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São Leopoldo Declaration

We invite all individuals and organisations, including advocates, activists, political, social and religious leaders, to join in our efforts and indicate their support for the São Leopoldo so that they shall be added to the list of affirming signatories.

The São Leopoldo Declaration is part of a series of joint declarations written by advocates, activists, theologians and researchers from around the world, and coordinated by GIN-SSOGIE. You may refer to the below text and our website for detailed information and/or email us if you wish to find out more about GIN-SSOGIE’s project and work around the world (simon@gin-ssogie.org)

São Leopoldo (Latin America & the Caribbean)


1. From August 1214, 2019 in São Leopoldo, Brazil, GIN-SOGGIE, the Global Interfaith Network, convened in Latin America and the Caribbean, defenders of the rights of people of sexual and gender diversity: academics, researchers, technicians, and leaders various backgrounds and traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and the Santo Daime. People from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico were present, and two people from other regions (Europe and Africa) accompanied the event.

2. The meeting, held at the EST Colleges University, gathered under the title Seminar on Family and Traditional Values. In line with the statements of Johannesburg (2018) and Silom (2018), we seek to reflect —from the diversity of our origins and contexts— on the strategies that, from each religious and cultural tradition, are employed by LGBTIQ+ people and various communities in their fight for dignity and rights.

Abya-Yala (Latin America) Families

3. We recognize the delicate situation of LGBTIQ + people and their families in this region and the diversity of cultural models in this territory that imply the variety of families and / or community models. We also affirm our connection with other global regions that undergo similar situations and challenges. Therefore, assuming the ethical and political imperatives that, from our traditions, propel us to join in these struggles actively, we declare:

4. That the concept of Traditional Family has been used as a political weapon of exclusion and marginalization for our families in the region. When we talk about the Traditional Family, we refer to the concept that became hegemonic as a by-product of the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century, that is, the model of the modern European bourgeois heterosexual monogamous nuclear family. This model was then exported and imposed in other regions of the planet as the only way to be a family, making invisible or condemning more than 200 modes of family relations that have structured human societies in different cultures for millennia.

5. That hegemonic sectors of the different denominations of the Christian religion, in line with the political cistem,[1]have built and/or deepened the exclusive and violent use of this Family model as a political weapon, attaching the adjective of “traditional” to legitimize a supposed immemorial existence that does not possess.

6. That the imposed economic and cultural cis-tems imply the increase of single-parent families as a result of violence. Most of these families are headed by an adult or teenage woman who carries out her home in conditions marked by profound inequality gaps. These and other types families as well as their survival strategies have been criminalized, invisibilized, and systematically excluded from dignified citizenship, denying them all the rights to which they are entitled, by taking the notion of Traditional Family as a hegemonic model of family relations.

7. That the trend towards the absence of public policies, demographic scientific studies, and sociological analyzes on the diversity of families in contemporary societies, promotes the invisibility, marginalization, and oppression of the whole society. Especially, it is observed among LGBTIQ+ families, of Native communities, ancestral peoples, in/migrants, and some religions, whose models of family and/or community relations do not fit into the dominant social structure.

8. That gender identity, sexual orientation, monogamy, and ethnic-racial issues, including religious diversity and spiritual practices, continue to constitute the elements and categories co-opted against people of sexual-gender diversity and their families by LGBTIQ+ anti-rights sectors.

9. That science in general —from biology to philosophy and theology— has often been kidnapped by the Kyriarchal[2]cis-tem and used to justify multiple social exclusions.

10. That while in biological terms, diversity is an inherent and constitutive part of nature; in theological terms, all that diversity composes what we call creation.” Therefore, despising, marginalizing, excluding, rejecting, and/or hierarchizing in any sense all diversity and difference imply to go against nature and to desecrate that creation.

11. That no idea about God, the Divine, Gods, and Goddesses, as well as any “religious cistem,” can be considered absolute in the construction of the legal system that defines us today as political subjects. Religious plurality should lead us to the recognition of diversity at every level present in the human family.

