Photo Exhibit: The Ugly Face of Institutionalized Homophobia

Photo Exhibit

“The Condemned: In My Country, My Sexuality

Is a Crime”

Espaço Cultural Correios Fortaleza

Rua Senador Alencar, 38

Fortaleza, Brazil

From May 15 to July 16

Free Admittance

By Ernest Barteldes

With all the advances we have seen in western countries towards gender equality, we might forget that not many LGBT people around the world have enjoyed the same conquests. As attitudes quickly change around us, we must not forget that thousands are still suffering just because they were not born within the expectations of their societies.

In a quiet room inside Fortaleza’s main post office there are pictures of men with their faces covered by their hands, masks or other objects. They cannot show their faces because they are all homosexuals living in countries where being gay is not just something that might be looked down upon – if discovered, they might face not only shame, imprisonment or fines – laws in the books allow them to be killed because of their sexual orientation.

Renata and I stumbled into the show while walking through Fortaleza’s city center – we had been shopping for a few things only found in that area, and then we went in to buy a few stamps. As we were about to leave, we noticed the show and decided to take a look. What we saw was heartbreaking:  along with the pictures were personal statements in Portuguese and English from each individual and the letter of the law for each country – including most of the Middle East and Africa. Surprisingly, there were also pictures of folks from Caribbean nations like the Bahamas and Jamaica, which still have homophobic laws in the books to this day.

The exhibit was curated by French-born Phillipe Castetbon, who published a book on the topic in France in 2010. Using the Internet, he reached out to these people online and asked them to participate in this project, which sought to “create awareness of the horrible threats that many of these gay men and women face through the pictures, from personal statements and by the laws that are still in effect in these countries” according to the brochure handed out at the show

It was heartbreaking to read what these human beings have to go through – to live in hiding and in fear or be forced to leave their own countries because of the imminent danger to their lives. The program for this show also includes a series of panel discussions and lectures to broaden the idea that yes, homophobia is a terrible thing, and it is worse when it had been institutionalized.

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