By Wallace Leray, from Agência Mural*
Around 30 LGBT people join in the activities which involve integration, respect and representativity
Basquete&Autonomia was created 3 years ago with the objective of promoting access to basketball, initiated by a group of friends from the periphery of Capão Redondo, in the Southern zone of São Paulo. Passionate about basketball and recognising that it is necessary to think about relationships in sport, the collective joined forces so that diversity and equality gained more prominence in the courts.
“We had already been meeting up in the basketball courts in the hood, but we noticed some strange behaviours that we didn’t agree with. We decided to get a group together to meet up and train, for ourselves, since we didn’t feel comfortable in certain spaces”, says Lincoln Péricles, 29 years old, one of the organisers of the collective.
The first trainings took place on a CEU Feitiço da Vila court, located in Chácara Santa Maria. The ground was made up of cobblestones, only just suitable for playing sports, but over time, they were able to give new life to the space. At the beginning, the trainings were open to everyone. On the first day around 40 people attended. Today, the activities get together 30 people and take place at least three times a month, in Santo Dias park as well as in the Reverendo Jacques state school, all funded with the organisers’ own money. A year ago, they made the decision to orientate the trainings strictly towards the LGBT community.
According to the director of the team, they opted to shine light on the LGBT people for one reason: identifying the need to focus on these people who have historically faced hurdles to accessing and being able to practice sport, as well as acting as teaching. Lincoln comments that they occasionally run some open events for the general public, and when the younger boys and even the adults see the trans girls training, it is believed that this also becomes a teaching movement of greater understanding and closeness about the experiences of one another.
According to him, it is easier for a heterosexual man to practice sport, since from a young age he is encouraged to, but having gay people on the court breaks down the paradigm and makes us reflect: “This makes them think because they hadn’t seen these bodies”, he concludes.
Francineide Bandeira, 22 years old, organizer and cultural producer, had never played basketball before getting involved in the collective. Today, he recognises various experiences and the sensation of not feeling alone. “I feel very comfortable arriving at the court. I continue figuring out how my body was different before and how I currently feel. “It is about being better physically and also the sense of belonging, with high self-esteem, at ease in your body, and this works together with the physical sensation” she reveals.
According to Francineide, the interaction between the people that play in the team is one of the main differences. “For me, being with other LGBT people on the basketball court is incredible, your body becomes lighter sharing experiences with other people that go through the same things as you. You don’t have to keep conforming to the way everyone speaks, the way that your body is going to be there”, she tells.
Priscila Regina, 35 years old, physical educator, is one of the teachers of the project. The proposal gives her a sense of security for some individuals that feel excluded from society. “It’s a space of enjoyment, accomplishment, empathy, understanding the other. For me it is as if he was a child, walking the world, being what he wants to be, without the fear of being judged or suffering any type of bullying”, she says.
The 18-year-old artist Gabe Rodrigues came across the team through a friend and says that she found a refuge in Basquete&Autonomia. “Autonomy means redemption. I suffer from depression and, during severe panic attacks, sport is my way of coping. I am practicing at the moment to make me feel better”, she reveals.
The opportunity to have experiences such as this one could be a lot closer than you think! Have a go taking part in Challenge Day. The campaign takes place every year on the last Wednesday of May. There are over 3 thousand cities that get involved, both in Brazil and in 13 countries of the American continent such as Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Find out more!
*Series of reports produced by Agência Mural de Jornal das Periferias, whose mission is to minimize the existing gap of information and contribute to the deconstruction of stereotypes about the peripheries of Greater São Paulo.