12. That those who speak in the name of their Divinity or Divinities, and/or from any religious cis-tem, must seek the conditions for democratic dialogue that tend to balance peacefully and respectfully the diversity of interlocutors. This dialogue must primarily begin with the recognition of all families constituted in the present, recognized on equal terms and dignity. Because of this, such a conversation must be marked by the interest in defending the most vulnerable people and groups in society: women, children, racialized people, with different abilities, of sexual-gender diversity, and in / migrants, among others.

Diverse Families, Rights, and Religion: All Rights for All People!

13. That the reality of the diverse families that make up our societies must be recognized, as well as their rights, including the right to practice a religion, be it theistic, pantheistic, cosmic, among others, or to not practice any religion, such as the case of atheism and agnosticism. In this spirit, we recognize:

14. That every constituted family is dignified, and the laws of the states must recognize any act of common agreement between adults in any family constitution. So all families can enjoy both their rights and a society that includes in their education system the constant learning of their social and community duties and responsibilities.

15. That among adults in a joint agreement, every affective-sexual bond is worthy. Such dignity implies their right to procreate and establish families, and be respected in all their dignity, including their right to receive an education that values diversity. In the same way, families that do not include procreation must also be respected, dignifying the differences, the multiplicity of identities and emotional-sexual orientations, and the self-determination of people. In short, the recognition that agrees with both biology, which speaks to us about diversity, and the postulates coming from the beliefs and spiritualities, which recognize creation as a reflection of that diversity.

16. That, in theological terms, the divine is diverse. That diversity invites the Gods and Goddesses, the ancestral entities of native peoples or religions with African or Asian roots, of global religions rooted in our continent and all the sacred entities of the forest, the river, the mountain, among others, to unite and promote the diverse song of sexuality and the multifaceted and fluid expression of the gender of all people in all stages of their lives.

17. That the diversity of Divinity/ies and spiritualities is reflected in the human diversity that includes LGBTIQ+ people. At the same time,  there are diverse communities in almost all religions —Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, among others— that are breaking with the oppressor cis-heteropatriarchal model —imposed by hegemonic sectors— that opposes diversity. Within these dissident communities to cis-heteropatriarchy, all identities are welcomed, and the Divinity is recognized in its uniqueness and multiplicity.

18. That our voice joins a chorus of individual and collective voices in Abya-Yala (Latin America) and the rest of the global body: Pachamama, Gaia, Earth, who awakens from her millenary dream through her daughters and sons. Our voice joins thousands of choirs and fists in the struggle, of voices that sing the end of an ancient eon, and thunders that predict the beginning of a new era where neither women nor the global belly of our Mother Earth will ever be raped again. A new eon where all people will live in harmony and respect, without violence towards people of sex-generic diversity. In that new era, each person can love another person without conditioning or limitations, except mutual respect and the search for shared happiness.

Deconstructing the Notion of “Gender Ideology”

19. Faced with the fact of the notion of gender ideology” as the supposed agenda” of people of sexual-gender diversity, we denounce:

20. That through the so-called gender ideology,” political and religious fundamentalist sectors have promoted a discrediting of the feminist movement, of womens rights, and the LGBTIQ+ community. Developed by conservative sectors —many times linked to powerful economic interests— this discourse has been used as a political weapon with dire consequences for the rights of people of sexual-gender diversity, but also of racial minorities, in/migrants, and refugees.

21. That the notion of gender ideology” has, as its inception, the opposition to the proposals of the United Nations Conference on Population in Cairo in 1994 and the IV World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 carried out by conservative religious leaders. These leaders promoted the idea that these advances regarding womens empowerment were dangerous” for the Traditional Family model. In 1994 the concept of the gender agenda” also emerged. That is, they presented social movements as destabilizing the social order due to the changes that transformed the logic of gender inequality. Subsequently, in 1997, these conservative sectors coined the notion of gender ideology” to pejoratively refer to womens sexual and reproductive rights.

22. That, with the advancement of policies in favor of the recognition of the rights of sexual-gender diversity people, in the last years of the 1990s, the concept of gender agenda” duplicated with the appearance of the so-called gay agenda.” On the other hand, the notion of gender ideology” transformed to include people of sexual-gender diversity. As a background to these notions, apocalyptic positions that predict the end of the human species are privileged, and sexual-gender diverse people are demonized as responsible for it.

