Home' LOTL : SepOct16 Contents 34 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
TRAVEL | RIO DE JANEIRO
“ Like we say in Brazil, it’s for all tribes.” I ’m speaking with
lesbian tour guide Polyanna Miranda about Galeria Café.
“Just like Rio,” she adds. “ Rio is for everyone.” I get where
she’s coming from. Everything connected with place feels
multipurpose and a little improvisational. Take, for example,
“foot volley,” a hybrid sport that fuses beach volleyball and
futebol and endows its players—both male and female—
with some of the best bodies in the world. And then there’s
cachaça. This sugarcane liquor is the main ingredient in
the caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, but, according to
local lore, fishermen have also used it to clean the decks
of their boats. Likewise, Galeria Café (galeriacafe.com.br)
leads a double life. It’s a coffee shop and art gallery by
day, but at night it turns into a club known to be GLS, or
gay, lesbica, e simpatisante—slang that essentially means
“all tribes.” Flexibility, it seems, is a cultural motif in Rio,
one that makes the city simultaneously welcoming and
difficult to define.
There are more than 6 million people in Rio de Janeiro,
a metropolis of less than 500 square miles. Every 20
minutes, linked cable cars leapfrog up Pão de Açúcar
(Sugar Loaf Mountain) at the mouth of Guanabara Bay,
revealing unobstructed views of Christ the Redeemer
on Corcovado Mountain, the far-off forests of Parque
Nacional da Tijuca, and two of the most famous beaches
in the world: Copacabana and Ipanema. It’s at this last
location, at the foot of Rua Farme de Amoedo between
lifeguard towers (Postos) 8 and 9, that you will find the
center of Rio’s GLS scene.
I’m staying at the Ipanema Plaza Hotel (ipanemaplaza.
com.br/en), literally half a block from the rainbow flags
at Posto 9, and like many visitors I make the beach one
of my first stops. The Postos offer more than a lifeguard
lookout—they serve as handy markers to find your tribe.
If you’re into surfing (or ogling surfers), head east to
Arpoador at Posto 8, or round the outcropping to visit
world-famous Copacabana. To sunbathe with the locals,
try Praia Leblon just west of Posto 11; this stretch is popular
with the cariocas (those born in Rio). Weekends are prime
beach time, so stake out a spot early and schedule in at
least one sundown near Posto 9, where it’s a tradition to
applaud the sunset.
It’s the carioca way to fuel up on light snacks and drinks at
a beachside tent. For a specifically GLS- and trans-friendly
vibe, visit the Rainbow Kiosk in front of the Copacabana
Palace hotel. If you’re looking for regional eats, you must
try feijoada. Unofficially Brazil’s national dish, this bean and
smoked meat stew is available at many restaurants around
the city. Serious carnivores should visit a churrasqueira
for all-you-can-eat meat, while vegetarians will have more
luck at any of the city’s por kilo buffets. The gay-owned
Gringo Café (gringocafe.com), located right in Ipanema,
has a menu full of American comfort food and cocktails;
or you could head over to Eclipse in Copacabana for late-
Party planning is a serious business in Rio, and for me,
the first order of business is a nap. Cariocas arrive at the
clubs after midnight, often staying until the sun rises. “ U p
Turn is a container in a supermarket parking lot in Barra,”
tour guide Miranda says, adding that it hosts her favorite
girl party, because from there “we can see the day rise.” The
Week (theweek.com.br), in Centro, also attracts all-night
revelers to hear big-name DJs in its multilevel dance space.
Make sure you bring your ID—the security here is tight.
Come for sushi and stay for the dancing at 00 (pronounced
“zero zero”) in Gávea’s planetarium (00riodejaneiro.com.
br). On Thursdays and Sundays, the crowd is predominantly
gay. In Copacabana, Fosfobox (fosfobox.com.br) has
parties for girls, or try TV Bar (bartvbar.com.br), especially
on Saturdays. This venue is the former site of Rio TV and
still maintains its décor. Finally, make sure you get to Lapa,
an up-and-coming district that’s attracting attention for its
young hip crowd and Bohemian vibe. Buraco da Lacraia
(buracodalacraia.com.br) is a good bet for a fun, friendly
night with its cheap beer, drag shows, snooker, and videoke.
Lapa is also where you’ll find plenty of raucous samba clubs.
The unleashed revelry of Carnival has helped put Rio on
the map of party cities, but there are persistent concerns
about crime and, for many LGBT travelers, violence. In
Brazil, anti-discrimination laws are irregular and unevenly
enforced—a work in legislative progress—and as in other
countries, human rights advancements have been met with
resistance, primarily from religious sectors. “ You don’t have
to be concerned about LGBT safety specifically, but Rio
is a big city and as dangerous as any other big city,” says
Miranda. In addition to the experience she’s gained from
years of work with the tour organization Rios de Historia,
Miranda is also an out lesbian. She met her partner in Rio
three years ago, right around the time same-sex marriage
was legalized (though she points out that Brazil has
recognized civil unions since 2004). “ My bride-to-be and I
have always been pretty affectionate everywhere and never
had problems,” she says. The couple are getting married
this summer, on their third anniversary.
In Rio proper, there’s a state organization—Rio Sem
Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia, riosemhomofobia.
rj.gov.br)—and a municipal body, the Office for Sexual
Diversity (cedsrio.com.br), both dedicated to increasing
visibility and rights for LGBT people in the city. Additionally,
since 1993, Grupo Arco-Iris (Rainbow Group, arco-iris.
org.br) has successfully advocated for legislative change,
helping to extend rights to same-sex partners and set
penalties for discriminatory practices. And their annual Gay
Pride event is a multiday celebration capped by a parade
on Copacabana Beach that is expected to attract a million
people in November 2016.
Whether you’re coming for a world-class celebration
like Pride (in 2016, November 13 through 16) or Carnival
(February 24 through 27, 2017), or for some independent
travel, Miranda makes one recommendation: “Always tour
with a licensed guide,” she urges. “ We have the safe, legal,
and correct access to the sights.”
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