Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Mexico City’s 2002 gay and lesbian pride parade saw thirty thousand marchers of all sexual orientations promoting even greater visibility for sexual minorities and calling for political, social, and cultural changes to combat homophobia and heterosexism and to gain basic civil rights.

Summary of Event

In 1978, a small contingent of lesbians and gays joined a major demonstration against political repression, but the contingent faced an uneasy group of fellow demonstrators. Left-wing groups at the demonstration were endorsing a culture of masculinity and manliness and a life of procreation and domesticity for women. Even in the face of this less-than-warm, even hostile, environment, lesbians and gays continued to march, holding the first annual lesbian and gay march in 1982. [kw]Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City (June 19, 2002) [kw]Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City, Gays and (June 19, 2002) [kw]March for Equal Rights in Mexico City, Gays and Lesbians (June 19, 2002) [kw]Equal Rights in Mexico City, Gays and Lesbians March for (June 19, 2002) [kw]Rights in Mexico City, Gays and Lesbians March for Equal (June 19, 2002) [kw]Mexico City, Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in (June 19, 2002) Protests and marches;Mexico City Mexico;pride marches in Political activism;marches [c]Marches, protests, and riots;June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City[2630] [c]Civil rights;June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City[2630] [c]Organizations and institutions;June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City[2630] [c]Race and ethnicity;June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City[2630]

In 2002, Mexico’s gay and lesbian community celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the annual pride parade by marching through the heart of Mexico City, down the famous Avenida Reforma from Chapultepec Park to the Zocalo. While the parade once drew only about one thousand onlookers, the 2002 parade attracted a crowd of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons estimated at thirty thousand by the organizers. The parade also included hundreds of heterosexual participants, who joined in to show their support. The parade was held in June in commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion of June, 1969.

The parade traditionally has been a major social event for Mexicans who have endured discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Between five million and ten million Mexicans in a total population of 105 million define themselves as homosexual. In a survey conducted in May, 2005, by the Mexican Secretariat of Social Development and the National Council to Prevent Discrimination, 94.7 percent of members of the queer community said that they suffered from discrimination and 45 percent reported that their families had tried to force them to change their sexual orientation.

The parade has been the ideal venue for voicing political demands. According to one organizer, Tito Vasconselos, pride marches give visibility to queers and opens a space where gays and lesbians can exercise their rights as citizens. Participants even have shouted from the parade that they took to the streets to demand respect for their civil rights. Slogans on posters have included “Equality Begins When We Recognize That We All Have the Right to Be Different” and “For An Influential, Tolerant, and Pluralistic Mexico.” At parade’s end, near the presidential palace, marchers have chanted “Equal rights for lesbians and gays!” and “Fight, fight for the freedom to love.” Importantly, in 2002, demonstrators demanded respect for all sexual orientations, recognition of same-gender marriages, greater efforts investigating crimes committed against homosexuals, and public health-care support for gender reassignment surgery. A representative of the Committee for Sexual Diversity said that the 2002 demonstration aimed to hold people accountable at all levels of government. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and conservative groups, not surprisingly, have bitterly opposed the march, arguing that the messages on placards and chants served to promote homosexuality.

Most of the marchers have been young men, with the largest group hailing from the National Autonomous University. Among the other forty groups that were represented were HIV-AIDS awareness groups, human rights leagues, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Visually, the parade was marked by transparent black suits, naked bodies covered in red and pink paint, vividly colored balloons, and many rainbow flags. Some couples held symbolic weddings, with men in suits wearing wedding veils over their heads and joining the throngs of people. There was also a condom mobile from which condoms were tossed into the crowd.

Significance

Although Mexican law does not prohibit homosexuality or outlaw sodomy, homosexuality is not tolerated culturally or socially. A series of public-morality civil laws enable police to arrest gays and lesbians or, more commonly, to extort them, not for sodomy or homosexuality but for “morals violations.” Police abuse of gays and lesbians in Mexico is well documented. The belief that gays are failures at masculinity and are, therefore, maricónes Maricónes, definition of (sissies), makes them culturally, if not legally sanctioned targets.

Because of these proscriptions, homosexual activity has a long history of repression and secrecy. Mexico City had gay bars and baths since the 1930’s, as well as traditional cruising areas, but there were no organizations for gays and lesbians. In the 1950’s, many of the bars were shut down by a crusading mayor. In the early 1970’s, influenced by the American gay and lesbian rights movement, short-lived gay liberation groups appeared in Mexico City. Generally, sexual liberation in the late 1970’s in Mexico was mistaken as support for those who wanted to engage in “peculiar” sexual activities. Many of the gay liberation groups, especially lesbian groups, disappeared during the economic crisis of the 1980’s, a decade during which people had limited time and money to engage in politics. In the 1990’s, lesbians and gays gained greater visibility in Mexico; along with this greater visibility came a growing body of literature by and about lesbians and gays.

By the millennium, gays and lesbians continue to face many of the same problems and dilemmas. Violence continues to be a major concern. Gay organizations have claimed that death squads in the Chiapas region targeted gay men, particularly transvestites and cross-dressers. Also, it has been estimated that, at minimum, three men are killed each month in Mexico simply for being gay. According to a report by the Mexico City Catholic Diocese, the Mexican army was rumored to be collaborating with the police to kill gay men. For the most part, the deaths, if indeed true, have been hushed up, as even the families of the deceased refuse to speak of their dead family members. The attackers usually remain at large.

Protests like the 2002 march for gay and lesbian equal rights emphasize that Mexican gays and lesbians have no intention of returning to a shadowy or secret existence. In the twenty-first century, the Mexican GLBT population is refusing to be placed back in the closet, whether by the government or by the people. Protests and marches;Mexico City Mexico;pride marches in Political activism;marches

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carrier, Joseph M. De Los Otros: Intimacy and Homosexuality Among Mexican Men. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Prieur, Annick. Mama’s House, Mexico City: On Transvestites, Queens, and Machos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schaefer, Claudia. Danger Zones: Homosexuality, National Identity, and Mexican Culture. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996.

November 17, 1901: Police Arrest “Los 41” in Mexico City

1912-1924: Robles Fights in the Mexican Revolution

November, 1965: Revolutionary Cuba Imprisons Gays

October 12-15, 1979: First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

October 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed

April, 2003: Buenos Aires Recognizes Same-Gender Civil Unions

January, 2006: Jiménez Flores Elected to the Mexican Senate

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