23. That those who claim to fight against “gender ideology” throughout the continent are often associated with groups that seek to impose wild and self-destructive forms of capitalism. At the same time, those who associate against “gender ideology” promote —often without knowing it— a hierarchical, violent, misogynist, racist, and phobic society.

24. That the fight against “gender ideology” promotes what it says to fight; that is, a nefarious, anti-natural, and desecrating notion of gender. According to that notion, there are only cis-heterosexual men and women in a hierarchical chain of command supported by a machista reading of sacred texts and other cultural ideas.

25. That, in addition to the above, the fight against “gender ideology” has been used as a smokescreen to cover up the ecocides and criminals politics of our rulers, overseers of the large multinational and transnational corporations. They have managed to manipulate the population leading them to believe that Eros (one of the names of divinity) and affective and sexual diversity will be the cause of the global catastrophe. They fail to see that the catastrophe is a result of the indiscriminate logging, the extractive mining, the unbridled exploitation of “nature” and of people, that is, the rape of mother-earth!

26. That, regarding the LGBTIQ+ population, the religious fundamentalist sectors have used a weak and irresponsible reading and interpretation of the sacred texts, which has been machista and cis-hetero-patriarchal. At the same time, they have used fallacious and pseudo-scientific arguments to misinform the general population. These arguments have been used for sowing fear and political purposes, and to preserve the power structures that include state militarism as well as religious and political authoritarianism, on whose basis rests the cis-hetero-patriarchal structure of the” Traditional Family, the cornerstone of the dominating powers.

27. That, to combat this fallacious and deceptive fight against “gender ideology,” we must vindicate the discourse of and the dispute over science (democratize science). At the same time, we need to network with the social movements of sexual-gender diversity, tribal, religious communities, among others, and their transformation processes. Democratizing science, politics, religion, and theology constitutes an indispensable step to truly combat the so-called notion of gender ideology” as it is built and propelled by the LGBTIQ+ anti-rights sectors. That is to say, these sectors produce an enemy and fight against it while imposing it on the shoulders of people of sexual-gender diversity. It is time to unmask this perverse dynamic through which the LGBTIQ+ anti-rights sectors build sexual-gender diversity people as an enemy that needs to be fought.

Colonialism, Nation-State, and Capitalism

28. We understand that all theology or all God-talk is also a political act; that is, that every discourse about God, the Sacred, or the Holy, has political consequences. Therefore, if the notion of religion is not radically democratized, the idea of the political will continue to be cis-hetero-patriarchal, misogynist, machista, LGBTIQ+ phobic, hierarchical, anti-democratic, ecocidal, and genocidal. Until today, that has been the tone of the majority of God-talk. We also assert that there have always been progressive sectors that have resisted that hegemony. We are part of that resistance! Therefore, we affirm:

29. That in the vortex of our recent common history (1492 CE), a political-religious cistem was progressively and increasingly imposed through “cross and sword.”

30. That, little by little, we have discovered that the sacred texts, especially the Christian Bible, have been misread” to us. We have learned to read laws and theologies, and we have learned to interpret them, and now we know that codes and verses have been used against us. We have realized that jurisprudence and theologies have silenced our rights and that the divinity cannot be enclosed in a single image! If we are all and everything —as affirmed by most religions, philosophies, cultures, and beliefs represented on the continent— a reflection of an immeasurable and ineffable creative love, then such love must be as diverse as its reflection.

31. We are gays, transvestites, sissies, males, sapatãocaminhoeirasveadosmaricas, lesbians, transgender, intersex, asexual, hookers, and prostitutes. We are indecent, free, and/or wrong libertarian workers. We are also nuns, priests, ministers, mais/pais de santas/os, rabbis, teachers, and sheiks. We are bisexual, atheist, queer, and fagots well-loved by God! We are she/males and devotees in boots, both tops and bottoms, co-creating and being created in the image of a plural divinity that celebrates our existence. We are people of faith!

32. That we are black and Afro-descendants, Native peoples, diasporas from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania, LGBTIQ people+ part of the People of the Earth. We are mestizo people, at the border; we are white allies, the creative power, the diverse force. We have come to this world to transform. We do not fight against divinity, diversity, or democracy, but against those who seek to impose a hegemony that curtails the rights of every person who does not fit into their reductionist social constructions.

