33rd year of life. I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Rio de Janeiro. Not only is Rio the home of the world’s largest art deco statue of Jesus (quite fitting since 33 is, after all, the age of Christ), Rio is also one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities.
Mardi Gras might have just ended, but the party still continues in Rio. Our biggest challenge upon arriving to our first South American city was adjusting to their schedule. I’m the kind of person that can barely keep my eyes open after 10pm. But the Brazilians, well they’re just starting dinner at that time. As for clubs, the party doesn’t get started until 1am.
Thankfully Brazil’s live music scene, which occurs all over the city, kept us two old (practically) married ladies going. All throughout the week, whole streets close off for live bands and dancing. We fell in love with samba and brought the ‘gay’ into Rio’s samba clubs, trying our best to keep up with other dancing couples.
We planned to stay in Rio for five nights and ended up staying for three weeks. After two months in East Africa, we just really craved a liberal, gay-friendly city. The plethora of mixed-raced couples and gay couples immediately put us at ease. And of course, there was the eye-candy: skimpy swimsuits, buff tanned bodies, all on full display on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.
Of course, we know that not every city in Brazil is as gay-friendly as Rio de Janeiro. Supergay Andre Fischer of Mixed Brazil, South America’s largest LGBT Media company, tells us: “The big issue now is basic rights. We have a pro-gay Justice, but a very conservative Congress. Some liberal judges have made progressive laws because of their education, but these laws are not coming from a people’s movement. We are not yet going to the streets for our rights.”
In 2005, one man brought gay visibility to Brazil mainstream TV. Supergay Jean Wyllys‘ performance on the reality show Gran Hermano [Big Brother] earned him a huge following, and he won the show with 50 million votes. He has since used his celebrity status to become Brazil’s only openly gay Senator, working for LGBT rights.
Jean tells us, “I went to Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to guarantee civil marriage for homosexuals. This is the beginning of the battle in the Legislature. The amendment has been submitted, but has not yet been placed on the agenda for a vote. I’ve started a campaign for civil marriage and gotten the support from several friends of mine who are celebrities in music, soap operas, and art to open discussion in our society.”
For more on Jenni & Lisa's travels, check out their website: outandaround.com, where this article was first published.