An Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (LGBTQ) movement emerged in the late 1970s during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964–1985), as the country slowly moved toward democracy. The “Homosexual Movement,” as it was called at the time, along with feminist and black organizations that formed during the same period, fought for an end to discrimination, equality, and full rights. Since then, LGBTQ activists have challenged stereotypes about lesbians, gay men, and trans people and won some important victories, such as same-sex marriage, legal recognition of trans people’s rights to legalize their gender identity, and constitutional protection against hate speech, although discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people is still widespread. The movement challenged traditional Catholic Church notions of homosexuality as a sin, medico-legal discourses that considered same-sex and nontraditional gender performances as sicknesses, conservative political ideologies that privileged the heteronormative family, and sectors of the Left that considered homosexuality a product of “bourgeois decadence.” Built upon a long history of resistance to impositions of compulsory heterosexuality and normative gender roles, lesbians, gay men, and trans people formed diverse communities during the second half of the 20th century that offered important support networks. They also appropriated public spaces for dissident sexualities and gender performances. Carnival became a privileged site for subverting traditional gender roles. Gay activists pushed the government to change initial conservative policies dealing with HIV/AIDS, and Brazil became an international model for effectively combating the disease. Lesbians fought within the feminist movement for acceptance and against social norms that marginalized them. Trans people gained considerable respect and certain rights. The LGBTQ movement remains diverse in practice, composition, and ideologies. A recent reactionary backlash, which has united conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians, and right-wing political forces, is trying to undo the advances made since the late 1970s in favor of social toleration, respect, and equality.
James N. Green
Sueann Caulfield and Cristiana Schettini
Over the past forty years, increasing attention to gender and sexuality in Brazilian historiography has given us a nuanced understanding of diverse ways in which women and men in Brazil’s past experienced patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression. As gender historians have shed light on how racialized and patriarchal gender and sexual roles have been reconstituted in different historical contexts, empirical studies in the field of social history have focused primarily on the historical agency of women, particularly non-elite women, who lived within or pushed against the confines of prescribed gender roles. Pioneering histories of sexual minorities have accompanied this trajectory since the 1980s, although this subfield has grown more slowly. A few nodal themes help to explain transformations in gender relations during each of the major periods of Brazil’s social and political history. Under the empire (1822–1889), honor is the entryway for analysis of gender and sexuality. Gendered standards of honor were critical tools used to mark class and racial boundaries, and to traverse them. Historians of the imperial period also stress the centrality of gender to the social, cultural, and economic networks built by members of various occupational, familial, and kinship groups. During the First Republic (1889–1930), the focus shifts to state vigilance and social control, together with debates over modernization of sexual and gender norms, particularly regarding urban space and prostitution. In the Vargas era (1930–1945), patriarchy and racialized sexuality formed the core of intellectual constructions of the nation’s history and identity, at the same time that homosexuality and women’s and worker’s rights generated intense debate. A new emphasis on domesticity emerged in the context of developmentalism in the 1950s, helping to spur a reaction in the form of the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The dictatorship (1964–1985) went to great lengths to suppress challenges to gender and sexual norms as part of its broader strategy to demobilize society and repress oppositional political movements. These challenges reemerged in the 1970s, when feminists and sexual minorities gained much greater visibility within a new wave of social movements. The 1988 constitution articulated these movements’ aspirations for social justice and equality through its foundational principal of human dignity. Significant legal changes followed over subsequent decades, including recognition of equal labor rights for domestic and sex workers, affirmative-action policies, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2011. Despite notable setbacks, the momentum toward gender and sexual equality at the start of the 21st century was remarkable. This momentum was halted by the political coup that ousted the first woman president in 2016. The anti-feminist mood that accompanied the impeachment process underscored an overarching theme that runs through the historiography of gender and sexuality in Brazil: the centrality of gender to the major legal and political shifts that mark the nation’s history.
Robert M. Buffington
The Porfirian era (1876–1911) marked a watershed in social understandings of manhood. New ideas about what it meant to be a man had appeared in Mexico by the middle of the 19th century in the form of self-help manuals intended primarily for middle-class and bourgeois men who sought to distinguish themselves in a post-independence society that had done away with legal distinctions, including aristocratic titles. Marks of distinction included cleanliness, good grooming, moderation, affability, respectability, love of country, and careful attentiveness to the needs and opinions of others, including women, children, and social “inferiors”—an approach that artfully combined longstanding notions of masculine responsibility and authority with modern ideas about self-mastery and citizenship, especially the sublimation of volatile “passions” in all domains of social life. Modern qualities also mapped onto traditional concerns about male honor predicated on the fulfillment of patriarchal duties, especially the control of female dependents. The socially validated, “hegemonic” masculinity produced by this amalgamation of modern and traditional ideas proved burdensome for many middle-class men, who struggled to maintain an always precarious sense of honor or who rejected the constraints it sought to impose on their behavior. For men from less privileged classes, it represented an impossible ideal that they sometimes rejected through the adoption of antisocial “protest” masculinities and often satirized as delusional or unmanly, even as they too came to define their masculinity in relation to a modern/traditional binary. The modern/traditional binary that characterized ideas about masculinity for all sectors of Porfirian society has persisted until the present day, despite the epochal 1910 social revolution that inaugurated a new era in Mexican social relations.