Lesbian group in Mexico speaks to Kaos GL
Friday, August 03, 2012
On July 19th I had the pleasure to carry an interview with Paulina Martinez, general coordinator of the Mexican group “Musas de Metal”, regarding the current situation of the LGBT community in this Latin American country.
Founded in 1995, Musas de Metal plays an active role for the advancement of LGBT rights in the Mexican capital with an emphasis in supporting lesbians, bisexual and transgender women. The group’s mission is to contribute towards the construction of diverse sexual identities among men and women with the goal of promoting self-acceptance. In this respect, their work focuses on political activism and social promotion among these communities.
The first question I would like to ask you refers to the dynamics of the LGBT community and groups within Mexico… What is your perspective in the matter?
To begin with, it is important to make a difference between the different states, cities and towns. For example, here in Mexico City we have a flourishing LGBT community due to higher participation of individuals and the establishment of different laws such as the ones related to non-discrimination and same sex marriage. Although the latest is a federal enactment, it is being applied the facto only in Mexico City and a couple of other places.
Also, although we are aware of other groups and organizations working on behalf of the LGBT community in cities across the country, we have very limited collaboration at the national and local levels. Our current political environment due to the recent presidential elections has further exacerbated this rift due to differences in opinion about the role that political parties should play in our activities.
It is interesting that you mention the political environment as a divisive issue within the community… Could you expand a little more on that?
Nowadays in Mexico we have an on-going presidential election. Virtually, the representative of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI - Enrique Pena Nieto) won the ballots but this is currently being disputed by a big sector of the population. He made mention of the continuing respect towards the LGBTTI community during his presidency but we are wary of this due to the historical repression that the PRI has exerted against the very same community.
In fact, most political parties just recently started approaching us but only for vote buying purposes. As you probably already know, we had 2 different pride marches in Mexico City and in other towns around the country this year*. The main reason behind this separation lay in either accepting or not the participation of political parties in our celebrations and parades. The situation has had a negative effect by reducing the strength of our unified voice as a group, and created confusion among the general public. Moreover, the PRI is having too much influence in the activities of LGBT groups from other towns by directly financing gay prides and parades, which can create a conflict of interests. Because of these issues, I feel that now we are more fragmented than ever.
What do you expect from the election of Pena Nieto over the former President Felipe Calderon? Anything we shall expect for the LGBTs in Mexico?
Personally, I am not too confident that Pena Nieto will be any better for the advancement of rights of LGBTs in Mexico. I believe that the only reason why he picked up the topic during his political campaign was to gain more votes. Based on his previous performance as the governor of the state of Mexico, I do not think he will do much in matters of public policy (health, education, etc.). I am especially concerned about the recent move the PRI towards the right side of the political spectrum and its close ties with the Catholic Church but I am also hopeful that he will keep his promises of not changing what has already been accomplished.
“Lesbian groups tend to team up and collaborate with active and self-proclaimed feminist organizations and individuals.”
How does the collaboration between lesbians and the women’s movement look like? What about other groups?
In this respect, I would like to emphasize that lesbian groups tend to team up and collaborate with active and self-proclaimed feminist organizations and individuals. Musas de Metal is mainly composed of active lesbians, bisexual and transsexual women but we are open to anyone interested in our work. On the other hand, it is unfortunate to say that in Mexico the collaboration among groups seems to be divided among lines of gender except for the bisexual and polyamorous groups that tend to be all-inclusive.
At some point we attempted to bring the above-mentioned groups together but it did not work that well due to difference in opinion about our involvement with other society actors. For example, Musas de Metal may take a strong political role by supporting other relevant groups such as worker unions, but this brings out the differences with other groups of the community who prefer not to.
It looks like the voices of lesbians among the LGBTs stand out in Mexico. Can you tell us a bit more on that, as well as the problems and the victories of lesbians?
I am not so sure if I can confidently state that lesbians in Mexico have a unified voice but maybe our voice is strongest when unified with the lesbian/feminist movement. There are many groups whose work focuses mostly on social activities and their interaction remains in the sphere of social networks. These groups may be visible at the gay pride marches but in a sporadic manner only. In fact, at the local level, Musas de Metal has always complained about the lack of participation and cooperation among these groups. For example, this year there was attempts to set up a lesbian march separate from the LGBTTI pride -a move we decisively opposed- but it fell apart due to the lack of organization.
Furthermore, one of our main challenges can be attributed to the lack of spaces for us to socialize. For example, the only cafe whose business was oriented towards a lesbian/bisexual clientele closed down last year. The only remaining place is a bookstore called “Voces y Tintas” which serves mostly as a space for cultural diffusion and also to get informed about social activities. Unfortunately, these businesses tend to struggle at times due to the lack of consumption and client support.
What about media portrayal of the gay or the queer in Mexico?
Media wise, Mexican mainstream still places too much emphasis on international news (especially from the US) rather than local ones. The major national newspapers tend to publish LGBT related articles and news in a professional manner, but the local ones still portrays us in impartial manner.
Although many openly gay reporters currently write for major newspapers and the coverage has increased substantially in the past years, the emphasis is still mainly placed on the male-gay community while hate crimes and discrimination against lesbians are pretty much relegated.
Finally, in movies and soap operas -except for a few- the flamboyant stereotype remains for the gay man and the crime-committing lesbian seems to be the rule.
(Editor: Nevin Öztop)
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