Sao Paulo (AFP) - Tens of thousands of revelers thronged Sao Paulo's main Paulista Avenue thoroughfare on Sunday to cavort at the city's annual Gay Pride march.
Participants gyrated through the heart of Brazil's business metropolis, letting their hair down at the 19th Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) parade, whose slogan this year is "I was born this way, I grew up so I will always be like this: respect me."
The parade, which saw around 20 themed floats replete with dancers join the party, dwarfed the first, held back in 1997 and attended by only around 2,000 people who professed on that occasion that "we are many, and we are in all professions.”
Since then, the LGBT community has increasingly secured rights in a mostly Roman Catholic and socially conservative country of 202 million and where there is widespread discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
Organizers said they expected upwards of two million people to attend the event, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.
Some marchers carried rainbow flags and parasols while one held aloft a giant banner proclaiming "proud to be a transvestite."
Brazilian broadcaster Globo indicated the city authorities had spent in the region of $500,000 on helping to organize the event but expected to net around 40 times as much as tourists flocked to join in the fun.
The city tourist authority published beforehand a list of 'gay-friendly' bars and boutiques to aid visitor orientation around the giant city of some 20 million people as they enjoyed the culmination of five days of festivities.
Despite Brazil hosting such a large scale event, homophobic violence remains common with gay rights groups indicating that last year saw 326 homicides of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals and stating that the country sees homophobic or transphobic attacks on almost a daily basis.
President Dilma Rousseff has pledged to support moves to criminalize such attacks although her government faces opposition from Evangelical Christian politicians on the right, some of whose supporters organized a counter parade of their own Sunday.