Vinicius - LGBT activist!
Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!
Here in Brazil, we are nearing the end of the first academic semester, looking back it’s been a busy time! The Theater Group has been going from strength to strength, our Human Rights and Youth Workshops have raised awareness about rights and responsibilities with 150 students in the first year of high school and we have started a new monthly cinema club.
As part of our celebrations for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May), we sat down with Vinicius, who is a member of both the Theater Group and the Vila Jovem Youth Group, to reflect on his progress with Viva a Vida:
When Vinicius first approached Evelin (our Projects Coordinator) about joining Viva a Vida he frowned and asked her “do you notice anything strange about me?” He watched some of our theatre group’s open rehearsals and couldn’t believe his eyes, but he wasn’t sure about having a male teacher. “I didn’t trust men, I really wanted a female teacher, men used to call me a ‘faggot’.” Gradually he opened up more, “do you see something wrong when you look at me” (his eyes full of tears), “I saw a beautiful boy, is there something wrong with that”, “I don’t know, whenever I go to places or groups, people swear at me and treat me badly, because they think I’m different.” And Evelin said, “but you are different Vinicius. I can see it in your eyes. You are more sensitive than other boys. You are brave, because you are here, opening your heart to us. For this alone, I would agree, you are very different”.
Vinicius had problems at school, at first he was bullied and then he started bullying others and the school was planning to expel him. Simone (our Theater Teacher) talked to the school and asked for time to address these issues with him. After a lot of supportive work, Vinicius started to change. So much so, that at the beginning of this year, Vinicius opened the school’s Annual Planning day, running the group activity with the teachers and presenting his monologue (part of the In dependence play). It was great to see the teachers’ surprise, they couldn’t believe the change in him, and welcomed the work that had provided him with the opportunity to change.
“It was a complete turnaround, after so much difficulty and some of the bad things I used to do, to be able to go back and show them how much I have changed and how much I have learnt. Today [when they see me] at the school’s cultural events, they always congratulate me”.
In his own words, Vinicius, the “frowning, fragile, victimized boy”, has given way to a courageous LGBTT activist, daring to say that he is a feminist, because, as he makes clear, he supports women’s rights too: “I use the term sexuality instead of orientation, because that way I feel I am also supporting the cause of women. It is a gender struggle, both against machismo and for my sexual orientation”.
Vinicius sees himself as strong and ready to face up to personal challenges. “What has most helped me at Viva a Vida is having arguments to put forward. Viva a Vida has helped me to overcome each stage, we cannot be the poor victim of the story, I learnt to stop, take a breath, see what’s happening and react... With the theater and Vila Jovem I have learnt about social and political issues. Without Viva a Vida, I would not know how to argue”.
Vinicius represented the state of Bahia at a national meeting of LGBTT adolescents, which was a huge step for him, “I got to know empowered people and when I came back I started researching things, and we are still discussing them”.
Asked about his sexual orientation, Vinicius responds: “I feel secure, when I see someone talking about machismo, homophobia, I get involved straight away. Because people can’t just go around saying what they want.”
At the beginning, his mother didn’t like the theatre or his participation in the group, “but today, she comes to watch the plays and asks me loads of questions. Some about sexuality that even embarrass me”, he laughs.
What helped him to change so much? Where did he find the support and strength to overcome discrimination. How do you learn to be yourself? How much can projects contribute to this kind of education? Do you think it’s worth donating?
“If it wasn’t for Viva a Vida, I would be frustrated, I wouldn’t have achieved my goals, I wouldn’t have had the experience of theatre, I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have today, I wouldn’t know how to relate to people, I wouldn’t have got to where I am today. Three years ago, I was so introspective and I didn’t trust anyone”.
Other activities from this term include:
- International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - on 17 May, we ran a debate about LGBT-phobia with sixteen young people from the community, to hear their experiences and reflect on the sad reality of violence experienced by this group. The young people talked about how they address the issue with their parents and at school, and their personal struggles with their own sexuality. “I have never said this before, but I am bisexual, my family accepts it, but I have never felt so free to talk about it in a group”, said a 18-year-old female participant.
- On 25th March, eighteen young people took part in a cultural exchange activity at Circo Picolino in Salvador to celebrate Circus Day; this included an extremely popular clowning workshop!
- Twenty-four members of the theater group were taken to Salvador to watch the play “Me and the Other” as part of their cultural exchange activities
- Cinema Club – since March twenty-seven children and adolescents have watched two films at Viva a Vida as part of our efforts to provide leisure activities and open our doors to young members of the community.
- Ensuring young voices are heard: six young participant representatives took part in our Strategic Planning Day in April, twenty met members of our new Trustee Board in May and two young people are representatives on our Fundraising Working Group, helping to maintain unity and integration between participants, staff and the board.
Standing up to LGBT phobia
Warming up for the Clown Workshop