top2.gif - 6.71 K

Roberto Warken:
Brazil's Gay Activist Webmaster

By Ernest Barteldes

A few weeks back, I provided GayToday with a news story that hailed a judicial grant of Social Security benefits to Brazilian gays and lesbians nationwide. While researching, I "surfed" into a local gay Web site that had educational content: The Glssite (, which also includes an English version.
Roberto Warken with his companion, Chico

The webmaster, Roberto Luis Warken, is a sociologist and a specialist on Sex Education from Santa Catarina, a southern Brazilian state known as a center that emanates strong European influences. He is forty years old and he makes a living as a computer specialist in a Employers' Union in Florianopolis, his hometown.

Apart from his job, Roberto Warken engages in a number of part-time activities, including theatre, political activism and social work ministering to people with HIV/AIDS. He earned his graduate degree in sex education in 1998.

I asked him about his activism, his work on the Internet and about his being openly gay in currently homophobic Brazil.

Ernest Barteldes: Mr. Warken, please tell us about yourself:

Roberto Warken: I am 40 years old, and I was born in Florianopolis, the state capital Santa Catarina, a beautiful island town in the south of Brazil. I am the eldest son of a family of three.

My younger brother is a lawyer, and my youngest sister works in a bank. I make a living as an Internet specialist in a local employers union, where I have been employed since 1978.

I graduated in Sociology in 1986 and started to do a lot of parallel with theater, craftsmanship, dance, and also did voluntary work in AIDS awareness groups and also directly with HIV+ people in hospitals. In 1998 I returned to school to pursue a graduate degree in Sexual Education.

Previous People Features from the GayToday Archive:
Brazil Grants Same-Sex Couples Death and Disability Pensions

Renato Russo (1960-1996) A Memorial

Cazuza: Brazil's First Openly Gay Singer

Related Sites:
GLS Site
GayToday does not endorse related sites.

Ernest Barteldes: Do you participate in any local gay activist groups?

Roberto Warken: There are no gay activist groups in my hometown. That was, in fact, one of the reasons that led me to create the site. There was a gay and lesbian discussion group that met monthly in a local university to discuss gay issues, but after a while the organizer graduated and left. I considered replacing him, but due to my workload I was unable to do it so unfortunately the group folded.

Ernest Barteldes: What was coming out of the closet for you, as a Brazilian, and did your family's react to your honesty, considering that this is an extremely homophobic country?

Roberto Warken: I have always seen myself as gay. As a pre-teen I felt that anybody could feel attracted to anyone. Later, as a teenager, I noticed that things were not as they seemed to be.

Boys "had" be attracted to and date girls. I was honestly lost for a while. When I was 14, my family moved to a condominium where I made new friends. Two of them were gay and we learned a lot together by talking about our options.

Coming out was a gradual process to me. I recall that my mother had had a few "serious talks" with me, since I did not have many acquaintances of the opposite sex.

In the first of these talks, I told her that I was unsure of myself. In a second conversation, declared that I was bisexual. Years later, we had an argument and I told her the truth. I said that I could not bear living a lie. We talked it over a lot. In the end, she said that although she could not accept the fact that I was gay, she respected my option.

That same week I contacted my siblings and asked them to separately meet me, when I revealed my sexual orientation and made them understand a few things that had happened over the previous years.

I don't think that I actually had to do that, but since I had decided to publicly come out , that was the best way to start it. Finally, I always recommend to others that if they have problems coming out, the first thing to do is to become financially independent.

Ernest Barteldes: Now, about the site. What motivated you to start it? Weren't you fearful of the homophobic public?

Roberto Warken: In 1992 I began volunteer work in a state AIDS awareness group. I took a course in the local Secretary of Health and became a certified AIDS lecturer. Then I offered my services in a local hospital for AIDS-stricken patients Later on, I began giving lectures on the subject on my own wherever they would hear me.

I always wound up getting tired of that because I felt I needed some kind of structural support. When I gained Internet access I had the idea of designing a personal page. On that page, apart from other subjects, I included everything I had previously learned with my AIDS work.

That page grew a lot and got a considerable number of hits. It was then that I felt that I could share with others my ideas on human rights, homosexuality and other subjects with people worldwide. I also felt that in order to obtain the deserved respect for gays I had to use one basic tool: education.

As for the homophobic public, I do not fear them because I feel that I have nothing to lose from them. All that I know is of public domain. The most precious thing I have in my life are my companion and my friends

When the homophobic populace learn that all that we understand as "right" or "wrong", "normal" or "abnormal" is or cultural growth and that homosexualism is just another side of human sexual diversity, they will surely stop thinking as they do, and that's why education is so important. It is not enough to form young, fresh minds, but also to promote a discussion among the older citizens. The key to it all is to recycle old ideas.

Ernest Barteldes: What are your present goals for the site?

Roberto Warken: GLSSITE.NET is not business. It is a private Web site that is designed, edited and written by myself. After three and a half years, I feel that the time has come to invite a commercial partner that could invest in the obviously necessary physical and personal terms. Maybe the GLSSITE might be merged with some big Web site someday. Two months ago the Matrix provider ( invited me to give them content, and they offered me webspace and e-mail accounts. The hard work had, however, to be done by myself. I accepted the offer due to the advantages they gave me. I would, however, like to work with other ideas I have in mind. I am, of course, open to proposals(laughs).

My dream is to turn GLSSITE into an important educational Internet-based reference. I believe Internet is more than just another media for the "status quo". I acquired the technological knowledge of the Internet with the objective in mind of de-constructing the old concept that every homosexual person is a promiscuous, vulgar, vulgar, weak and low citizen who is unworthy of his or her own citizenship and of the grace of God, among other things..

I feel the site has been able to fulfill its goals and also become respected for what it stands for.

Ernest Barteldes: One last question: I have noted that you have recently begun receiving contributions from other writers, including myself, who have become columnists on the site. How did they begin contributing to it?

Roberto Warken: Apart from myself and your recent contributions (Note: This writer has written a number of articles for GLSSITE on various subjects that I believe might be of local gay interest) two other people have joined us.

Renato Duro Dias is a lawyer I met in a mailing list on gay rights (gaylawyers). He is a tireless activist. Among other things, it was through that list that a gay activist group in the south of the country got the support from other lawyers that sued the Brazilian Social Security System. Since last week any homosexual whose companion has deceased can request a pension from the State. More recently,Francisco Maroneze,who is a business administrator, began writing on everyday gay issues. He has also given me support in other ways, since he is my companion, and love and affection always reflect on your work. My only regret is that, so far, no women have accepted my invitation to contribute to the site. I am , however, very happy with the current results, since it is a sign that the Web site is being noticed.

bannerbot.gif - 8.68 K
© 1997-2000 BEI