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Publishers ignoring lesbian writers

Readers, writers deserve better from mainstream companies

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The announcement of the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards in New York City last month was a wonderful celebration of LGBT literature. Within 24 categories, more than 520 books were nominated by 230 publishers; 114 finalists emerged and 26 winners were named (two categories this year were tied and thus had dual winners.) The Lambda Literary Awards demonstrate the vibrancy of our literary culture.

I applaud the winners, finalists and the Lambda Literary Foundation, and, in fairness, I should note that I served as a judge on this year’s panels, am a frequent contributor of reviews to LambdaLiterary.org, I support the organization financially. Obviously, I believe in Lambda Literary Foundation and in the vision it has for queer literary culture.

While there is much to celebrate in queer literary culture, there is something to bemoan as well, particularly for lesbian writers and readers. The lack of attention by mainstream publishers to lesbian writing, particularly lesbian fiction, is appalling.

As it has for more than four decades, lesbian publishing is flourishing in small, often lesbian-owned, publishing houses like Bold Stroke Books, Bywater Books, and Naiad Press. These small publishers are vital and important to our literary culture, but they must operate in conjunction with mainstream publishing. By mainstream publishing I mean (generally) New York-based trade publishers, who market books to broad audiences and sell books through mainstream bookselling venues, now primarily big-box bookstores, but also locally owned booksellers. Mainstream publishing brings us Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Stieg Larsson, but it is also brings us Rita Mae Brown, Jeannette Winterson and Emma Donoghue.

For the Lambda Literary Awards, lesbian fiction is divided into a variety of categories; I’ll consider three. First, Lesbian Debut fiction. In this category, none of the five finalists were published by large publishing houses.

Perhaps debut fiction is more difficult for authors to attract the attention of mainstream publishers. So consider Lesbian Fiction. Of the five finalists in this category, again, not a single one of the books was published by a mainstream publishing house. All the finalists were published by small, independent presses or a university press.

Lesbian Mystery fares a bit better; two books were published by trade publishing houses – Val McDermid’s new book Fever of the Bone (HarperCollins) and Ellen Hart’s The Cruel Ever After (Minotaur/St. Martin’s).

Why are mainstream publishers important? Mainstream publishers tend to sell more books for authors. They have a larger distribution system, more money to support marketing and advertising for the book. More sales of books mean more income to writers. More income, more writing. More writing, new books by lesbian writers. When mainstream publishing works, it supports writers to do what they do well and it provides a stream of books to readers.

So what does the lack of attention from mainstream publishers mean to readers? In short, it means that excellent books by lesbian writers don’t get time and attention from the mainstream publishing industry. It means that it is difficult to find books that have compelling lesbian characters.

In reviewing lesbian books nominated for Lambda Literary Awards, among mainstream publishers there is a paucity of books that have lesbians as their central characters. Moreover, too often, lesbian characters are circumscribed to banal narratives about coming out. What we need and want to read are stories of lesbian life and lesbian experience in a variety of settings; we want characters that are real, struggling with something other than coming out; we want characters that are funny, wise, flawed and fun.

The only place lesbian writers are thriving with mainstream publishers are in books that originate in the United Kingdom. In the U.S., lesbian writers and lesbian readers are overlooked by mainstream publishers. Perhaps they think the market is too small; the audience too niche. This attitude robs us all.

Certainly, mainstream publishers are not a panacea for lesbian writers. But in 2010 and 2011, we have had fewer lesbian novels published. Yes, publishing is a beleaguered industry. But lesbian writers deserve better. And lesbian readers deserve better. While I laud the achievements of this year’s winners and finalists of the Lambda Literary Award, lesbian literature is poorer for the lack of attention by mainstream publishers. We need to take action to change the situation for our literary culture to thrive.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and activist based in University Park, Md. Reach her at [email protected]

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    June 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Julie, perhaps to others, lesbian writing is not all that good. Why not find out what others have to say about lesbian writing and share those ideas for improving it in your community? Instead of bemoaning the lack of attention/recognition, find out what type of writing style/subjects/themes, etc., would lead others to stand up and applaud. And then set out to meet those expectations. Stop the hissy fit, it’s unbecoming.

