Publisher’s note: Yahir Zavaleta has a degree in Administration, an expert in human rights and specifically in issues related to LGBTIQ+ rights, sexual health and HIV. He currently serves as regional coordinator for Diversxs, a program on training young leaders on LGBTIQ+ rights at Amnesty International’s Americas Desk. The opinions expressed herein are solely theirs. You can find more opinion pieces at CNNe.com/opinion.
(CNN Spanish) — LGBTIQ+ pride parade celebrations return to the streets in different countries in Latin America, Spain and the Caribbean this month, after two years of confinement and virtual celebrations. And in this celebration of pride full of party, color and a lot of drag, it is necessary to remember and reflect on the role and importance they have in the daily work for LGBTIQ+ rights.
The first marches in Latin America and the Caribbean of the groups that are now known as LGBTIQ+ took place throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. In places like Santiago de Chile (1973), Mexico (1978), o Colombia (1982) demonstrations of LGBTIQ+ people began to take place, as happened in the United States, especially as a result of the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, which resulted in the first pride march and that other cities in several Western countries would replicate in The next years.
In those years the slogans were different, perhaps more political, and aimed at making visible the existence of organized movements of gays, lesbians and transgender people, as well as the need to denounce police abuses against the sexually diverse community and the generalized violence that they lived in the context of macho and conservative societies.
More than four decades after those first initiatives, it seems that much has changed in the tone of the pride marches. And while it is true that a large part of those who participate in them conceive them as a space for parties and celebrations, it is still important to endorse their value as a means of exercising our right to protest, to honor the historical activism of all people and organizations that have fought so that today we can enjoy these spaces, as well as to continue demanding full recognition of our rights under equal conditions. To understand the importance of marching again this year, just look at the fact that 9 of the 33 countries that make up our region still maintain legal frameworks that explicitly criminalize consensual sexual acts between people of the same sex.
And although the known cases of application of the law are still scarce, the existence of these laws reinforces and legitimizes the rejection, stigma and violence towards LGBTIQ+ people and limits the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the face of the possibility of being detained for openly marching as an LGBTIQ+ person. In countries like Jamaica or Guyana, for example, some pride marches have been held in the last seven years, but they always take place in the face of the possibility of attacks by some conservative groups and with little or no support from the authorities.
On the other hand, the increase in cases of homophobic and transphobic violence in the region is alarming. In the Americas, 316 of the 375 homicides of trans and gender diverse people were recorded worldwide between October 2020 and September 2021. 70% of them occurred in Central or South America, with Brazil being the country with the most murders of registered transgender women worldwide.
We cannot and should not be indifferent to the lives of trans women that we have lost due to violence and to the lack of response from governments to create safe spaces for LGBTIQ+ people. Marching is a way to protest against the violence we face as a group, and at the same time to demand that the governments of our region establish measures for the registration, documentation and monitoring of cases of violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people.
Being an LGBTIQ+ person in Latin America or the Caribbean is not easy. Those of us who perceive ourselves or assume that we have a non-normative sexual orientation, identity and/or gender expression, face sexist and heteropatriarchal violence from childhood that is legitimized within our homes and in school classrooms, and that it often manifests itself in the form of rejection, harassment, discrimination, and physical and emotional violence. According to UNESCO, between 47% and 81% of young people in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay have reported feeling insecure at school, mainly due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So going out to march is also a symbol of resistance to all the occasions that we have been attacked for who we are and faced situations of violence in our homes and schools. It is a way of expressing our pride when they tried to suppress it. It is to celebrate our diverse lives that day by day continue to resist social and institutional violence. The invitation is for us to march consciously and show solidarity with those who cannot do so because in their contexts and realities it is a reason for ridicule and singling out.
Let’s march for those who cannot “come out” for fear of rejection by their families. Let’s march because there are still countries where it is still a crime to live diverse and love in freedom. Let’s march for the lives of trans friends and colleagues who have been victims of transphobia. Let us march so that these spaces of peaceful protest resonate and are replicated in more and more corners outside the capitals and other large cities.
Let us march to demand that the authorities guarantee our rights beyond discourse and the norm, to end sexist and heteropatriarchal violence, to continue building bridges in diversity. Let’s march inclusive, let’s march feminists, let’s march indigenous, queer, Afro-descendants, migrants, let’s march together with those who live with HIV and for a better quality of life for those who engage in sex work. Let’s march free, with pride and with love.