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SEXUALITY STRUGGLES IN ARGENTINA

In 1966, the Military Junta proclaimed a military coup, installing a 7 years military dictatorship called Revolucin Argentina Argentine Revolution-. Homosexuals were persecuted in this time and in 1969, Grupo Nuestro Mundo was founded, being the first attempt of homosexual organization in Argentina. In the same 1

year, the Stonewall riots took place, a series of violent demonstrations from the gay community against a policel raid at the Stonewall Inn bar. This moment is consider as the beginning of gay liberation. In fact, in 1971, after this event Grupo Nuestro Mundo joined others associations in order to form the Frente de Liberacin Homosexual (FLH) Gay Liberation Front-. This leftist and revolutionary organization didnt last long because in 1974, with the resurgence of paramilitary groups, homosexuals continued to be attacked and the number of FLH members fell from a hundred to a dozen [] The FLH was dissolved in June of that year.1 Indeed, between 1976-1983 Argentina fell back into another dictatorship, the Proceso de Reorganizacin Nacional -National Reorganization Process- and lesbian and gay activism definitely died. The Condor Command was created and one of its objectives was to eliminate homosexuals. Many crimes were committed and remained unsolved. It was not until after the dictatorship that the gay movement appears again, thanks to the democracy and to the new freedoms. Argentine generated quite a dynamic gay nightlife, even when the repression and the raids continued. However, it was precisely this repression that activated the movement, with more demonstrations and protests. The Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) Argentine Homosexual Community- was founded after the police arrested many gay activists. We had hoped that the return to democracy would end police repression but it did not happen. About 150 people founded the CHA at Contramano club2. Since this year, the CHA was considered as the most important homosexual group in Argentine and continues to exist under the slogan At the origin of our struggle is the wish of all freedoms. Nowadays, Argentine gay movement is one of the most successful all over Latin America. Not just because in 1966, under the dictatorship, Grupo Nuestro Mundo was founded but also because the CHA has achieved set benchmarks with regard to the protection of rights of sexual minorities, being in 1984 the second organization in Latin America legalized the first one was Gay Group of Bahia, in Brazil-. The Argentinian gay movement attained many successes, as the repeal of the Electoral Law in 1990, that denied the right to vote to sexual minorities. Recently, in July 2010 the Chamber of Deputies approved the legalization of same-sex marriages, being the homosexual issue in vogue again.
1

Corrales, J. Con Discriminacin y Represin No Hay Democracia, in The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America (United States of America, University of Pittsburgh, 2010), p.87 2 Herrera, C. Argentina: Pionera del Movimiento Homosexual en Amrica Latina, OpusGay (Chile). Interviewing Csar Cigliutti, President of the Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) http://www.opusgay.cl/1264/article-27222.html (accessed 15 November 2010).

Social movements have been crucial in supporting gay politics in Argentina. Actually, the gay movement, or more specifically, the lesbian movement, has worked with the feminist movement during a long time. Even they were not born together, in the late 1960s they supported each other in order to be stronger. During that time, AfroAmerican people, women, gay, poor tried to improve their situation. Moreover, after the Stonewall riots, the gay liberation movement and the feminist movement faced gender discrimination together. What followed was a movement characterized by a surge of gay activism and feminist consciousness that further transformed the definition of lesbian3. But it was with the impact of the second wave of feminism in the seventies or, as many call it, the movement of womens liberation, that lesbian feminism began to take shape. This new feminist wave did not seek the equality in the male-centered world; on the contrary, some trends began to see sexual differences as something to claim for the feminist struggle (difference feminism). Personal matters started to be political4. The body and sexuality began to be central in the politics of these years. Some analysis also emerge as the patriarchal institution of marriage and the heterosexuality as a system of oppression for women and it is in these years that lesbianism begins to be defined as a political thinking and as a practice, becoming an important current within the feminism5. Thus, in 1990 was created in Buenos Aires for the first time a feministlesbian group called Las Lunas y las Otras, a Spanish play on words that means The Moons and the Others. They conducted the first national lesbian conferences and condemned the lesbian invisibility. In 1995 they also conducted, with some others organizations, the IV Lesbian Feminist Encounter of Latin America and the Caribbean and created in the same year La Casa de las Lunas (The Moons House), being this the first space of lesbian feminists, opened to all women in the country. Yuderkys Espinosa, a lesbian-feminist writer from Dominican Republic who lives in Argentina, defends the relationship between feminism and lesbianism: With apologies to my colleagues who have always tried to deny the relationship between feminism and lesbianism, I must confess a real inability to subscribe to any political concept of feminism that dispenses with this link [] The politics of feminism to which I have
3

National Public Radio, Second wave feminism, Wapedia (2010). http://wapedia.mobi/en/Lesbian?t=3 (accessed 20 November 2010) 4 Hanisch, C. The Personal is Political, Notes from the Second Year: Womens Liberation: Major Writings of the Radical Feminists (United States of America), 1969. 5 Weed, E and Schor, N. Feminism meets queer theory (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1997)

subscribed since the beginning, and in which I still believe today [] cannot be thought of outside of feminist theory and practice. To deny or hide the link between these would be to deny my own history, my own foundation. The step that led me to one led me to another.6 The feminist movement has been in Latin America and all around the world- an enormous support for the lesbian struggle, sharing some common issues, for instance the fight against patriarchy7. Feminism involves respect and freedom for women, consequently, respect and freedom to live as they want their affective relationships.

