“Brides” without Husbands: Lesbians in the Afro-Brazilian Religion Candomblé



In this article, I seek to update and deepen the conversation about female same-sex sexuality in Candomblé through description and analysis of the ethnographic data that I have gathered in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil for the past ten years. Instead of focusing on the topic of male same-sex sexuality in the religion, which has been studied internationally by numerous scholars since the late-1930s, I concentrate on black lesbians’ experiences in Quêto houses of Candomblé in Salvador. In the article, I argue that lesbians find different forms of affirmation in Candomblé than do gay men; these differences stem from certain theological and hierarchical aspects of the religion and from the influence of Brazilian gender and sexual ideologies on the religion. Unlike gay men, who find affirmation both as men and men who have sex with other men, lesbians are only affirmed as women and not as sexual beings in this purportedly matriarchal religion. This analysis of black lesbians’ encounters with Candomblé also highlights the inability of present-day academic discourses about same-sex sexuality, which typically focus on men's behavior, to describe adequately the lived experiences of black lesbians in Brazil, and throughout the African Diaspora.