PHOTO: Maria Inés Taracena, AZPM


Marco Antonio Galdino is seeking asylum in the U.S., after what he says were years of physical and emotional abuse in his hometown of São Paulo, Brazil.

But he's not fleeing persecution for his political views or religious beliefs.

Galdino is gay.

"Despite Brazil calling itself an 'open country' for homosexuality, a carnival country, where everything is permitted, where sex is permitted, where liberalism is permitted...Brazil is one of the most homophobic countries in the world," he said in a fusion of Portuguese and Spanish. "It is a country with the highest number of homosexual killings in the world, a country where the violence against homosexuals is huge."

He fled Brazil in 1995, and currently lives in Tucson while he waits for a final decision on his case.

Galdino is among the between 4 percent and 10 percent of asylum seekers and refugees in the country who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to reports by the Rainbow Welcome Initiative, a Chicago agency, funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, focusing on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

The initiative was established in 2012 at the sight of increasing numbers of people pleading for asylum based on persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In Galdino's case, the abuse began at home.

"From all of the brothers, I was the most persecuted for being different, for being effeminate," he said. "So, my father, through beatings...he tried to teach me that that wasn't right. I don't know why I am the way that I am, but I am who I am and nothing will change that."

When asked about his mother, one particular memory came to his mind.

“I remember when I was 11 years old, I never forget these words, she said, ‘I prefer to cry you dead, see you in a casket with candles surrounding it, than to find out you are homosexual,’” Galdino recalled.

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