Talles de Oliveira Faria made a bold, empowered statement at his graduation ceremony from Brazil’s Aeronautic Technology Institute of the Air Force recently, according to LGBTQ Nation. The 24-year-old had endured years of bullying from both students and faculty during his tenure at the prestigious institute, and he’d simply had enough.
So on the day of his graduation, Faria decided to strut across the stage and shed his ceremonial gown to reveal a bright-red cocktail dress that showed off his toned legs and a pair of white Mary Jane shoes with a platform heel. His best accessory, though, was the warm, proud smile spread across his face and he graciously accepted his diploma — and it was all caught on video.
Faria had been courageous all along — ever since he realized that the school he thought was going to be his dream actually turned out to be something of a nightmare, from a social perspective anyway. “Since I was 12 years old, I listened to wonderful things about the Institute,” he told the publication. “I heard that it was the best university in the country and that it could open you several opportunities in the future … I did not know that it was going to be the worst deception of my life.”
That deception included cruel comments from lecturers at the supposedly “hyper-masculine” institute, one of whom made this hateful statement to him, he told LGBTQ Nation: “There are no sad electrons, there are no electrons with psychological problems, there are no gay electrons.” And he claims a student once made the tragic remark, “If I were you I’d kill myself.”
But Faria kept his head held high and was able to maintain clarity about the situation and a firm sense of self. He told LGBTQ Nation, “Since childhood they teach us that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual is a shame and then we take a lot of time to heal those injuries. They insulted me, they laughed at me and tried to make me invisible.”
Faria’s graduation ceremony was his glorious moment of redemption. According to Brazilian website Estadao, his goal in arriving in a dress and heels was to oppose homophobia and psychological violence at the institution. “Several students want to leave because they cannot stand the psychological pressure,” he told the publication. And the emboldened graduate took to Facebook to write, “Accept me as I am or be exposed for what you are. They did not accept me, they violated me, they laughed at me, they tried to make me invisible, that the exhibition change them because I will continue to love myself and become very present in the world.”
And because the Aeronautic Technology Institute of the Air Force is part of the armed forces, Faria included in his Facebook post a defense of LGBTQ people’s rights to be included fairly and without harassment or marginalization. A rough translation of what he posted to Facebook reads, “I felt like homophobia happens in the armed forces by means of invisibility, and the laughing stock of the expulsion of those who dare to be open about his sexual orientation.”
According to the Center for American Progress, as recently as 2010, “gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in the armed forces were forced to keep their sexuality a secret or risk being discharged — a risk that would become a certainty if attempting to marry a person of the same sex,” though progress has been made in our country, such as the 2010 repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Sexual orientation is no longer grounds for dismissal from the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Brazil is enduring a period of increased LGBTQ violence, and not just in the military, according to the New York Times. In fact, an LGBTQ person is murdered every 28 hours in Brazil, says the Huffington Post. And that makes Faria’s act of defiance all the more important, as he stands up not only for himself but also for an entire nation of openly gay citizens who face a long road toward acceptance.