(AFP) – Nov 18, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO — Techno music was thumping as tens of thousands hit the streets in Rio Sunday for the annual Gay Pride Parade, which organizers insisted was both a party and political.
"The main thing is to fight for the criminalization of homophobia," said Ester Silveira, 28, decked out in a rainbow T-shirt in Copacabana, where 15 trucks rumbled in to pump up the tunes.
"We have made some big strides but the world is still full of a lot of prejudices," Silveira said.
Brazil may be famous for its dental floss bikinis, well-oiled bodies and sexy samba, but it often surprises outsiders with how conservative its mainstream culture has become in recent years.
Still mostly Roman Catholic, the country of 190 million in the past decades has seen an explosion in evangelical Christian group membership.
Many of these groups have clashed with gays over beliefs that people choose their sexual orientation, not that they were born with them as most scientists believe.
At Sunday's festival of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) people and their friends, a lot of fun appeared to be had by many.
There were wigs.
There were carnival costumes.
There were piercings and kissing.
There were boas, and fans, and flags.
There were spangles, body paint and a lot of skin in the hot summer sun, as up to a million people thronged the seaside to bust a few moves.
There were topless women members of Femen Brazil, whose body paint -- in the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag -- read "No to homophobia."
"You know, most of the year, the GLBT population is sort of boxed up in the closet, hidden away and being kept from a lot of rights," said Julio Moreira, head of the LGBT Rainbow Citizens Group, which organized the event.
"So this is the moment to speak up, we are here. Even if we are dancing here at a party, this is a political act," he stressed.
The mayor's office dropped by with a public service plus: a little sex ed and 400,000 condoms were handed out.
Silvera voiced her hope that evangelicals would stop "promoting prejudice," as a many walked close by holding up a sign :I have the right to be gay and to be Christian."
Vitoria Gouyer, 40, is a transvestite who said progress has been made, but that even on her way to the parade, a cab driver sped off instead of picking her up.
"I hope things will change in the next 10 years," she said. "And that people stop being prejudiced and just love others."
Brazil does not have same sex marriage. But since May 2011 the Supreme Court has recognized same-sex civil unions as a family unit. Some courts since have recognized these unions as legal civil marriages.
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