OUTSIDE THE BOX
INTERVIEW WITH DELSO BATISTA
A conversation with the psychologist, researcher, and community organiser Delso Batista from Queer Tropical about the experience of being an Afro-Brazilian, migrant, LGBT man in Portugal.
BY GERALDO MONTEIRO AND LAINE BARCAROL
September 13, 2020, 12:00 CET | Updated on October 12, 2020, 12:41 CET
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a vibrant international city and home to many communities from all over the world.
The composition and climate of the society in contemporary Portugal are still heavily linked to the country’s extensive colonial history, which spanned over six centuries and played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade.
Black City Stories journalist and filmmaker Geraldo Monteiro met with the psychologist, researcher, and community organiser Delso Batista to speak about the lived realities of migrants and the stereotypes associated with migrant experiences.
Sharing and reflecting on their own experiences as Black, LGBTQIA+, Brazilian migrant men in Portugal, they analysed the mechanisms of racism, capitalism, classism, and homophobia. They also showed how they navigate living on the complex grounds of a post-colonial Portugal, recognising the victories on their chosen paths.
Delso Batista’s professional field of interest is relational psychoanalysis and the impacts of gender and migration on mental health. He is also the co-founder of the association Queer Tropical, supporting LGBTIQA+ people from Brazil and other migrants living in Portugal.
Photography, Interview, Editing: Geraldo Monteiro
Photography Direction: Laine Barcarol
Intro by Black City Stories
This video is supported by the Stars4Media pilot project.
“I have always loved to leave my mark,
in my way of being, in the relationships I establish,
especially once I grew more in maturity.
When I saw myself as a subject, Black, immigrant, homosexual.
In this context, right?”
Black City Stories Interview
Delso Batista Psychologist
As a psychologist, one of the things I studied in the field of Psychoanalysis, was how to…have the same fluency as the patients that you are accompanying.
One of my victories in that sense was my first work within my area.
Because many times the rhetoric, when you put yourself on the path of migration is that you will have to accept jobs that put you in situations of labor marginalisation because in another context, in the new world, you will not find that, an open door for you to work, if you have schooling in what you do or want to do.
Many times, I was confronted with issues like,
“Ah Delso, you behave in a very European way for a Brazilian!”
as if there was some kind of “tilt”…
Geraldo Monteiro: What does it mean to “be Brazilian” and “be European”?
Delso Batista: That! And I wondered: what is this fantasy of the “Brazilian” in the minds of the people?
Geraldo Monteiro: And who is this “Black Brazilian” in the people’s imaginations, right?
Delso Batista: I’ve been understanding over a long time, that this image was the idea of someone
who had no schooling, that had no erudition, that had some sort of transgressive trait, which would somehow fit into the profile of prostitution and criminalisation, or of crime.
Things I didn’t recognise in myself, things I didn’t see myself in so, it always seems like this continuous invitation to marginalisation.
And when you don’t occupy that space, if you don’t act in this way, it generates a lot of conflicts.
Geraldo Monteiro: An alienation, right?
Delso Batista: An alienation and even more than that, a discomfort, right?
Sometimes it even generates fetishism, because you become that profile of that Black man who dresses well, who speaks well, who has a different posture or standing.
So many times, when people approach you, they come with this questioning to understand, “But where and what did you come from, what did you do with your life, what is your education, what do you want here?
Geraldo Monteiro: Including even us, right? Black men in the LGBTQIA+ community, we face a lot of hypersexualisation of our bodies, right?
Delso Batista: Completely!
Geraldo Monteiro: We are perceived to be sex machines.
Delso Batista: Not only that! I also came to understand that I am Black, here.
Geraldo Monteiro: Why didn’t you have this perception in Brazil?
Delso Batista: It wasn’t so profound in its form
because my community in Brazil is a diverse community.
It’s a Black community and a community that, even including people who are white, such differentiations weren’t made in that environment, in the patterns of expectations or
in relationships, here I came to see that it was a distinctive element.
First of all, you are a body [in this society], right,
and then your body is described, your body reviewed concretely,
analysed, to understand where and how it fits,
where and how it blends in because, by principle, it must fit into some kind of stereotype or box, or framework, right?
And my black body often falls into this rhetoric, precisely because of hypersexualisation, where your body is a monstrous body, because it holds capacities and organs that are completely out of the norm, completely out of the ordinary, and here as well, you find another invitation for you to have your body desired as an object.
And then you are placed in this contradiction that you are a body,
and therefore, have no subjectivity, don’t have this dimension of experience and personality, that [dimension] is not invited, this experience, and at the same time, you are capital.
Capital to be…
Delso Batista: Exploited! And all the post-colonial remains that Portuguese society is still debating today right?
Nowadays I understand that Portuguese society has chosen denial in this respect, right?The denial of Portugal as a country, that structural racism is an institution, that structural racism is a process of dehumanisation of racialised people. Which also extends the process of domination to several other identities, right?
And here we’re talking about the LGBT+ groups, we’re talking about women, about Romani*, about any person who is deprived of humanity, as it does not fit the white, Eurocentric profile.
Geraldo Monteiro: Cisgendered, heteronormative…
Delso Batista: Exactly, so the great contradiction as a Black man, queer, immigrant here, is to realise how much the Portuguese society expects a posture of me that is close to what they understand of an immigrant and their supposed behaviour.
Docile, someone who doesn’t argue, who accepts, who does not create conflict, who runs after work, but accepts any kind of work and does not choose.
But I see myself in a position of having my own expectations, my own desires, my will and it doesn’t always go together [with that image of the Black Brazilian migrant].
There are a number of protective institutions, in the Portuguese context, in Lisbon, that provides a form of security, in which you can get organised.