    • MB

      June 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      I assure you that there are many fine examples of lesbian writing. Every genre has its stinkers, but like every other genre, lesbian fiction contains shining examples of strong, emotional, powerful, and/or funny writing. Do you really believe that lesbians cannot write? That if it weren’t for a glut of talentless lesbians, the genre would flourish in the mainstream? Really? ;)

      • laurelboy2

        June 27, 2011 at 6:59 pm

        You’re whining just like Julie. Apparently, the “folks” don’t think lesbian writing is that good! I stand behind my suggestions.

  2. Catherine M. Wilson

    June 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Many lesbian authors realized a long time ago that trying to interest “mainstream” publishing in our work was going to be an exercise in futility. Starting with Naiad Press almost 40 years ago, lesbians have had to publish our work ourselves. Fortunately, we are now beneficiaries of the revolution in publishing. Print on demand paperbacks and ebooks are being produced by the above-mentioned niche publishers like Bella Books, and also by the authors themselves. We have always known that we had an audience waiting for our work. Now we can access that audience directly.

    While there must be some self- or niche-published lesbian authors who would gladly sign a contract with a traditional publisher, many, I know, would not. We are not interested in giving up control of our work or sharing our success with the folks who shut us out for so long.

    I think it’s time that we stopped according “mainstream” publishing so much respect. By their own reckoning, most of the books they publish don’t make money, so it would seem they’re not doing a very good job of offering what the reading public wants to read.

    Perhaps, instead of trying to interest the behind-the-times traditional publishing industry in lesbian fiction, our GLBT media should seek out the best of lesbian fiction and let people know about it. They could help our lesbian authors be more successful, and success will most certainly attract the attention of mainstream publishing.

    Like most of the fiction being published under the new paradigm, some lesbian fiction is dreadful, some is excellent, and most falls somewhere in between. To laurelboy2, and to anyone else who is skeptical of the quality of lesbian fiction, I offer my own work. You can download a free ebook of Book I of my trilogy, When Women Were Warriors, from my author website. It isn’t just for lesbians. It isn’t just for women.

    You can find it here:
    http://www.catherinemwilson.com/free-ebook.html

    Catherine M Wilson
    Shield Maiden Press

    • laurelboy2

      June 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about “lesbian writing” (and how it’s different from straight gal writing – is it just a matter of changing names from Tom loves Jane to Mary loves Jane?), and quite frankly I’m not inclined to indulge myself. But, returning to my original point, if you and other “lesbian” writers think you’re dreadfully and harmfully overlooked and denied a chance to visit the dais and accept the trophy for “Tome of the Year”, then I think you need to find a way to better produce and market your product.

      • gwg

        July 5, 2011 at 12:04 am

        laurelboy2
        Thanks. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about “lesbian writing” (and how it’s different from straight gal writing – is it just a matter of changing names from Tom loves Jane to Mary loves Jane?), and quite frankly I’m not inclined to indulge myself.

        I’m glad that you don’t feel that should hold you back from commenting and deducing that “Apparently, the “folks” don’t think lesbian writing is that good!”.

        Stop your own hissy fits, they’re unbecoming.

  3. Janice

    June 24, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I was under the impression that mainstream publishers did give lesbian fiction a chance in the 90s. But it didn’t sell widely enough. The question should be, Why don’t any of the books from the small publishers break out? In many cases it may be that these books don’t leave much room for readers other than lesbians. Neither do they appear to be marketed to anyone other than lesbians. On a side note, Naiad Press no longer exists — their catalogue is held, I believe, by Bella Books who periodically releases older titles along with their new offerings.

    And laurelboy2: sweeping generalizations about the quality of an entire category of fiction isn’t really helpful.

    • laurelboy2

      June 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Apparently it IS helpful, since they’re ALL being overlooked!!

  4. Lori L. Lake

    July 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I posted a long rebuttal to this article — why was it deleted?

