"There's Hope for Homosexuals!": Gay Visibility, the Religious Right, and the Advent of AIDS in Brazil

Friday, January 4, 2013: 3:10 PM
Balcony J (New Orleans Marriott)
Benjamin Arthur Cowan, George Mason University
“‘There's Hope for Homosexuals!’--Gay Visibility, the Religious Right, and the Advent of AIDS in Brazil,” examines the coalescence of an evangelical right wing in Brazilian politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the principal issues facing newly minted evangelical politicians were the visibility of gay rights and the increasing awareness of AIDS as a public health concern. I investigate the reactions of Pentecostal and mainline Protestant representatives to these developments, and the ways in which moral panic about homosexuality helped determine the contours of what was to become Brazil's New Right. Religious leaders and their congregations did not conform to a single perspective on gay rights or AIDS--but spokespersons from the most conservative denominations shared the view of hard-liners within the country's outgoing military government, reading homosexuality, AIDS, and "degeneracy" as threats to Brazil's youth and national viability. This congruence is essential to understanding Brazil's postauthoritarian political and religious cultures. Moreover, and beyond the national context, this paper speaks to the development of a politics of "moral majorities" and "New Rights" in hemispheric context.