There are a record 44 openly LGBT Olympians this year. On top of it, Rio saw the very first transgender woman to play a role in an Olympic ceremony. It would seem like the 2016 Rio Olympics is set to be a positive event for the LGBT community — but it may not be.
In reality, Brazil is well-known for its transphobic and anti-gay tendencies.
“The message is clear … include everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion,” transgender supermodel Leandra Medeiros Cerezo, told BBC. Cerezo is the first trans woman to play any role in an Olympic ceremony. “We are all human beings and we are part of society. My role at the ceremony will help send this message."
But her message may not be clear enough, considering Brazil’s heavy history of violence against its transgender population.
According to Al Jazeera, Brazil has the highest murder rate of trans people in the world, with a life expectancy for their community set as low as age 30. Planet Transgender reports that a trans person is murdered every 21 hours in the country.
An estimated 57 trans people were killed in just the first 26 days of this year, claims Transgrupo Marcela Prado. The number is assumed to be much higher when factoring in unreported cases.
Transgender Europe reports that 546 murders of trans people took place in Brazil between 2011 and 2015, more than any other country reported in that time. Mexico accordingly came in second, which saw 190 murders reported in that time frame.
Cerezo has made history by leading Team Brazil at the opening ceremony, but it may not be enough for the country.
It doesn’t stop with trans discrimination. The record 44 LGBT Olympians competing in the Rio Olympics have already faced taunts from the audience.
Reports from the Los Angeles Times note fans shouted Portuguese homophobic slurs at the U.S. Women’s National Team during a game against New Zealand last Wednesday. The team features openly gay player Megan Rapinoe and head coach Jill Ellis.
“It is personally hurtful,” Rapinoe told LA Times. “I think sort of a mob mentality kind of takes over a little bit.”
She added: “I don’t think most of those fans would have said that directly to my face. I don’t think they mean it in that way. “But they need to understand that that’s how it’s taken. They need to understand if all of you are willing to do that, what does that say to a gay player? Especially in the men’s game. What does that say to players who are struggling to come out?”
OutSports claims that players in the Australia and Canada match also faced slurs, a game in which four openly LGBT athletes were competing. According to the site, fans chanted the slur towards goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe whenever she occupied the ball.
The International Olympic Committee has not yet reacted to these slurs.