Washington DC, June 28, 2022. – On June 28 of each year, LGBTI+ people from around the world come together publicly in large marches to celebrate and vindicate their lives, celebrating sexual orientation and gender identity diversity, and the freedom to express themselves. It is a vindictive moment where lesbians, bisexuals, gays, trans, intersex and queers challenge prejudices and stigmas face to face, proudly reaffirming who they are, their human rights and the progress achieved after decades of struggle.
This commemorative date has its origin in the uprising in Stonewall, New York in 1969, which consisted of several days of protests against the persecution and repression of the American police against LGBTI+ people. An article from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project mentions that these events did not start the LGBTI+ social movement, but they did cause a great impact, since it inspired and allowed for the emergence of hundreds of new organizations around the world.
In this regard, Dámaso Jussette, a Nicaraguan transfeminist woman who is a member of the National LGBTIQ+ Roundtable and the Articulation of Social Movements, shared that “LGBTIQ+ people have been very present in history, but as [LGBTIQ+ people] they are not. The difference is that the patriarchy has tried to erase us, but in the same way that we have resisted until today, we will continue to do so.”
53 years since the Stonewall uprising, a day like today —characterized by celebration, visibility, and pride— is possible thanks to the effort and courage of people who stood up to persecution, violence, and injustice against the LGBTI+ population from various quarters of the world.
For example, the Peruvian feminist lesbians have achieved that, for the first time, the CEDAW Committee mention them in the periodic recommendations that they make. They also have a working table in the Ministry of Women, where they influence the government to implement public policies aimed at lesbians. Likewise, they have obtained dialogues with high-ranking representatives of the Judiciary. “It’s not easy, but we continue to insist that the State undertake studies on the situation of lesbians and produce specific data about us,” says Luisa Zanabria, a member of the organization Lesbian Independent Socialist Feminists (LIFS).
In the Dominican Republic, Christian King, a non-binary trans activist from TRANSSA (Trans Siempre Amigas), considers that, despite not having guarantees for all LGBTI+ rights, they have made valuable progress such as having a human rights unit in the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic, a National Human Rights Plan and a strategic vision plan for 2020-2024 of the Judiciary, which includes access to justice for LGBTI+ people. “To achieve this, there were many challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ organizations and activists, exposing ourselves by denouncing violations committed in our country before international human rights organizations,” he shared.
Another activist who has done important work for the LGBTI+ population in Colombia is Manuel Velandia, a gay ARTtivist. “In Colombia, we have many rights won through the courts, all of them have been achieved through rulings of the Constitutional Court. This becomes a serious problem because nothing can be taken for granted and there is a risk that anti-rights organizations, which are really present as pro-rights, try to reverse them,” he said. With him, the Homosexual Liberation movement of Colombia was founded, a pioneer of HIV prevention in Latin America. He also wrote, together with members of ActUp Canada, the first world manifesto for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. And in 2002, he was the first openly homosexual candidate to present himself to the Congress of the Republic.
In the case of Brazil, in 2020, the Brazilian Bisexual Front held the first B+ festival in the country, made by and for the bisexual population. During its second edition the following year they launched the Brazilian Bisexual Manifesto, the first in the entire territory. “It is a document that is resonating even outside of Brazil, mainly in the United States. It is already published in other countries and has been translated into English and Spanish”, proudly shared Vitória Régia da Silva, Co-founder of Colectivo Bisibilidade RJ. They also celebrated the signing of the Resolution of the Federal Council of Psychology, which establishes a more humane treatment for the bisexual and non-monodissident population.
Finally, we have LGBTI+ activists who find themselves in exile after facing repressive governments, such as the case of Isbel Díaz, a Cuban gay leader, and Dámaso Jussette, a Nicaraguan trans feminist woman seeking refuge in Costa Rica. In authoritarian governments such as those of Cuba and Nicaragua, LGBTI+ and human rights organizations in general are persecuted, since they have a great impact on denouncing human rights violations. “Those of us who exist despite everything always do so assuming risks that range from physical integrity, the possibility of being prosecuted for any cause invented by State Security, and the total precariousness for access to material resources, connectivity, and freedom of movement”, points out Isbel.
Thanks to the tireless work of activism and the resistance of groups in hostile countries, little by little, the LGBTI+ agenda is managing to position itself in the media, on social networks, on the political scene and is achieving important victories. Although there is still a long way to go, the leadership of LGBTI+ defenders such as those mentioned have left an open path with possibilities to continue fighting.
It is fair to remember that progress in terms of LGBTI+ human rights has been achieved through the efforts of those who have preceded these struggles and by those who continue to influence them to protect and defend them. For this reason, Race and Equality salutes the great contributions of LGBTI+ leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean, and recognizes that if, today, fear and shame are no longer an option for many people, it is thanks to the battles that have been and continue to be fought for the recognition and respect of dissident bodies and identities.