    • Joey DiGuglielmo

      July 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks for reading Lori — we don’t post overly long responses to articles. There’s no ironclad word count rule, but more than a couple hundred words tops, and we delete them automatically. The comments section is designed to be succinct and interactive — not a place for lengthy dissertations or complete articles copied and pasted from other places. Thanks, Joey DiGuglielmo (Blade admin)

  5. Alicia

    July 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I’m curious, how are you 100% sure that lesbian writers are being ignored? Are you only looking towards those that write about the hardship of being a lesbian or lesbian romance and such or just the writers themselves. There could be many lesbian writers being published and you just don’t know because they aren’t publicly outed for being a lesbian, more they want attention for their writing. As for publishing writing about lesbians and their lifestyle it all follows a trend. Whatever is in style is what gets published that’s not to say their writing wont be something wildly popular in a few years. Lastly, just because you self publish or go through a small publishing company doesnt mean a book wont still reach an audience and become a popular book. Often times its better to stick with the small ones so that they will focus on you more and treat your work like its important to them.

  6. Alicia

    July 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Im sorry I also forgot to ask, does it matter if the lesbian fiction isnt written by a lesbian? Or are we simply on all lesbian fiction must be written by lesbian writers to be a valid lesbian writing.

  7. Nicky Bell

    May 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Purchasing lesbian fiction is tricky. I’m personally tired of the same plots with undeveloped character arcs, boring character personalities, stereotypical butch/femme bore bore bore. And I’ve also read a handful of wonderful writers too….like I said…tricky.

  8. rush

    March 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Maybe it’s the type of Lesbian Literature that’s been pushed in the past where there is such a scarcity now. I do agree with many people who’ve commented before me–I’ve never bought a Lesbian book because the stories don’t look interesting. I’m not interested in hearing about coming out stories, or butch/femme dynamics. I want to see real people, with real problems, overcoming them in real ways–oh, and it’s be cool if they just so happen to not be straight.

    I think the Lesbian lit focuses too heavily on the cliche lesbian narrative. We need more stories. Different stories with more true to life characters. Maybe then they’ll get a little more attention.

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Commentary

Recalling the struggle to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

10 years later, gov’t still cleaning up the mess of failed law

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Franklin Burch of Los Angeles, 70, at the 1993 March on Washington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Franklin Burch was ecstatic marching down the street waving a small American flag and an “Uncle Sam: I Want You” poster during the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. “Gays and lesbians have a right to serve,” the 70-year old gay vet from Los Angeles told the Washington Post on April 25, 1993. “This is America, and we have these rights.”

An estimated 700,000 LGBTQ and allies agreed, marching past the White House and pouring onto the Mall, many grasping for hope during the horrific Second Wave of AIDS. An idealistic optimism was palpable. Gays had voted en masse to elect Bill Clinton as president of the United States, ejecting the Reagan-Bush administration that ignored the deaths of a generation of gay men. Clinton had promised money for AIDS research and pledged nondiscrimination policies, including lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military.

ANGLE’s David Mixner, a Clinton friend from the anti-Vietnam War days, strenuously pointed out that the U.S. military was America’s largest employer, enabling gay people stuck in hateful environments to get out, get an education, see the world and serve their country. Not giving gays that opportunity was unfair, and therefore, un-American.

The March on Washington program opened with a stunning Robin Tyler-produced encapsulation of the moment – a sense of pride in our patriotism. To a recording of military theme songs, flag-bearing gays and lesbians who had been drummed out of the military marched onstage, accompanied by some active-duty military coming out publicly based on Clinton’s promise. Navy Officer Keith Meinhold and Army Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer ended the procession, with Cammermeyer calling everyone to attention. The crowd – including me – stood at attention, too, tears streaming down our faces at the courage of our people to serve a country that still treated us as deviants. 

Then Dorothy Hajdys took the stage carrying a framed photo of her son, Petty Officer Third Class Allen Schindler, murdered six months earlier in a public toilet in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan by two shipmates. The coroner said Schindler’s injuries were worse “than the damage to a person who’d been stomped by a horse.” Schindler could only be identified by the tattoos on his arm. The March on Washington crowd gave Hajdys a 10-minute standing ovation. We knew the cost of freedom.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a letter from Clinton, who didn’t attend or send a video, as expected. “I stand with you in the struggle for equality for all Americans, including gay men and lesbians,” Clinton wrote. “In this great country, founded on the principle that all people are created equal, we must learn to put aside what divides us and focus on what we share.”