Right? Using the health system, collectives offer support. I am also part of a support collective that is Queer Tropical, which plays the role of giving support to LGBT+ people.
Geraldo Monteiro: How do you support, in welcoming?
Delso Batista: Yes, we are currently working right in the field of social media, where we respond to the demands that were born with the infamous victory of Bolsonaro [the far right-wing president] in Brazil.
In the moment of his [electoral] win, the idea was to distribute information to people who feel threatened—and there are so many!
There were several requests that came at this moment,
seeking information on what to do if you want to find ways to immigrate and seek another place of living, not in a country like Brazil at this moment.
I have this intersection of being LGBT+ that usually puts these people in another situation of vulnerability.
Constant fear of avoiding reality, for historic reasons,
knowing that the fact of you being gay, of you being lesbian or of you being trans, means you can experience many kinds of violence and discrimination.
And it is normal that the people who attract this [discrimination],
don’t have the same kind of experience of community as heterosexuals do, and so on.
I think the idea of our collective is to broaden the understanding of this, so that the LGBT+ migrant population, and whoever else, has a source of support they can trust.
Also, to search for relevant information and counselling [for them] in all fields, psychological, legal, looking for home and work.
Geraldo Monteiro: Sometimes our bodies are so marginalised that the violence reaches an extreme, as in the case of Bruno Candé, an actor who was recently murdered here in Portugal, simply because of being Black.
And I think this reinforces the importance of the collectives to bring information and enter into a dialogue with society. But will it be enough?
What more can we do?
How the non-Black people, the white people can participate in this
struggle too?. Is a role we have to play together, right?
Delso Batista: It’s a possible encounter, honestly. How we can do this possible encounter?
The very dynamic of racism is a dynamic that dehumanises.
And in order to dehumanise, it puts whiteness on a pedestal superior to blackness,
and this makes it impossible to encounter empathy, affection, and this is a structural problem with racism, and in Portugal, it’s no different.
In Bruno’s case, I think the most flagrant thing is precisely this questioning that follows, of the media, of the parties, of the right and extreme right, constant rhetoric, of revisiting history and living this thing of Luso-Tropicalism, just to say that Portugal is not a racist country.
On one hand, it’s very sad to see white people putting themselves in this kind of dynamic, as they neither listen to themselves or other white people, much less the voices of collectives or racialised people.
So, it turns out to be an impossible encounter.
It already starts here, and then, obviously, the role of collectives of civil society and Black collectives are more than necessary. It is an initial path so that this dialogue can be opened, but it also ends up being a conversation where you talk to yourself because this encounter of the other listening to this experience is happening repeatedly, right?
It happened in the United States with George Floyd, it happened in Brazil, it happens here, and the dynamic is always the same.
Someone who is able to dehumanise somebody else because of his skin colour, that allows him to take the other person’s life, without any kind of justification, or with a completely racist justification.
Speaking of the issue of structural racism, it is important to situate a necessary and important question for the movements themselves or racialised people themselves.
First of all, to see themselves as racialised people, and to find a way to understand and notice their own historical trajectory and ancestral and contextual questions.
To notice these limitations in order to find ways to enter into dialogue and meet with people who primarily have this interest and realise the need to discuss these issues among us as possible partners, okay,
but not depend on it.
In the sense that the voice of Black people can no longer be silenced, can no longer be erased, in systematic and structural ways as it has been done for centuries.
People often reproduce racism, or speak in a racist way, without being fully aware of it. So, it is work, it has been extensive and complex work, which is not only in the hands of Black people and collectives.
White people should find a way to take responsibility, and
white people should find a way to put themselves in a position of listening first, to put themselves in a position of trying different forms of understanding, of proximity, and that is also one of the challenges.
Often people think that nowadays, by the law of freedom of speech and expression, they have the opportunity to speak what they think or feel in any way.
When they need to listen to the other talk about an experience that affects them negatively, it seems like a form of censorship of this expressiveness, but it’s nothing of the sort.
We are talking about a system that kills.
A system that dehumanises, that removes, that strips, that robs people of a trait that should be transversal, which is humanity.
When racists are engaged in racism, they also dehumanise themselves, they remove themselves from humanity.
Racism affects racialised people with mental suffering and physical suffering.
Even in invisible ways. There are several studies that will show that, for example, Black people are very susceptible to certain types of diseases— cardiovascular, depression.
One of the factors that are not widely discussed is precisely that racism is intertwined with capitalism.
Racism doesn’t work without capitalism and the other way around.
It’s almost a religion, it’s worshipped this question of you achieving profit and having your liberation through what you produce, but it is not the same for all experiences.
A Black person often doesn’t come with a background which is comparable to a white person’s background, to enable them to have the same opportunities and chances in the context of work and study.
Invisibility is the problem that affects many Black people, in contexts they’re not normally expected in.
Geraldo Monteiro: At the end of the day, was it worth coming to Portugal?
Delso Batista: It was worth it, yes. I’ve already spent a third of my life here.
It has been a third of much growth, maturity, and understanding,
of myself as a person, and in the context where I am.
Many doors have opened, not only because I was given opportunities, but because I sought these opportunities.
Others I still haven’t overcome, but I will arrive there and succeed, but I feel that my work is an experience that has enabled me to grow on many levels.
Today I can look at myself and see me as a Black person, immigrant, LGBT+, activist, psychologist, who have goals and objectives and which do for the society which I am in at the moment something that can be transformative
and help in developing this society bit by bit.
I think it’s an exchange, sometimes it’s not a fair exchange, but it’s an exchange. And so far I feel I have been constituted with this. So yes, it was very much worth it.