Coming out is a political move that can tackle discrimination, says Brazilian diver Ian Matos

13/07/2017 · Notícias UNIC Rio 

Brazilian diver Ian Matos will represent Brazil tomorrow at FINA’s World Championships. Back in 2014, the athlete came out publicly as gay. In this video for UN Free & Equal campaign, Ian talks about the negative effects of sexism on the LGBTI community.

For Brazilian diver Ian Matos, coming out as a gay man is a political move that can advance the fight against discrimination. Back in 2014, he decided to publicly speak about his sexual orientation. In a testimony for UN “Free & Equal” campaign, the athlete calls attention to how gender stereotypes affect the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex – LGBTI people.

“I am sure that homophobia is a product of sexism”, he says. Ian recalls that he never truly identified with what society has defined as male gender roles. During his childhood and youth, the diver was called gay when he did not even know what it meant.

Now at age 28, Ian is one the most successful Brazilian divers. He holds a collection of national awards in the 3m springboard category. Since 2012, he has been the gold medal winner of Brazil national championships in synchronized diving alongside partner Luiz Outerelo. He also won first place in individual events at the same championships in 2017, 2016 and other years.

Last year, the athlete competed in Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Next July, he will be representing Brazil at the 17th FINA World Championships. The tournament starts next Friday,in Budapest.

Born in the state of Pará, Ian moved to Brasília in 2007, when he started competing in the adult category. At the federal capital, he trained side by side with César Castro, a more experienced diver who has been participating in the Olympics since Athens 2004.

Also in Brasília, he had the chance to live what he had not yet experienced back in his home state.

“I matured a lot in Brasília, both as an athlete and as a person. I could get in touch with people whom I had never met in Belém. I could meet homosexual couples living together for many years. Couples who had already established a stable union, who had already established a family. I didn’t have this kind of experience in Belém. So for me, it was as if it didn’t exist.”

In 2014, he moved to Rio in order to prepare for the Olympics. The transition led him to speak out about his sexual orientation.

“It is a political move the we need. The LGBT community needs people saying ‘Look, I am gay and there’s nothing wrong with that, I am normal, I am a person, just like anybody else’”, he says. For him, it is also an act of representation.

Ian thinks education and tackling sexism may help society put an end to discrimination faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“We behave in sexist, homophobic, racist ways and we don’t realize it. Sometimes with small words that we use in everyday life, we distill prejudice and we don’t notice it. It takes a lot of self-knowledge to tackle it. It asks us to place ourselves at the position of others, to analyze it and to see it in a different way”, Ian points out.

LGBTI people in the world of sports

Ian’s testimony to UN Free & Equal is part of a webseries about LGBTI athletes produced by the campaign in partnership with the United Nations Information Center for Brazil (UNIC Rio). More than ever, high performance sportsmen and sportswomen have been breaking the silence and coming out publicly as members of the LGBTI community.

Rio Olympic Games were a benchmark in that sense, with a record number of LGBTI contestants from the most diverse nationalities. According to organizations that work for the promotion of the human rights of LGBTI people, such as Human Rights Campaign and OutSports, around 40 to 55 LGBTI athletes participated in Rio’s 2016 Games.

Nevertheless, the discrimination faced by these individuals in the world of sports is still problematic, as many fear the consequences and reprisals they might face for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people.

Prejudice may manifest itself in many ways, from harassment from the part of colleagues and coaches to getting cut loose from sponsorships and advertising opportunities Some athletes may even face elimination from official competitions or complete prohibition to compete for failing to comply with discriminatory regulations and policies, as it has been the case with many transgender and intersex athletes.

LGBTI athletes are often looked up to and treated as national heroes, but they also struggle with the dilemma choosing a life free of fears and secrecy or having to deal with negative stereotypes for having coming out about their sexual orientation (lesbian, gay or bisexual), gender identity (transgender) or sexual status (intersex).

To tackle discrimination, visibiliy

Many people still believe that sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual status is a private matter, that should be kept in privacy. However, the high levels of discrimination and violence that affect LGBTI people show that it is urgent to stimulate a public debate and propose public policies to promote social inclusion and the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights for this population.

In more than 70 countries in the world, same-sex relationships between consenting adults are still criminalized – and in at least 5 of these countries, it is punishable with death.

Even though that is not the case of Brazil, the country still lacks legislation specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or sexual status. Besides that, there are no official data about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people, which makes it difficult to assess the level of integration of this population to existing public policies and welfare, as well to propose changes to get them closer to LGBTI people.

As a result, LGBTI people keep facing harassment, violence and discrimination in the most diverse contexts: among family members and relatives, at school, at work, and also in the world of sports.

The UN Free & Equal campaign celebrates all the athletes that made the decision to come out and speak up as members of the LGBTI community. With their examples, they contribute to building a world where everyone is free to be who they are and to love whoever they choose.

Check out the last video of the UN Free & Equal campaign about LGBTI athletes, featuring Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo:

UN Free & Equal

In July 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched UN Free & Equal – an unprecedented global UN public information campaign aimed at promoting equal rights and fair treatment of LGBTI people. Since its launch, the campaign has reached an estimated two billion people through traditional and social media, and generated a stream of widely shared materials – including powerful videos, impactful graphics and plain-language fact sheets.

UN Free & Equal has been implemented in Brazil since 2014, featuring Daniela and Malu Mercury as Equality Champions.

Click here to know more about the campaign: www.unfe.org and https://nacoesunidas.org/campanha/livreseiguais.

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