Liberal Democratic icon Sen. Edward M. Kennedy spoke via an audio tape, comparing our March to the famous civil rights march of 1963. “We stand again at the crossroads of national conscience,” Kennedy said.

But there were hints of a coming storm. Robin Tyler tore a Clinton telegram of apology on stage as unacceptable. “A Simple Matter of Justice” banner flapped in the background as beloved ally actress Judith Light said: “I am grateful to you, the gay and lesbian community, for the impact you are having on all of society. I am grateful for your teaching Colin Powell about equal opportunity. I am grateful for your teaching Sam Nunn about moving into the 20th century. I am grateful for your teaching George Bush about the consequences of irresponsible neglect and misuse of power. And you are in the process of teaching President Clinton the importance of being a leader and the dangers of compromising with what is right and just.”   

But teaching doesn’t equal lessons learned. Clinton betrayed us, agreeing to a Nunn-devised “compromise” on lifting the gay ban called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Republican John Warner evoked horrific “gay sexual predator” images as they went aboard a submarine to ask sailors how they’d feel lying in such proximity to a gay shipmate. The subtext was clearly an invitation to harass those suspected of being gay and lesbian. Witch hunts were sport.

The cruelty of DADT went beyond the physical. If a buddy on the frontlines in Iraq or Afghanistan was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED), the gay service member could not share the fear, the pain, the trauma because letters back home were checked and psychiatrists and chaplains had to report gay-related confessions. The lives of 14,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual service members were ruined by the time DADT officially ended a decade later, on Sept. 20, 2011. Today, marking the 10th anniversary of the official repeal, the Veterans Administration concedes it is still catching up with all the damage governmental politics created. It’s estimated that more than 114,000 LGBTQ service members or those perceived to be LGBTQ were discharged between Franklin Burch’s service in World War II and the repeal of DADT.

“Although VA recognizes that the trauma caused by the military’s decades-long policy of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people cannot be undone in a few short months, the Biden administration and Secretary McDonough are taking the steps necessary to begin addressing the pain that such policies have created. LGBTQ+ Veterans are not any less worthy of the care and services that all Veterans earn through their service, and VA is committed to making sure that they have equal access to those services,” writes Kayla Williams, a bisexual veteran and assistant secretary for public affairs in VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs on the VA blog.

Clinton’s betrayal broke our hearts and ruined lives. But amazingly, it did not stop us — which attorney C. Dixon Osburn, a civilian graduate of Georgetown University Law, recounts in his just released must-read book “Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” This is the stunning story of how Osburn and attorney Michelle Benecke, a Harvard Law graduate and former Army captain, founded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to immediately help desperate service members and work with nonprofit allies and law firms to challenge DADT in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

“Mission Possible” completes an important trilogy about LGBTQ people serving in the U.S. military, next to “Coming Out Under Fire,” by Alan Bérubé and Randy Shilts’ “Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military.” These books are not only LGBTQ history, but about our patriotism and what drives our private lives — and how government has intervened to block us at every step based on bias. 

“Mission Possible” is also a book about endurance, ingenuity, and triumph. If a united gay voting bloc and 700,000 people on the Mall and thousands more back home didn’t give Clinton enough clout or backbone to keep his promise to lift the gay military ban – SLDN needed a smart, comprehensive strategy and a willingness and stamina to keep their eyes on the distant prize of repealing DADT. After educating an anti-military community and fighting a “graveyard mentality” that believed that lifting the gay ban was impossible, they had to figure out how to secure bipartisan support.

And there was bipartisan support, privately. “Party sticks with party, unless there’s a breakthrough, Osburn says, noting that GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski told him: “You have to create the moment so I can be with you.” 

With the discharge of the Arab linguists, DADT became less an issue of civil rights and more publicly an obstacle to national security. There are scores of nail-biting behind-the-scenes stories about how SLDN shifted the public and military consciousness from July 1993 to September 20, 2011, “when President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, or recruiting and retention.”  

Dec. 18, 2010 – on Osburn’s birthday – the Senate finally voted to deliver more than 60 votes to overcome Republican Sen. John McCain’s repeated and stubborn use of the filibuster to block repeal. There are echoes of political machinations of today.