33. That, in addition to being lay or secular, nation-states must be plurinational and multi-religious. They must promote equal conditions between the dominant religion in Latin America, namely Christianity in all its branches, and all millenary, ancestral traditions of Abya-Yala or imported to our lands through slavery, colonization, mission, or in/migration. They must value the fruitful mix that has given birth on the continent to various expressions of cultural and religious human resistance.

34. That we unite all our expressions of faith, beliefs, and spiritualities, and all our energies towards a global change and a reorganization of the patterns of power in which love, justice, and wisdom could guide us better. In this rearrangement, the democratization of the divinity/ies will reveal all the previously silenced phases of human experience, which in theological terms is the experience of the divine. All experiences of Native peoples, people of African descent, in/migrants, and LGBTIQ+ communities of resistance, creativity, and re-existence, are a sign of the diverse Divinity in the apocalypse (revelation). We will not take a step back, because the threat is the self-destruction promoted by the capitalist, imperial cis-hetero-patriarchal cis-tem.

35. That the dialogue between liberation Christianity and other religions, feminisms, and social, urban, and rural movements, the different and transversal movements of sexual-gender diversity people and religions, and the Native movements of the region, must multiply the possibilities to plan strategies. Those strategies aim to push back that atrocious cis-tem that tortures, contaminates, poisons, murders with impunity, prohibits love, uses God to exclude people, and justifies the desecration of Mother Earth.

Towards a Present in Equality and Respect

36. The attendees to the Seminar on Family and Traditional Values are convinced that peace will seduce us and love will finally triumph. Therefore:

37. We ask the different religious and non-religious institutions, human rights organizations, actors in the field of sexual-gender diversity, in short, all people of peace and good-will who are looking for a better world, to include religion and spirituality in the debate about our society and the reconstruction of our world. That seeks the understanding of all people from their tangible faith and life practices, their sexual-gender diversity, and their multiple types of families.

38. We believe that all the peoples of Abya-Yala have been violated since the European invasion of the fifteenth century, and all our contemporary societies in the region suffer until today the consequences of it. For in addition to the dispossession of lands, and the continuous displacement or annihilation of the Native peoples, the metropolis, mestizasand mixed in their ethnic-racial composition, reflect the multiple hierarchies and inequalities of aforetimes, the cultural dispossession, and the doctrinal imposition that seeks to erase our deep and diverse roots. More than 500 years have passed, and we perceive the same discourse, the same outrage, the same logic and patterns of power and domination, only that today the risk is of self-destruction.

39. We denounce that the sectors that oppose the rights of all people — especially sexual-gender diverse people— have used biased, antidemocratic, authoritative, and decontextualized interpretations of religious traditions, especially Christianity. Likewise, political or religious fundamentalisms defend a global sexual policy that denies the sciences and deny the discourses —academic or not— of diverse communities to impose an agenda that allies with the dominant sectors of society, and their elite project of city, country, or world. Such a project sustains an endemic structure of many cases of abuse and atrocities that revolve around the non-respect of the multiple, different, and diverse identities of the human and non-human community.

40. We defend and promote a diverse, multiple, plural world, with ample space for differences in which both traditional monogamous marriage and any other form of family, marital, and/or sexual love have recognition and possibilities of flowering, growth, and social evolution. We promote the search and the struggle for an economic and social model that frees humanity and does not enslave or kill it slowly with self-destructive social dynamics. From our beliefs and spiritualities and our sexual-gender diversity, we commit ourselves to continue working for a present in which the extension and deepening of the rights of all people lead us to a new, free, and just world.

[1] The term “cis” refers to people who identify with the sex that has been imposed on them at birth.

[2] The term, coined by the German-American theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, seeks to include, beyond the binary idea of cis-hetero-patriarchy, the concept of a pattern of colonial-lordship domination, in which both gender and race constitute fluid elements in the construction of oppression. In other words, in the kyriarchy, white women or subaltern cis-gender men, for example, can also be located on the oppressive side.

Developed and affirmed by the following signatories:
Mark Grenville, South Africa (6th Oct 2020)