On the other hand, the government of Argentina did also pushed reforms in this direction. In 2002, the City of Buenos Aires approved the legalization of civil unions becoming the first city in South America to grant same-and opposite-sex couples treatment similar to that afforded to married couples8. This was a success for gay organizations and for the Gays/Lesbians/Transvestites/Trans/Bisexuals and Intersexual movement (GLTTBI) in general, becoming themselves political actors whose demands had been heard by the political institutions. The Civil Union Law entailed the creation of the Public Register of Civil Unions. Four years later, in 2006, a research team conducted a survey about Sexualities, Political and Violence. The results were that just 14.9% of lesbian women subscribed themselves at the Civil Union versus 38.1% gay men who did it. These data demonstrated that, in this specific case, institutions were a step ahead of society and showed once again the lesbian invisibility in Argentina.

Figure 1: Distribution of civil-united couples in the autonomous city of Buenos Aires until June 2006.

Espinosa, Y. The Feminism-Lesbianism Relationship in Latin America: A Necessary Link, Entre Nosotras: 1ra Jornada de Reflexin Lsbica de Rosario (Rosario, 2004). 7 Weed, E and Schor, N. Feminism meets queer theory (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1997) 8 Corrales, J. The Civil Union in Buenos Aires, The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: a reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights (Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Press, 2010).

Source: National Register of Persons, data in June 2003 to June 2006.

In July 2010, Argentina changed its civil code to permit gay marriage and adoptions, becoming the first nation in Latin America 9. After three years of campaigning the gay and lesbian community has achieved the same-sex marriage on equal terms with heterosexual couples. One of the reasons why the law was passed in this country was the fact that there are not strong connections between parties and religion, while in others Latin American countries the link is clearer. The National Senator for the province of Jujuy, Liliana Fellner, wondered how to justify that a group of people is not equal to the law and highlighted that their obligation is to vote for equality10. The Argentinean government also announced in 2009 that those homosexual people who wanted to enter into the military service could do it without impediments thanks to the new military code. Argentina removed the old one because it penalized soldiers for their sexual orientation. Having an equal army to homosexual and heterosexual has been a very important reform, celebrated by the gay community. Both, social movements and policies implemented by the government have made Argentina the most advanced country in Latin America on gay rights.

Corrales, J and Penechy, M. Six Reasons Why Argentina Legalized Gay Marriage First, Americas Quarterly (2010). http://americasquarterly.org/node/1753 (accessed 20 November 2010) 10 Same-sex marriage. Same sex marriage: We are legislating for everyone to be equal in the eyes of the law. TELAM, Agencia de Noticias de la Repblica Argentina (2010), http://english.telam.com.ar/index.php?
option=com_content&view=article&id=9707:same-sex-marriage-qwe-are-legislating-foreveryone-to-be-equal-in-the-eyes-of-the-lawq&catid=42:politics, (accessed 18 November 2010)

The struggle of the LGBT movement has made significant achievements in the political arena around the world. In Argentina there has been incremental progress because before the same-sex marriage there was the civil union. At the same time Argentina passed the same-sex marriage, it also approved the adoption law for homosexual couples. Those policies have been really problematic, dividing the society. People who support gay adoption argue that the ability to love and raise a child does not depend on the sexual orientation and that children coming from gay families do not have more problems than children having a heterosexual family. As the Argentinean psychiatrist medical doctor Silvia Di Segni Obiols explains the damage doesnt come from the couple that brings up but from the discrimination existing in our society that must go beyond prejudices11. The Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) argues that if all people are equal under the law, then this one must give everybody the opportunity to adopt a child. Figure 2: Lesbian vignette

Source: The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS). Special to the Chronicle/Susan SynarskiE. 2010.

Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and Nobel Prize of Literature in 2010, publicly highlighted the paradox that is among homosexual people where having a family wakes up a
11

Luduea, M. El gran debate: gays, paternidad y adopcin en Argentina. Anodis (2006), http://anodis.com/nota/8081.asp, (accessed 22 November 2010).