There are crafty stories, as well, illustrating the absurdity of DADT. For instance, Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, Osburn writes, “was the epitome of the competent, well-regarded openly gay soldier who put a lie to the belief that his mere presence would weaken military readiness. He was out to his Army buddies and had even introduced them to his boyfriend.” In 2006 at Fort Hood, he started getting anonymous emails and “calls warning him that he was being watched and to ‘turn the flame down.’” He sought advice from his commanding officer which triggered an investigation, with which Manzella fully cooperated. The Army concluded he wasn’t gay and told him to go back to work. He was subsequently deployed to Iraq, then Kuwait, unsure whether a new commander would discharge him. 

SLDN reached out to Manzella to see if he’d be willing to do a 60 Minutes interview, explaining the pros and cons if he went forward. He said yes, but how to do it knowing the Army wouldn’t grant permission? SLDN communications director Steve Ralls came up with a plan. “Manzella signed up to run in the Army marathon in Kuwait. At a predetermined point, he veered off-course to a waiting car that whisked him to a hotel, where he changed into civilian clothes and met with correspondent Lesley Stahl. After the interview, he changed back into his running clothes, the crew doused him with sweaty water, and the car whisked him back so he could cross the finish line,” Osburn writes. “Once the segment was broadcast, the Army could no longer pretend that Manzella wasn’t gay, or that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a law with an on-off switch. He was discharged six months later and became one of the many vocal advocates for repeal.”

Darren Manzella, gay news, Washington Blade
Darren Manzella in 2008. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

On Dec. 22, 2010, President Barack Obama kept the campaign promise he made and signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “For we are not a nation that says, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’ We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today,” Obama said. “And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.”

President Barack Obama signs the repeal of the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy on Dec. 22, 2010. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“There’s been a lot of progress in the last 10 years – despite the last four,” Osburn says. “It’s all been teed up by SLDN.” 

But we still are not fully first-class citizens, though we now have the right to serve and die for our country. The Equality Act is next.

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Opinions

Democrats must run against ‘Trumpism’

GOP Taliban pose threat to women and all minorities

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(Blade file photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The California recall election and the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial race will make clear to every Democratic candidate in the next two years they are still running against Trump or as Gov. Gavin Newsom called it, ‘Trumpism.’ Recently in California for Newsom and in Virginia for McAuliffe, President Biden said while he ran against the real Trump, Newsom, McAuliffe  and others are running against his clones. 

Trumpism is a vile view of what American democracy is all about. It is a view of society in which we coddle white supremacists and Neo Nazis and hold our knee on the neck of not only George Floyd but on all African Americans, minorities, women and the LGBTQ community. 

Some like Neil Buchanan, the author of the recent article in “VERDICT, Dead Democracy Walking,” suggest Trump’s election and administration were the end of American democracy. I don’t share his vision for doom and gloom and still have confidence in the majority of the American people.  

However the recent Emerson poll in Virginia is frightening as it shows McAuliffe with a slight lead but independents breaking for the Republican Youngkin  54% to 35% and 9% undecided. This poll was conducted before their first debate. 

It will be interesting if the new book “Peril”  by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa,  which clearly shows how unstable Trump was, will have any impact on voters and how they will deal with Trump-backed candidates. It is my belief, maybe hope, the majority of the American people will finally understand how dangerous he was. It is evident any Republican still supporting him, any candidate associated with him or who accepts an endorsement from him, must be considered like Trump a real threat to our democracy. 

Recently Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of the 10 House members to vote to impeach Trump, announced he is leaving Congress rather than face a Trump-backed primary opponent. He called Trump ‘a cancer.’ Former President George W. Bush said, “Violent extremists in the U.S. and abroad are children of the same foul spirit,” in his speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. If they are to make what they said meaningful they will need to campaign against any candidate who supports or is supported by Trump.

People must be shown what will happen if they return Congress to the Republican Party or as it currently exists, the ‘Trump Party.’ They would be turning our government over to the American Taliban. The Republicans in Congress, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, are committed to curbing the rights of women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.  

