Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
I’d rather have a dead son than a gay son.
Let that phrase wash over you. Let it envelop you. Let it sink in. Taste its bitter sting. A dead son, is better, than a gay son. Dead better than gay.
Now imagine being a child hearing that: a little boy who’s just that little bit different from the other little boys. The way he walks is just that little bit different; the way he talks is just that little bit different – even the way he crosses his legs is just that little bit different, just enough that it makes him stand out. At first, he’s too young to understand what any of that could mean, but he hears the subtle whispers and he sees the not-so-subtle nudges. Then at a certain age the playground taunts begin. Girl, sissy, fag. Along with the taunts comes fear. He’s frightened because he’s already started to understand that to many people in the world he inhabits a dead son is better than a gay son.
He will learn, through coded and uncoded messages, received a million times a day, that he lives in a binary society, one where you are dominant or dominated, predator or prey, worthy or worthless, male or female. The gay sons, the gay boys, the gay men, they – well, we – are singled out for exclusion. We are objects of scorn, derision and contempt: better off gone. Better off dead. The situation is compounded because we aren’t the only ones receiving the message. All the other little boys and little girls, cousins, brothers, and sisters are receiving it too, and that message informs the way they look at us. It factors into the calculation of how they feel about us. It helps determine our place in our family, in our circle of friends, in the world. Dead better than gay.
By early adolescence I already felt completely isolated from everything and everyone around me. Terrified of what might come. Trapped and alone. If it turns out you really are gay, that’s bad. If you admit it, that’s admitting to being bad. If you don’t admit it, you’re a liar. If you deceive yourself, you’re just postponing being bad. No matter how you play this hand, you are going to lose. A dead son is better than a gay son. Dead better than gay.
By late adolescence dead better than gay is a sentiment you’ve spent most of your life seeing in your parents’ eyes. Hearing in your grandparents’ voices; And feeling from the family members and friends who either embrace, justify or excuse the disdain aimed at society’s gay sons. And at one point you can’t take it anymore. You break. You stop believing affection directed towards you can be real. People can’t love you. They can’t even like you, because all they see is this shell of a creature you’ve become. Frozen, paralysed, hiding from yourself and the world around you. Desperate not to be the gay son, because a dead son is better than a gay son.
The consequences of people, families and societies promoting this mindset are dire, because the scars left behind are indelible. Human beings get destroyed. Families get destroyed. Trust me, I speak from experience.
In the next few days the people of Brazil will vote for their new president. Built into that choice are two very different worlds. One where every citizen has value, and another where a dead son is better than a gay son.
Which side will you be on?
If you want to see the devastating real life consequences of anti-lgbt sentiment in Brazil visit: https://homofobiamata.wordpress.com/