Photo of Gay Kiss Fuels Outrage at One of Brazil’s Most Popular Tourist Destinations
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A Brazilian gay couple is at the center of a controversy at one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions: While waiting for a cable car to go up the famed Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janiero, visitors can have their photo taken in front of a green screen and then choose the background they want. Prominently placed among the sample images they can peruse is a shot of a gay couple smooching in front of a beautiful sunset.
Pedro Lotti, who manages Fotográfica, the company that offers the service, says he deliberately chose to put the gay kiss front and center – and admits he’s received a steady stream of complaints about it.
“I did it specifically because roughly 70 percent of our employees here are gay, and they experience serious problems here because of this,” Lotti, who is straight, told The Intercept. He added that he wanted to make sure LGBT people knew the attraction was a safe place for them to be themselves.
“It actually took a while to be able to have a photo of a gay couples kissing because most are afraid to do it,” he said. “Always, at the entrance, I noticed that same-sex couples were cautious or scared to touch, hold hands, or kiss for their photos. And they would walk to the photo area, and then walk away, and return various times, obviously afraid of how people would react.”
That’s exactly why he wanted a gay couple to do it: “Whenever I saw a couple I thought might be gay, I asked, ‘Are you a couple?’ If they said yes, I told them, ‘If you want to hold hands or kiss for the photo, you should.’”
The guys who appear in the sample shot, a couple visiting from Minas Gerais to the north of Rio, consented to have their smooch on view for the more than 1.5 million visitors who come to the peak annually. There are other photos on display, including straight couples, but the gay duo always seems to get people riled up.
“We get complaints every day,” he admits. “They typically complain, specifically, that the photo is in the line of vision for children, and are angry that their kids specifically have seen the photo.” The parents usually object “that it’s not necessary to put a photo like this in a place where kids will see it.”
It’s not always a negative reaction, he adds. Kids will ask their parents about the photo, and some will simply say “that’s love.” ” “This does not have happen often. It’s not common. But it makes me happy when I see parents speaking openly and with tranquility about it, because the kids never have a problem at first.”
“The problem,” Lotti said, “is always with the parents, not the kids.”
While Brazil recognizes same-sex marriage and pride parades in Rio and Sao Paolo are internationally renowned, homophobia is still a major problem in the country, which has the highest murder rate of LGBT people in the world. On average, more than one queer person is murdered every day – often brutally, with their bodies burned or disfigured beyond recognition. Anti-gay evangelicals have also infiltrated politics: Congressman Jair Bolsonaro of the Christian Social Party once said he’d rather his son die than come out as gay.