On May 22, 2014 Arizona Public Media reported: Marco Antonio Galdino is seeking asylum in the U.S., after years of physical and emotional abuse in his hometown of São Paulo, Brazil.
But he’s not fleeing persecution for his political views or religious beliefs.
Galdino is gay.
“Despite Brazil calling itself an ‘open country’ for homosexuality, a carnival country, where everything is permitted, where sex is permitted, where liberalism is permitted…Brazil is one of the most homophobic countries in the world,” he said in a fusion of Portuguese and Spanish. “It is a country with the highest number of homosexual killings in the world, a country where the violence against homosexuals is huge.”
He fled Brazil in 1995, and currently lives in Tucson while he waits for a final decision on his case.
Galdino is among the between 4 percent and 10 percent of asylum seekers and refugees in the country who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to reports by the Rainbow Welcome Initiative, a Chicago agency, funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, focusing on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
The initiative was established in 2012 at the sight of increasing numbers of people pleading for asylum based on persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In Galdino’s case, the abuse began at home.
Photo: Maria Inés Taracena, AZPM
Marco Antonio Galdino has already been denied asylum once. He’s been appealing that case, but the resolution is uncertain, and he faces the possibility of being deported to Brazil.
“From all of the brothers, I was the most persecuted for being different, for being effeminate,” he said. “So, my father, through beatings…he tried to teach me that that wasn’t right. I don’t know why I am the way that I am, but I am who I am and nothing will change that.”
When asked about his mother, one particular memory came to his mind.
“I remember when I was 11 years old, I never forget these words, she said, ‘I prefer to cry you dead, see you in a casket with candles surrounding it, than to find out you are homosexual,’” Galdino recalled.
A lot of his childhood was spent in a basement. Galdino’s father, who was in the Brazilian armed forces, would lock him in there for days, sometimes weeks. As a young boy, Galdino missed countless days of school, because his father didn’t want anyone to notice his “femininity” and humiliate the family, he said.
At 18, he left home.
Galdino secretly moved in with his boyfriend at the time – a man from Uruguay named Andres. Galdino referred to him as the man who brought him out of the closet’s darkness.
“I don’t know how my father found out where I was, he came one day…it was my birthday…I never forget, (my father) came to our home, and he took (Andres) outside, destroyed everything in our home, I still have scars from that time,” he said as he pulled his light brown trousers to reveal the marks he still has on his legs.
“He said, ‘You will never see this man again.’ And he took me out of there, he beat me until I lost consciousness, and he took me back home, where I was imprisoned for three or four months…My own father sodomized me. He was saying, ‘I will teach you a lesson, understand that you will never (be with men…)'” he said.
Once back at home, Galdino was shoved back into the basement he’d so often be in as a child. One restless night, however, the uncertainty of what happened to Andres drove Galdino to sneak out of the house, and head to the nearest police department to file a missing person’s report. He said he also hoped to maybe find Andres in one of the cells.
“At first they (cops) treated me well…once they realized I was looking for my partner, the chief said, ‘Oh you’re another one trying to find your man,'” he said. “(The chief) ordered some guards to walk me to the back of the cells…I thought so I could look for Andres myself…one of the guards said, ‘He’s looking for his husband,’ and he threw me in a cell…(in Brazil) jails are not the same as here, there are 30 or 40 men in one (big) cell…”
He said he was left in the cell for days, where he was repeatedly physically and sexually abused by other inmates. When he was released, Galdino was barely conscious. A couple of guards drove him to the hospital, and said they had found him on the streets, and that he had probably been robbed.
Galdino never saw Andres again. He said he assumes his father and the two men who accompanied him probably killed Andres.
During the conversation, he also looked back at the many other times he was brutally abused by Brazilian police, including being sodomized by a police officer during a gay club raid.
Global Persecution of LGBT People
Although Brazil is not among the more than 80 countries with anti-LGBT laws, statistics reveal persecution.
Photo: AZPM Staff
Quem a Homofobia Matou Hoje? – Whom Did Homophobia Kill Today? – is a Brazilian blog collaborating with Grupo Gay da Bahia in tracking LGBT discrimination and killings in the South American country.
Brazil’s oldest LGBT advocate group, Grupo Gay da Bahia, reported that in 2012, about 44 percent of all global cases of what the group refers to on their website as “lethal homophobia” occurred in Brazil. And in 2013, there were about 311 documented killings with genital mutilation, post-mortem burning and decapitation involved in the events.
Globally, about 76 countries mandate imprisonment of LGBT people, and seven – Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia and Mauritania – punish homosexuality with death. Continued