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Olympic volleyball star Douglas Souza revealed on social media he and his boyfriend were held for several hours in a homophobic incident with airport staff.
Souza is a member of the Brazilian Olympic men’s volleyball team and was a part of the team when they won gold at the 2016 Rio Games. The volleyball star came out publicly as gay in 2020 and said he wants to be “remembered as the first homosexual to play volleyball at a high level in Brazil”.
The 26-year-old took to his massive following on Instagram this week to share he and his boyfriend, Gabriel, recently experienced a homophobic incident while travelling in Europe.
According to Queerty, Souza told fans in his Instagram stories they were going through the Netherlands on their way to Italy. He said the trip was “calm” up to the point they had to go through customs in Rome. It was there that an airport worker seemingly took offence to the fact the men were in a relationship, Souza said.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail because I don’t want to carry this energy, but I’ll tell it more or less,” he began. “Basically, it was me and my boyfriend, we took a flight from São Paulo to Amsterdam and there we had to go through passport control to go to Rome.”
Souza said the worker was initially “super cool” when he explained he was a professional volleyball player who had been “hired by that team”. But things took a turn for the worst when the staffer “asked who Gabriel was”, and Souza responded that he was his boyfriend.
“When I said it was my boyfriend, his face changed and so did the treatment,” Souza explained, Queerty reported. “He asked what Gabriel was going to do there, I showed him the stable union document. I said he would accompany me.”
According to Souza, the customs worker then called over another member of the airport’s staff, and the couple were led to a different area. Souza said the airport staff “left us there for about five hours without any kind of explanation”.
After about “five or six hours”, the volleyball player said airport staff called him into a “small room” to ask him what he was “going to do there”. Souza said he remained “normal” and “calm” despite the fact he found the meeting “strange”.
“They hit the key again about who Gabriel was, and I tried to explain that it was my boyfriend and they had a lot of difficulty understanding,” Souza said. “We had the document of the common-law marriage. They absolutely didn’t want to let Gabriel pass.”
Souza said they ended up spending “15 hours at the airport” because of the “difficult situation”, Brazilian outlet UOL reported. He added that he didn’t think “it was normal”, but then admitted homophobic incidents happen “all over the world”.
“It was very embarrassing,” Souza said. “It is important to show that this type of situation exists.”