Brazilian governor and 2022 Brazil president hopeful Eduardo Leite came out as gay on Thursday, stating he had “nothing to hide” as he prepares to challenge staunchly anti-LGBTQ president Jair Bolsonaro.
“I have never spoken about a subject related to my personal life, but during this moment of low integrity in Brazil, I have nothing to hide. I am gay,” Leite told Brazilian journalist Pedro Bial during a live TV interview on TV Globo. “I am a governor who is gay, not a gay governor, as former President Barack Obama in the U.S. was a president who was Black, not a Black president. And I am proud of that.”
The “governor who is gay” responded to messages of support after coming out on Twitter, saying, “The countless messages of care and support I’m receiving make me absolutely convinced: love will conquer hate!”
Leite, who currently serves as governor of Rio Grande do Sul, has been a vocal critic of Bolsonaro despite initially supporting him during his 2018 presidential bid. According to Reuters, Bolsonaro’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, not his anti-LGBTQ positions, spurred Leite’s heightened criticism of the Brazilian president.
Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s first out gay member of Congress, criticized Leite for previously supporting Bolsonaro as he attacked the community to which he belongs. “This chap had many opportunities to defend the LGBT community and he didn’t,” Wyllys told The Guardian. “He was a Bolsonarista until yesterday – and he’s probably still one today, because at no point has he retracted his support for Bolsonaro. So I don’t celebrate this. I’m not part of this team of people who are commemorating this chap coming out of the closet as if it was some great accomplishment for Brazil’s LGBT community.”
A potential gay challenger to Brazil’s top seat in Leite could cast Bolsonaro’s hateful attitude toward the nation’s LGBTQ community back into the spotlight. Since taking office, Bolsonaro has criticized the Brazilian Supreme Court for criminalizing homophobia, worked to erase initiatives directed at LGBTQ Brazilians from multiple government departments and stated his desire that Brazil not become a “gay tourism paradise.”
Bolsonaro also famously said that if he had a gay son he would be “incapable of loving a homosexual son” and the he would rather his son die in an accident than be gay. The self-described homophobe weighed in on Leite’s coming out, saying, “I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others.”
Leite will participate in the social democratic party PSDB primaries in November, seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
Brazil President Gay: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Pedro França/Agência Senado/Creative Commons