From the place Daniel comes from, a small Brazilian city far from the most populated areas in the South-American country, it is quite common to hear horrific stories about discrimination towards gay people. Coming out in a place like that turns out to be a life-threatening issue.
He had already reached his thirties when he got on a plane to Dublin. Here he saw an opportunity to learn a new language and get an international degree. However, he has indeed found much more than that; today, Daniel says the most important thing he has found on this island is freedom.
Daniel used to have a girlfriend in Brazil with whom he kept a four-year relationship. After his breakup, he decided to save money and start a new life in Dublin. Nonetheless, Daniel found out that Ireland could give him something more valuable. In his words, this country allowed him to show his devotion towards a girl band without having his sexuality questioned- which you will understand later.
Daniel says he had always felt attracted to guys back in Brazil, but he used to feel uncomfortable with the idea of exploring his sexuality in his home country for several reasons; he was afraid of what people would say to his parents, also, even though he had his own company, he believed that he would not get credits for his successes at work. It is not difficult to feel empathetic for our Brazilian gay friend: we all know how many times we must prove ourselves just because we are different from what society expects us to be. Moreover, in his mind, his job skills would always be defined by his sexuality if he made it open for everyone around him.
He agrees that all this repression had made him cautious regarding his behaviour for many years. He says that he used to do activities that are commonly associated as a “straight lad thing.” I believe most of us have already tried to act “more straight” to feel we belong to a certain group. Being part of a very masculine world, he never felt safe to talk about his sexuality. In simple words, even the ones who were constantly close to him made him feel unsafe to share more about his feelings.
Everything changed after he moved to Ireland. Daniel told me he had had a few hook-ups with guys back in Brazil, but his fears stopped him from starting a relationship with any of them. “How could I marry a man and have a family in Brazil? The laws would give me that, but society certainly wouldn’t.” Let’s keep in mind that Daniel does not come from a big metropolis, so that makes his experiences and insecurities as a gay Brazilian man much stronger.
In Ireland, Daniel began to explore his sexuality in a freer way. He understood that his skills would not be judged by the gender of the person he slept the night before. He understood that he would be able to be himself to the fullest, without hiding, for instance, that he is crazy about Spice Girls.
When Daniel was at High School, some kids found out he had all Spice Girls’ albums. “In my country, boys are not allowed to like female pop stars.” It is not unusual to see gay Brazilian boys pretending to like rock bands such as Metallica so they can turn invisible to the bullies. “Being gay in Brazil is so tricky that admiring a female artist is as if you have a neon light gay sign over your head at all times.” Besides all insecurities we face as teenagers, it is a tough thing to try to understand why our rooms become the only safe place to listen to our favourite artists without fear or shame. Daniel narrates that once a classmate who also loved the girl band came to talk to him about the group and he pretended that he did not like them that much. Again, motivated by the fear of suffering more bullying from his school friends.
Fifteen years later, when the girl band came to perform in Dublin on their last tour, something unimaginable happened, Daniel managed to meet this very same friend from school that he had once lied about his love for the Spice Girls. The Brazilian student says this was a very emotional moment. “I looked her in the eyes and shouted my love to the band without having any fears. I saw a movie in my mind, and I thank Ireland for giving this movie such a happy ending.”
Daniel admits that Ireland made him conscious of many issues in his life. He believes his feelings for guys would still make him ashamed of himself if he had never come here. Today, he has a boyfriend for the first time and has already told his closest relatives about this relationship. Our Brazilian friend does not feel comfortable posting pictures with his boyfriend on his social media yet though. Being from the countryside, the student says that he does not want his mom to hear bad comments about him. “In these small cities, everyone knows everyone.”
Daniel is sure this country still has a lot more to teach him. However, there is one lesson he will never forget. “Coming to Dublin has changed my life forever,” he states. “Whenever someone does not accept me for what I truly am, I am struck by the thought this is no longer my problem, but theirs.”
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