29 Sep LGBTQ Rights in Mexico
LGBTQ rights have been a central focus of many international conversations, and we in San Miguel de Allende want to make our support of equal rights heard. A recent protest calling for “natural marriage only” moved many in Mexico to rise up in counter protest. These close-minded, homophobic attitudes are simply unacceptable and I’m grateful to be part of a community that feels the need to say so. Ultimately, it begs the question – how long will we put up with this kind of shit? Has the human race not evolved enough to let each other love and live in peace?
History doesn’t write itself. We write it, choosing which stories we tell, choosing what to believe. Ultimately culture is nothing but a story told over ages, passed through every pore from birth to death. We see our world through this cultural lens; it’s how we understand our environment. For many, that lens includes pink for girls and blue for boys, suggesting that alternative gender identities aren’t valid.
But go to Indonesia, for example, and you’d find a very different cultural phenomenon. The Bugis people of Indonesia celebrate 5 genders; makkunrai and oroané represent cisgender women and men, while calalai and calabai are roughly the same as trans men and trans women. Bissu are asexual, androgynous, and they are honored as the holiest members of the society. This kind of dynamic is unrecognizable for the American mind; the two-gender system of Western society regards transgender as “other”.
What happens when you look outside of your paradigm?
A lot of people have stories about moments in their lives that have opened their eyes. For me, it was a trip to Ghana in 2004. Just think – what if you were open to receive change when it came knocking on your door? What I mean is this – we have our beliefs challenged sometimes, and if we are big enough people, we often realize and accept that our original notion was limited or false. Wisdom is the ability to change a point of view with grace.
Most likely, you’re like me, and think equal rights are long overdue. Why shouldn’t two people who want to get married have that right? Why are we even having this conversation?! I went to Alzenira Quezada, an internationally known lyric fusion poet and gay rights activist, to get her take on it.
“I was one of the field organizers for the Gay Marriage campaign for the State of Maine, and even after we won, they turned the verdict over.” Though incredibly frustrating, I can see, as she says, that “change is a slow process” and will be in Mexico, where gay marriage was legalized in 2015 but with some stipulations, including a request for jurisdiction from a judge, making the process lengthier than an opposite sex marriage.
“Since Mexico is a very catholic nation, I can imagine that this is just part of the change, a bit of give and take for both sides – the traditional marriage people and the equal marriage people.” She suggests that they will approve equal rights, but put a few obstacles in the way, so it becomes too inconvenient for anyone to actually get the paperwork done.
“Natural Families Only”, Eh?
At the recent “natural families only” march that took place throughout Mexico, “San Miguel had the smallest turn out, which I truly appreciated.” Gay rights supporters showed up in bright colors, walking into the center of the protest, sharing the space peacefully with the white-clad protesters, chanting, “All families. All rights.”
“I am an advocate for gay rights simply by existing openly as a dandy butch queer. I am part of the business community and have influence in my community. But, for the most part, I wanted to be sure that we were represented.” She explains, “Not to scoff at their values. My struggle has taught me to respect choices I do not understand and afford everyone the right to hold on to what they choose, because ultimately, I want everyone to be happy. It is our birthright! I respect their opinions, but refuse to have our characters reduced to pedophiles and perverts. The gay community is none of those things more than the straight community.” Even in the face of discrimination, she is tolerant. To me, this drives the point home.
There is still hideous homophobia and ignorance worldwide. Alzenira Quezada describes her experiences growing up in the US where abusive language and harassment were the norm.
“I have had rotten fruit thrown at me from passing cars. I have had inappropriate things said to me about my gender, the way I like to have sex, my body, my clothes, and my spirituality. I’ve lived conversations filled with fags and dykes, swapping stories with each other about housing, education, health care, and work discrimination. We struggled alongside other marginalized members of society in our attempts at recognition—recognition is a good word. Because aside from the brutality perpetuated by the “isms” or “ists”– we are damned to hell by religion or were at one time considered insane by the medical community.”
I’d like to think that much of this discrimination and hate is rooted in ignorance. People fear what they don’t understand, and if they opened themselves up to learning about gay and transgender experiences, they would realize what nonsense their stated beliefs actually are. Even in rallies, when asking anti-gay protesters what their thoughts are on their own cause, they draw blanks. In other words, people who aren’t actually hateful bigots sometimes go with the flow of these movements simply because.