How do we stop this from happening and keep our democracy moving toward a more just society? We do it by uniting those who believe as our Constitution preamble says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Unite those who understand our democracy is about the constant effort to ‘form a more perfect union.’

Supporters of Trump, and the Republican Taliban, are making it clear what they will do if they win. Texas ending Roe v. Wade with their most recent anti-abortion law. Legislators in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states continuing to call the 2020 election fraudulent. Republican governors putting children at risk of death by refusing to take COVID seriously and refusing mask mandates. Bills introduced in Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation to impede voting. 

Congressional Democrats must pass legislation to help with childcare, make community college free, lower middle-class taxes and move forward civil and human rights. Then use sophisticated marketing and common-sense dialogue ensuring every person impacted by the legislation knows about it and understands it. Then state clearly and simply how the state legislation passed by the Republican Taliban impacts them. We must make voters understand each vote counts to protect themselves and their families. 

I think we can do that but clearly it won’t be easy. Democrats in Congress will have to unite, which invariably means compromise. Everything won’t get done at once and not in the way each individual lawmaker wants it. They need to understand our Founding Fathers thought of these difficult times and set up a system of government calling for compromise to make progress. Constant progress toward a ‘more perfect union.’

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinions

Global community needs to help save Brazil’s democracy

Jair Bolsonaro trying to undermine judicial independence, LGBTQ rights

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used the country’s independence holiday, Sept. 7, to rally his supporters in protests against Brazil’s democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary; basically the only institution at present that checks the president’s authoritarian aspirations. Over the past two decades, the Supreme Court has provided a safe space for human rights protections, specifically LGBTQI+ rights. If the court falls, it would be the downfall of Brazil’s democracy, posing a threat to its diversity.

Over the past decade, the Brazilian LGBTQI+ community has accomplished historical victories through numerous Supreme Court rulings, including a ruling in 2013 to legalize gay marriage. While these victories were celebrated, they were also bittersweet. As the LGBTQI+ community gained ground in equality; Bolsonaro’s far-right party gained political space, and unfortunately, the hearts of some of my dearest family members.

Bolsonaro’s accession to power in 2018 came with a wave of conservative, reactionary and LGBTQI+phobic discourse that shook every aspect of Brazil’s public and private life. As the minds of minorities in the country darkened and as I fought against depression, I saw my friends suddenly rushing to register their partnerships or change their civil names fearing that the rulings allowing for their rights could be overturned. Three years later, with judicial independence under attack, our nightmares are becoming a reality.

Bolsonaro’s government has significantly impacted the LGBTQI+ movement by abolishing the LGBTQI+ National Council and significant budget cuts to Brazil’s once globally recognized HIV/AIDS prevention program. Moreover, policies aiming to fight racism or promoting gender equality are also being abandoned or defunded.

Inflation, hunger, unemployment and extreme poverty are on the rise. In the case of further democratic erosion, we are getting the conditions set for a humanitarian crisis in Brazil.

Brazil’s stability is of interest to the entire region and the world. Considering the country’s influence in Latin America, a coup could generate a domino effect across the continent. Hence, political, social, and economic international stakeholders should raise awareness and pressuring Bolsonaro’s administration

Historically, social minorities are the first ones to be sacrificed in political turmoil. As I wrote this text, news came along that indigenous land rights are being bargained and that Bolsonaro will take this attack on the environment to his speech at the United Nations. As has happened in Poland and Hungary, soon Bolsonaro will turn his gun to the LGBTQI+ community. It is clear by now that Bolsonaro envisions Brazil as a leader of far-right conservatism in the world.

That is why we need the global community to stand with us. As we take to the streets calling for impeachment, Bolsonaro still counts with the support of important stakeholders. Businesspeople are among the president’s most supportive groups, despite the economic disaster we have been through. If they can’t see the obvious internal consequences of eroding democracy, then international pressure should make them see it.

We need clear statements by political parties, foreign media, think tanks, financial groups, etc., that the attacks on Brazil’s institutions and minorities will cost the economic sector money. With this, we can unlock the impeachment process and rebuild Brazil’s legacy as a country that celebrates diversity.

Egerton Neto is the international coordinator for Aliança Nacional LGBTI+ in Brazil and Master of Public Policy candidate at the London School of Economics.

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