As Melbourne is celebrating 2020’s Midsumma Festival and pride march is approaching (this Sunday Feb 2nd) we decided to take a look at how Latin American countries are doing with LGBTI issues in the last few years.
According to ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association there are 9 countries in the world, 3 of those in Latin America (Bolivia, Ecuador & Mexico) were a constitutional protection exists against discrimitation based on sexual orientation. That implies, in theory, that all lower laws in these countries should adhere to this constitutional principle. In this context they should be considered the most protective countries at a legal level for LGBTI individuals.
What is it then that despite the advances made in the recognition and protection of LGBTI people in Latin America, has seen discrimitation and violence not decrease but increase in recent years?
According to a survey by Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, in the last year 60% of LGBTI people have suffered from some form of discrimitation and more than 53% reported having suffered from a verbal expression of hate, physical abuse and/or harassment. According to ‘Letra S’, a Mexican non-profit organisation for the defense of human rights, during the last presidential administration at least 473 LGBTI people were killed in Mexico with motives related to sexual orientation or gender expression, trans-women alone representing 261 of these victims, making them the most vulnerable group in the LGBTI community.
In this context is not so hard to understand why last year a painting by artist Fabian Chairez caused so much controversy. In the painting entitled “La Revolución” (See above), Zapata, who was a leading figure in the Mexican revolution of 1910 is depicted naked except for a pink sombrero and high heels as he rides an ‘excited’ white stallion. Hundreds gathered outside one of the countries leading museums demanding the painting to be destroyed claiming the painting denigrates the figure of Zapata by painting him as gay. This is not the first time Chairez has portrayed iconic Mexican figures in this way, however patriotic symbols like this are considered untouchable and his paintings often draw the ire of the heternormative community. To many the painting represents a threat to the hypermasculinisation of Mexican culture and the gender roles left by the 1910 Revolution. As related by activist Alex Orué in an interview to BBC Latin America: “Femininity in Mexico is still punished and viewed as disposable […] femicides, homophobic and transphobic crimes in the country have not instigated the same level of controversy or care among the group who are protesting this painting”.
Mexico’s situation might not be so different from other countries in Latin America where progressive laws do not always reflect effective implementation of safeguards for the LGBTI community. Although there is still a long way to go, social change seems to be slowly shaping the political landscape. Last year in Bogota, Colombia the city elected Claudia Lopez as its first female mayor and with her victory, she also becomes the first openly lesbian mayor of a capital city in Latin America. In Argentina, President Alberto Fernandez has spoken about being proud of his son, a respected drag performer and cosplayer known as “Dyhzy”. During a radio interview with Radio Con Vos via Ushuaia Noticias he referred to his son as “one of the most creative people” in his life, also expressing “he is a great man.”
As we participate in this year’s Midsumma pride march as the Latin American & Hispanic Rainbow Community let’s reflect on all the achievements made along the years but let it be also an opportunity to remember why we still need to get together to march and be proud of our culture, of being diverse and using our voice.
Article by Alfredo Landeros