greater illusion and that the fact of legalize same-sex marriage and gay adoption will inject vitality to this institution in crisis. Marcelo Suntheim, gay pioneer, corroborates Mario Vargas Llosa: We seek the co-adoption. We defend the value of the family. We seek to expand the meaning. We seek the same rights that a heterosexual family. In Argentina there are thousands of children without protection, waiting for being adopted12. Some left parties, social movements and gay and lesbian organizations never tired of saying that the idea of a traditional family deprives many children of love, but love has nothing to do with peoples sexual orientation. The fear of difference is detrimental to children and society. Nevertheless, according to a study by Isonoma13, an Argentinean state-wide organization not linked to any political party, just 39% of the population support gay adoptions, especially in the City of Buenos Aires. This means that most people reject it. The increasing social integration of homosexuals at worldwide level does not mean that homophobia is gone. 61% of the population in Argentina does not accept gay adoption, but neither do they accept contraceptive methods, divorce or everything that involves the loss of values and traditions, as well as the family disintegration. Behind the homophobia it exists a great resentment against all the recent social advances. In fact, the LGBT movement is a reform movement with a cultural and intellectual impact attached to the postmodernist current. In Argentina, same-sex marriage has been an issue that has brought Government, opposition and Church into conflict but also has divided society. The clearest example was the day that the homosexual marriage and adoption law were to be approved. People for and against those laws gathered together in front of the Congress, where sentences like these could be heard: we are here to ask legislators to respect human nature and God; marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman, they want to make Argentina a land of fags or Church, you Trash, you are the Dictatorship. However, data shows that most Argentines reject gay marriage.

Figure 3: Are you in favour of or against same-sex marriage?


12

Luduea, M. El gran debate: gays, paternidad y adopcin en Argentina. Anodis (2006), http://anodis.com/nota/8081.asp, (accessed 22 November 2010).
13

Fundacin Isonoma, Isonoma (2002), http://isonomia.uji.es/index.php (accessed 22 November).

Source: Isonoma, data in July 2010

The survey carried out by Insonomia reveals that 46.2% of the population is against gay marriage while 39.8% support it. It is also interested that 14.0% of the population do not have an opinion about this issue, or they do not want to give one, which shows that somehow gay and lesbian liberation is still a taboo topic or at least, a subject that people do not feel comfortable talking about. As Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, Argentine politician said: Argentina has taken a step forward, but out in the street ... it will take time for hatred and resentment to heal14.

During all these years, the LGBT movement has gone a step forward in itself, leaving aside victimization requests as those from the 70s- and specifying a model plural society in where the gay movement demands equal rights with radical democratic as Xavier Tort, activist and ex-secretary from the Coordinadora GaiLesbiana (CGL) used to say15. Gay liberation movement is advancing around the world. While some years ago the partnership law was asked by the movement as a favour or concession, now it is seen as a right enforceable for everybody. The claim for the full equality should be considered as an issue of human rights principles and not as a question of more or less freedom. Moreover, gays and lesbians have taken a more active role in their own struggle, that is why in the recent years gays successes have been more numerous and more visible, with policy and legal implications, etc. There
14

Alvarez, I. Argentina first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, ABS-CBNnews (2010), http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/world/07/15/10/argentina-firstlatin-america-legalize-gay-marriage (accessed 23 November 2010). 15 Kaplan, Morris B. Sexual justice: democratic citizenship and the politics of desire. (New York/London, Routledge, 1996)

are more and more personalities as singers or ministers openly gay, in a monogamous relationship which confirms that there is a greater social tolerance of same-sex orientation even if it is not complete because there is still a long way to go. Were moving toward a world where our children, nieces, and nephews could say they want to marry someone of the same sex and it will be fine the answer would be, Of course, says Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry, a campaign launched in 2003 by her. We are moving, we have not arrived. Finally, I think the LGBT movement is not limited to support gay and lesbian struggles but it is also cooperating with other groups with an anti-capitalist profile. That is why we can explain the solidarity actions with workers in the hospitality sector by San Francisco Pride at Work or One Struggle One or the travesties cooperatives created in work areas in Argentina. While human rights of people with a different sexual orientation to heterosexuality continue being violated, the cause of the LGBT movement will continue to exist because LGBT organizations have as their raison dtre break the silence and give voice and image to this denied and ignored sexuality.

BIOGRAPHY

Abelove, H., Barale, M. and Halperin, D. The Lesbian and gay studies reader (London/New York, Routledge, 1993)

Barker, G. Dying to be men: youth, masculinities, and social exclusion (London/New York, Routledge, 2005)

Blasius, M and Phelan, S. We are everywhere: a historical sourcebook of gay and lesbian politics, (New York/London, Routledge, 1997).

Corrales, J. and Pecheny, M. The politics of sexuality in Latin America: a reader on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. (Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Press, 2010).

Fuss, D. Inside/out: lesbian theories, gay theories (London/New York, Routledge, 1991)

Jagose, A. Queer Theory, (New York, New York University Press, 2003) Kaplan, Morris B. Sexual justice: democratic citizenship and the politics of desire. (New York/London, Routledge, 1996)

Morton, D. The material queer: a LesBiGay cultural studies reader (Boulder, Westview Press, 1996)

Simpson, M. Its a queer world : deviant adventures in pop culture (New York/London, Harrington Park Press, 1999)

Troiden, R. Gay and lesbian identity: a sociological analysis (New York, Dix Hills, 1988)

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Weed, E and Schor, N. Feminism meets queer theory (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1997)

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