When her son José Ricardo revealed to be a homosexual, nurse Eleonora Pereira came out of the closet with him, pulling the rainbow flag, as she says. However, the mother’s involvement with the LGBTQIA + cause arose, in fact, from a story of great pain: the brutal murder of the young man for homophobia in October 2010, at the age of 24.
It was at that same time that she was invited to tell about her pride and love for the boy, which marked the launch of the Facebook Group “Mothers for Equality”, who is still an administrator today.
About 10 years ago, Eleonora’s story of struggle has inspired other mothers and fathers who are in the process of coming out of the closet with their son or daughter. Through “Mothers for Equality”, these family members talk and receive the necessary support to get through this issue. “In the group, we connect with mothers from various places in Brazil and the world, such as Angola and Portugal, who externalize their feelings. Many say: ‘I’m glad I found a group of mothers for mothers’ ”, she reiterates.
According to Eleonora, welcoming the family helps LGBTQIA + to become a much better and more sensitive person. In this way, it manages to have sustainability to pass through the countless prejudices of society. “My story is that of losing a child simply because he loves differently from the rest of people. I was never ashamed to say that my son is LGBTQIA +. And this love of ours transcends to death ”, she says emotionally.
The LGBTQIA + mothers and fathers support group is one of the participants in the campaign “We are more together”, which tells real and inspiring stories of people who found in Facebook Groups a space for dialogue and empowerment to come out.
The initiative came after a survey of active users of the social network, which showed the urgency to address issues of social inclusion, such as gender inequality, racism and LGBTQIA + phobia, in a welcoming and productive way.
Aired on TV and on various platforms, the action video allows each of these people to extrapolate the social network and show their sexuality to the entire country, at once, to the sound of Diana Ross, with the iconic song “I’m Coming Out ”.
In addition to “Mothers for Equality”, the campaign includes other groups that function as a support and respect network for LGBTQIA + and their families, such as Afrodengo LGBTT +, Gaymers Br e Children of the Rainbow – Support Group for LGBT +.
For them and for us
Woman, black, northeastern and mother of a gay: thus Eleonora defines her existence. Born in Paraiba, the nurse moved to Recife, Pernambuco, after the birth of her first child.
The city marked its trajectory in the defense of children and adolescents, including the issue of sexuality and sexism. Since her childhood, her son José Ricardo accompanied her in human rights events. Later, the cruel crime that took the boy’s life made her also a defender of the LGBTQIA + population.
According to Eleonora, she always knew that José Ricardo was LGBTQIA +, since in childhood he observed some signs, but the family never repressed him. “Every mother knows. The day he told me, at the age of 16, he left a note beside me and said: ‘mainha, I’m gay’ ”, he recalls. Then the nurse called him in a corner and asked: “Ricardo, is this what you want?”. “Yes,” replied the teenager. “At that time I felt that he matured about 10 years ago.”
Video: When trying to defend her daughter, the elderly woman is assaulted by her son-in-law in the Cascavel Velho neighborhood (Dailymotion)
From that moment on, Paraiba remained as a support for José Ricardo. “As a mother and with him alive, I would not go out and talk about his sexuality, as it is something intimate. He was the protagonist, not me ”, he explains.
The flag with the colors of the rainbow, which the boy used in activism activities, is one of the memories that continue with Eleonora until today. “I was prepared by him so that he could take over and host. At his funeral, I promised that I would raise the rainbow flag with great pride, unashamed to say: ‘I have a gay son and he will always be by my side, wherever he is’ ”, he emphasizes.
His experience side by side with Ricardo is essential for the work he does within the group “Mothers for Equality”. “I have a goal: I don’t want any other mother to feel the pain I felt when losing my child to homophobia. And I say to them: ‘love your son now, not after you lose him’. My love for José Ricardo came first and I sought justice for that love. ”
For Paraiba, only mothers know how painful the process they live when their sons and daughters come out as LGBTQIA +. “Such a process is part of that moment and it is important. Many mothers do not want to realize that their child is gay, lesbian or trans. They deny that ”, he points out. The fear of rejection and violence makes some young people come out to the family only at the age of 18 or 19, a time when they can already free themselves from their parents and look for a job.
From mother to mother
Currently, “Mothers for Equality” brings together representatives in several states in Brazil: three are in Rio de Janeiro, four in São Paulo, one in Pauí, another in Bahia, and in Pernambuco, where the group’s base is located, there are 12 women .
The work done by them is “little ant”, as Eleonora says. “Many mothers who come to us do not want to be exposed for fear of being retaliated by family members and acquaintances. They feel fear, guilt and shame. Although the group is dedicated to mothers, we still welcome parents, children, friends and other family members ”, he points out.
The mother who needs support looks for the group and a representative from the region in which she lives is in charge of talking to this woman about her difficulties, taking into account each case.
Paraibana reaffirms the need to approach the subject according to the reality of the family, as there are evangelicals, poorer or wealthier women, with different levels of education, alcoholics, among other particularities.
“Some who find us even accept it, but prefer that their son or daughter not live indoors. The main point of all this disruption is the family, as husbands and current partners, especially when these are the providers of the residence ”, he says.
The support of the group is even more fundamental, when more serious situations occur, such as expulsion of the youth or even suicide because of daily violence. “We are very careful with mental health, we even have volunteer mothers who are psychologists and provide this service”, she points out.
At the end of this “coming out of the closet” process, many mothers get involved with the network and the cause, while others prefer their son or daughter to go it alone in the fight, but put themselves in the rear. There are already about 600 people served by the project in more than nine years.
The transformation of the perception of these women about their own children is evident, according to Eleonora. “There are mothers who used to cry when talking about the subject and now act just like me. They recognize their children and want to show their love, but I show that this love already existed within them ”, he adds.
When a woman says she is ashamed to hug or walk hand in hand with her children, the nurse asks: “When your son was a little boy, wouldn’t you see if he was covered before going to sleep? Why don’t you do it now and take care of who he is? ”
The activist’s strength overcomes any situation of prejudice. She reports that she felt what LGBTQIA + phobia is inside a mall in Recife. Eleonora wore a rainbow flag and, when trying to take a picture on the balcony, the security guard stopped her, despite everyone else doing the same on the spot.
But nothing can silence your voice and that of your son. “I took the case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and did not ask for money, but an educational action on the spot: we held an exhibition of ‘Mothers for Equality’. Thus, we impact other mothers who experience this same process ”, he concludes.
In addition to “Mothers for Equality”, the #SomosMaisJuntos campaign also includes other groups that function as a support and respect network for LGBTQIA + and their families, such as Afrodengo LGBTT +, Gaymers Br e Children of the Rainbow – Support Group for LGBT +. Like and share this idea and make these important host networks reach more people.