This is where change begins. If people don’t really know why they believe something – if they don’t have strong convictions – then it starts with a question. Why? Why march against something you don’t even pretend to understand? Because your family or friends are there? By bringing attention to the unconscious, the societal and religious pressures, people will wake up.
The Hateful Underbelly: Language around LGBTQ
Language is a funny thing, in that it often defines our cultural norms rather than the other way around. How do we talk about gender? How to we talk about sexual orientation? How does marketing and media play into these concepts of “right” and “wrong”, accepted and taboo? What does it mean to be gay, transgendered, or queer?
While references abound, I find the strongest opponents of LGBTQ rights have little idea what these titles actually represent. Their idea of LGBTQ is reduced to “freaks” or “perverts”, and they are quick to admit they don’t even know what the terms mean beyond being homosexual. This reduction of realities into such basic syntax is beyond harmful. It’s reducing a gamut of lifestyles, identities and sexual orientations to a single stereotyped point.
Let’s rid ourselves of such simple thinking! We all fall somewhere in the spectrum of gender; none of us are entirely “male” or “female” – these oversimplified ideas are toxic to our mental health. By recognizing that we all have gender identities and sexual orientations; that we all adapt ourselves to media and social standards that don’t entirely apply to us, we can begin to think differently about gender and identity. This issue isn’t just about LGBTQ people; it applies to everyone.
By defining a few of these terms, I hope to shed light on the concepts themselves, for those who aren’t sure what the differences are. The quotations below were taken from Amnesty International.
*Sexual orientation covers sexual desires, feelings, practices and identification.
*Sexual orientation can be towards people of the same or different sexes (same-sex, heterosexual or bisexual orientation).
*Gender identity refers to the complex relationship between sex and gender, referring to a person’s experience of self expression in relation to social categories of masculinity or femininity (gender).
*A person’s subjectively felt gender identity may be at variance with their sex or physiological characteristics.
Amnesty International goes on to point out “We all have a sexual orientation and a gender identity, and this shared fact means that discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, based on sexual orientation and/ or gender identity, is an issue that transcends that community and affects all of us.”
The Harm Done: Moving Forward to Heal
“Queer people were prescribed shock therapy well into the 80’s. We were so filled with fear and conditioned to hate ourselves that we were committing suicide rather than face more invisibility or outright public humiliation. When AIDS came along we were largely ignored. Thanks in part to the Reagan administration and Pat Robinson of the Religious Right, millions died. I believe it is one of America’s greatest unrecognized “genetic cleansings.” Gay people were dying and no one cared–they just didn’t want to catch the ‘gay disease,’” Lady Zen says.
“Right now the most violence I have seen is coming out of the United States of America, not Mexico. I have seen more transphobia and the latest gay bar shooting was there. There have been several campaigns, like Outright, Gay Marriage, Trans Health that hatched in America and have influenced the world. It was the Stonewall uprising that gave us Gay Pride which is a worldwide celebration. I have seen the terror and courage; the fight and celebrated freedoms.”
“But, there is always a backlash of violence in victory because both realities are not real. Tolerance is a relatively new concept. Some people are just waking to this concept. Until we can reinstitute inner peace, there will be opportunity for violence.”She continues, “But, I have been the targeted in San Miguel in very subtle ways, dare I say polite ways—not one has been killed in other words– like the whispering rumors about drug induced sex parties in my house. Or people assuming the patrons of my bar are cross-dressing, sex crazed gay men. There was a petition to have my bar shut down and I have had to jump through some hoops to stay in business.”
“This is why I support, Colectivo 41 and the work they do as non-violence advocates.” Considering that violent homophobic acts in Mexico get less attention than in the United States, it seems that the US is in a better position to make forward progress. “Three weeks prior to Orlando, on May 22, a gunmen entered a gay club called La Madame, in Veracruz and fired into a crowd of people.” Lady Zen tells us. “Maybe a few hundred of us in there,” a witness of the shooting told Lady Zen. “7 people were killed, including a few teens, and several people were injured during that incident. It was difficult to know whether it was drug related or if it was homophobia, which, I would have to say, is a factor in many situations, here.”
Equal rights, like advances in other civil rights, will be a slow and determined process. But make no mistake – it’s happening. Mass opinions are changing and more and more people are joining in the cause.