Experiencing affection, love and sexuality, is often a challenge for LGBTQ persons. In public spaces they are exposed to society's LGBT-phobic violence, but not even at home – usually shared with family members – are their affections welcomed.
Bars, nightclubs and parties that create safer environments for this population are common avenues for “flirting”, always assisted by social media. However, with the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, nightclubs and parties are no longer alternatives, and bars have become riskier spaces.
25 year old journalist Helena Diniz* is a lesbian who lives with her parents in Petrolina, in the hinterland of the state of Pernambuco. Although she has already tried to discuss her sexual orientation with her parents twice, she considers the subject “delicate to this day”.
“I think I knew it since I was young, since school, but I didn't understand it very well. When I grew up, I started to understand what I felt when I was younger”, recalls Helena. She only understood herself to be a lesbian after entering University. “I was already 19 or 20 years old. Then I started dating and I felt the need to talk to my family about it. It was a shock”, she recalls.
In the conversation, she was not reprimanded by her parents, but their discomfort was great and her mother ended up in the hospital. “We didn't talk about it anymore and I didn't know what they thought about it. I think they thought it was a momentary thing”, she said, furthermore feeling as if she were unable to bring her then-girlfriend home.
“When I went out, I avoided saying that I was going to meet her. But they knew and played dumb”, she believes. After the relationship ended, there was another relationship that the parents didn't even know about – which also ended.
In journalism school or with friends, Helena's preferences were no secret. “I always felt so free. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a 'dyke'.
In fact, the taboo exists only at home,” she says. The bars frequented by the LGBTQ community in the city were a meeting point for friendship and romance. “I've never had difficulty relating to anyone,” says Diniz.
Then the pandemic came along and there are no more bars or parties with friends. “I had to 'come out of the closet' twice. In the first months of the pandemic, I felt the need to talk about the subject again, to find out what my parents thought”, says Helena.
More mature and confident at present, she managed to say things that were not said in the first conversation. “Their reaction was better. You can't say it was great, but it was better,” she recalls. There was a “weird atmosphere” in the house for a few days, but it passed. “We don't talk about it, but I feel comfortable when it comes up”, affirms Helena.
The journalist says that restrictions on outings led her to download a dating app that would help her meet other people, "but it doesn't work very well."
She feels that she has lived out her affections more through friends than through other women. “I have two friends who are LGBTQ and I meet them every now and then. I think I've been getting more from their affection than if I had been in a relationship with someone”, says Helena.
Recently she met a girl and they are "dating", but whenever they want to meet, it's a hassle. Helena has already had to hear insults and was even chased on the streets because of her sexuality. “Apart from the coronavirus risks, we cannot go anywhere due to homophobia. We go to a public square, an open, breezy place that doesn't have a lot of people”, she says. “Once in a while it works out to go to the other's house, when there are no family members at home”, she says, mentioning the risk of awkward situations arising.
Unfortunately, Helena's case is not rare. “Most of my friends are LGBTQ. So everyone is experiencing the same situation, of not having anywhere to go and not being able to host at home”, she says. Of all her friends, only one of them has enough openness in her family to live out her affections. “Out there, even before the pandemic, it was already dangerous because of homophobia. And not having security at home is even worse, you have nowhere to go and you end up taking more risks, exposing yourself, which amid a pandemic is even riskier”, she says.
Diniz considers it “extremely important” to have a family that supports her love life. Unfortunately this is not the case, at least for the time being. “I can't bring anyone home or go to someone's house, so we have to meet on the streets, not knowing what we're going to find and at risk of coming back sick,” she concludes.
*Helena Diniz is a fictitious name, as the interviewee asked not to be identified.
Edited by: Monyse Ravena