Queer Bagé

Bagé is an isolated, medium-sized, rural city of 130,000 people in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost province of Brazil. In November of 2005, it was home to the first successful same-sex adoption case in Brazil. This led to successful outcomes in similar adoption cases throughout the country, primarily in cities that were in Brazil’s rural interior. All of this culminated in a federal ruling in 2010, legalizing same-sex adoption three years before the federal legalization of same-sex marriage. When scholars explore queer history, however, they focus primarily on mass mobilization in Brazil’s urban centers, ignoring rural queer movements and experiences that transformed the country’s political landscape. Using this historic court case as a backdrop, this oral history project is meant to explore the queer experience in Bagé. By interviewing members of the queer community in Bagé, I intend to understand what kind of environment led to the landmark case and what life has been like for queer people since then. Beyond academic study, this project forms a part of a transnational endeavor a wave of scholars have begun to document the rural queer experience internationally.

Undertaking a project of this scope will require collaborations with student research assistants. Student research assistants, who are native Brazilians, will assist  with identifying community members for interviews and with Portuguese to English translations. . Unipampa has an abundance of queer students who are enthusiastic about research, many of them from my own English classes. Most queer students I have spoken to at Unipampa share a similar background: they are first-generation college students, from small, conservative, rural towns. After they came out, many don't speak with their families and many are paying their own university expenses. They have to work 20-hour jobs in addition to their studies. While they are eager to work on research projects, they can not do it without a stipend. Most public universities in Brazil recently lost all research funds due to cuts of 30% across the board. 

The average rate of stipends for research at Unipampa is R$500/month for 20 h/week. R$500 is currently the equivalent of USD$125. To pay five student research assistants for 4 months  will cost USD$2,500. While I can use my own stipend for materials such as recording devices and books for students, I am unable to cover this stipend.

Thus, I am asking my friends in the United States to pitch in.

As pride kicks off in the United States, this is a great way to support gay youth internationally. Your contribution will help fund research that can help lead to a better understanding of queer culture in rural cities. As homophobia rises in Brazil, especially in small conserative communities, projects that highlight  and make queer experiences visible can help lead to a better understanding and wider acceptance of the queer community. I also hope it will instill passion for research and highlighting queer experiences for my students in cultural and liguistic studies.

The grant will go from August through December of 2019, thus I am trying to raise all of this money by August. Students will work 15-20 h/week for their stipend.

The learning objective for students is to be able to use language as a means of understanding identity and creating historical narratives. More narrowly, I would like to show students how they can use their chosen profession to explore identity and foster community. Ultimately, this project can help the queer community of Bagé begin to create a shared history.

The final project should result in a publication that synthesizes what was learned from the interviews and a website that makes all the interviews public for the community. If possible, students could also present their research at an LGBTQ Education Conference held in Brasilia or São Paulo.

About Me

I am currently completing a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Bagé - RS, Brazil. As part of my grant, I teach English for 20 hours a week at the Federal University of the Pampa (Unipampa). The other 20 hours are to be dedicated to a supplementary project of my choosing. I decided to explore queer identity in Bagé from a sociohistorical perspective as my supplementary project because of the diversity I percieved in terms of LGBTQ+ people. Bagé is an isolated, conservative, rural city, which at first glance would not suggest it would be a haven for queer people. I am choosing to collect oral histories for this project, because my previous experience working with an oral history project through the Illinois College Archives, taught me the best way to understand the history of a community and population is through the accumulation of their words and perspectives. At a time when homophobic political rhetoric is spreading throughout Brazil, I think these oral histories can help preserve and strengthen a common identity for the queer community in Bagé.
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Christian Flores

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