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Posts Tagged ‘GLBT’

This past week, like so many other cities around the globe, Oaxaca celebrated its own “Semana de la Diversidad Sexual” or Gay Pride Week. Flyers plastered on adobe walls and telephone poles around the center beckoned crowds to attend roundtables, films, dance parties, and even a parade – the first official GLBT march the city has ever seen. I´d been missing BK and jonesing for some super concentrated, fabulous gay energy, so I joined in…

I started off the week with a viewing of Tony Kusnher´s amazing four hour 1996 dramedy, ANGELS IN AMERICA, starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Mary Louise Parker. (If you haven’t seen it, put it on your Netflix queue asap.) As I was dropping my five pesitos into the wooden donation box at the entrance of the city’s beloved, free indy-theater, El Pochote, I couldn’t help but overhear a gay gringo expat mention that he was disappointed with the turnout. I counted heads as I made my way down the aisle to my favorite seat…Siete…Ocho…Nueve. There were 9 of us (inlcuding the projectionist.) I sat down, opened my bag of popcorn and hoped that it was because of the drizzle that had just started. More people are on their way…Right?

Perhaps. But the sad reality is that an overwhelming majority of Oaxacan citizens aren’t there yet. And although Oaxaca is without a doubt a gem of a city, and one of the cultural capitals of Latin America with regards to art, folklore and cuisine, (not to mention the mobilization of so many liberals that took place after the incidents in 2006 ) this city – this country – is FILLED with homophobia. It´s devastating to me, but it´s something I’ve had to come to terms with since I first came here in 2002.

Miguel and I consistently find ourselves cringing at how often and how non-chalantly the F word (here it´s the P word ) is thrown around. On top of that comes a ton of anti-gay joke telling, and the most typical comment- “Oh I have no problem with them, as long as they don’t…” As long as they don’t what? Tell you that they are gay? Hold their partner’s hand in public? Want to get married? Adopt children? Be protected under the law?

Currently, Oaxaca state doesn’t have a single anti-discrimination law in place that specifically protects members of the GLBT community. This means that people who get beat up on the street, or get fired from their jobs for being gay are on their own. Fortunately, Oaxacan based NGO’s like La Asociación Civil Diversidades, and El Colectivo Feminista Lila who helped organize this first official day of protest are on a mission to change all that. And so, on Saturday, June 27th, they called upon members of the GLBT community to meet in El LLANO Park and prepare to march.

On our way there, I clutched Miguel’s hand and confessed my fears… “What if they don’t come? What if no one comes?? I want it to be BIG! It NEEDS to be BIG!” When we jumped off the bus and heard the banda music pumping in the distance, I felt a huge sigh of relief. They came out.

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There were gay punk teens, women in huipiles, dads with tots, massive monos de calenda wearing rainbow flags. There were lesbian lovers, graying gay gringos, bearded ladies, sassy transvestites, and everyone in between.

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I watched, filmed and (and of course had a few moments of teary-eyed hope) as we took to the streets to dance, chant, and list demands.

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The gritos went something like: “We´re not only here to have fun, we´re here to get things done!” & “Today marks the beginning of the end of machismo!” & ” No que no, si que si, empezamos a salir!” “Ready or not, we’re coming out!” Onlookers and unassuming passersby stood on the sidelines, some enjoying the “show,” some dumbfounded, some pointing, some curiously staring, others glaring, but mostly they were peaceful.

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When we arrived in the main square, across from the entrance to the mammoth Catholic Cathedral, Oaxaca´s GLBT leaders listed their demands

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Plain and simple – they want equal rights for all GLBT factions including the recognition of transgender individuals, as well as the implementation of laws to protect people against hate crimes committed in the state and the country. It felt good to hear the words echo through the main square. Por fin. En voz alta.

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I made my rounds through the crowd, spontaneously interviewing people, asking them why they were there and what their hopes were for the future. (Video forthcoming.) Most GLBT Oaxacans only want freedom from discrimination. They are aware of what they are up against, but they refuse to sit around and wait for society to change on its own. That’s why they’ve come out. To remind the community that they’re here and they’re here to stay.

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And although Oaxaca won’t by any means celebrate passage of a marriage equality bill in the near future, the community has taken it upon themselves to start the process of moving forward. And I am proud to have been here to witness it.

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One day, I’ll tell my Oaxacan-American kid about it. I imagine him saying something like, “De veras, Ma? Órale!  Como han cambiado las cosas!”  For real, Ma? Wow! Things sure have changed.

 

 

Gallery of additional photos:

Still Photography: Miguel Ayuso

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