Eduardo Leite, one of Brazil’s leading politicians, won’t fight for LGBT+ equality – despite being gay himself. (Facebook/Eduardo Leite)
Brazil’s first openly gay presidential hopeful, Eduardo Leite, won’t be marching at a protest draped in a rainbow pride flag anytime soon.
The 36-year-old conservative politician, who is the favoured presidential candidate of financiers and investors, told the Buenos Aires Times that he doesn’t believe being gay makes a person automatically inclined to campaign for LGBT+ equality.
“It’s not a cause I lay down for,” Leite said. “Not every woman is a feminist activist, not every Black person is a racial activist, and not every gay person needs to be an activist.”
Leite added that “the correct direction for the country is toward respect, tolerance, and the quest for equality”.
Despite his lacklustre commitment to his LGBT+ siblings, national equality groups in Brazil have said that Leite has their backing in the wake of his coming out as gay.
“It is a courageous gesture, no doubt,” said Toni Reis, director-president of the National Alliance of LGBTI+. “Independent of ideological questions and all the attacks that he will suffer, we’re in the trenches to defend him.”
Leite, the governor of the southern Rio Grande do Sul state, came out in an interview with the country’s top broadcaster TV Globo on 1 July.
“In this Brazil of little integrity, at this time, we have to debate who we are, so that everything is clear and there is nothing to hide,” the 36-year-old said.
“I’m gay – and I’m a governor who is gay rather than a gay governor,” he declared, according the The Guardian, adding: “And I am proud of it.”
Gay governor Eduardo Leite voted for homophobic president Jair Bolsonaro
The homophobic rhetoric cultivated by Jair Bolsonaro, who once said he’d rather have a dead son than a gay son, has seen a deadly rise in anti-LGBT+ rhetoric in Brazil, causing one trans politician to flee the country after being targeted with relentless death threats.
Eduardo Leite was elected as part of the right-wing wave that saw Bolsonaro elected, on a socially conservative platform opposing “gender ideology”. And Leite voted for Bolsonaro, in that 2018 election.
But Leite has also been critical of Bolsonaro – and specifically for the president’s role in creating a climate of homophobia in Brazil.
“In Brazil nowadays, unfortunately, this [homosexuality] is one theme to discredit people, especially because of the way that Bolsonaro talks about it,” Leite said previously.