(WB) The governor of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state came out as gay on July 1 during an interview with a late-night talk show host.

“I am gay, I am gay,” Eduardo Leite told “Conversa Com Bial” host Pedro Bial. “I am a governor who is gay, not a gay governor, like Obama in the United States was a president who was Black, not a Black president, and I’m proud of that.”

“I didn’t bring this issue up, but I never denied who I am. I never created a character,” added Leite. “I didn’t try to make people believe in something different, and I am proud of this integrity.”

Leite also told Bial that he has been with his boyfriend — a doctor from Espírito Santo state — for nine months.

“I have enormous admiration and love for him,” said Leite.

Leite, 36, is the first openly gay governor in Brazil’s history.

He is a member of the center-left Brazilian Social Democracy Party. Leite has governed Rio Grande do Sul, which is Brazil’s southernmost state, since 2019.

Leite endorsed President Jair Bolsonaro, despite his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and vocal opposition to marriage equality and other issues, during the second round of Brazil’s 2018 presidential election.

Leite has sharply criticized Bolsonaro over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Leite is running in his party’s primaries in November, which will choose the candidate who will challenge Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election.

Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ advocacy group, on Monday described Leite’s coming out to the Washington Blade as a “courageous act, particularly in a state (Rio Grande do Sul) that has a very strong ‘machista’ culture with strong dividing lines between the roles expected of males and females.” Reis also noted Leite recently attended Aliança National LGBTI+ Rio Grande do Sul Coordinator Dani Boeira’s wedding.

“He’s still in the ‘primaries’ of his political party, along with another three possible presidential candidates in the same party, which is center-left,” Reis told the Blade. “Nevertheless, coming out was probably a wise step to take in order to prevent his being gay being used against him in the campaign period should he get to be a candidate.” 

“The positive visibility he has given to being gay is very important for the Brazilian LGBTI+ community,” added Reis. “He’s openly supportive of LGBTI+ issues, but is more aligned with the center than the left, given his political party.”

Ricardo Sales, founder of Mais Diversidade, a São Paulo-based consultancy that promotes diversity and inclusion throughout Latin America, also applauded Leite.

“It is important that the governor of one of the biggest states of the country come out,” Sales told the Blade on Saturday.

Sales, nevertheless, noted Leite’s decision to back Bolsonaro for president.

“I hope, now that Eduardo is out of the closet, he can promote the agenda of LGBT rights,” said Sales.

Sales also noted Fatima Bezerra, the governor of Rio Grande do Norte state, in a July 2 tweet appeared to publicly acknowledge she is an LGBTQ Brazilian.

“There have never been closets in my public or private life,” tweeted Bezerra. “I have always noted my positions through my political activities; without ever erasing myself in the fight against machismo, racism, LGBTphobia and any other type of oppression and violence.”

Reuters reported Bolsonaro accused Leite of wanting to use his coming out as a “business card” for his presidential campaign.

“I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others,” Bolsonaro told his supporters, according to Reuters.

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