This is a review of 2021 Spanish lesbian history. Likely not complete. No history ever is. Lack of completeness has two major reasons. First, there are a number of stories that likely involved lesbians but lesbians didn’t appear to be mentioned other than as part of larger groups with no specific identity as lesbians. This was particularly the case around #leytrans , both in opposition and in support of the law. It was also true around attacks on abolitionist and radical feminists in Spain. The second is you don’t know what you don’t know. Lesbians have always suffered a double invisibility in Spain, an invisibility for being women and an invisibility for being homosexuals. Reporting may not mention that a pair of women who were attacked were attacked because they were lesbians but instead say they were attacked because of LGBTIfobia. A lot of these stories are also not shared, which makes them harder to find, especially when you’re not a native speaker. (I know the stories of violent attacks against expats/immigrants that included murder didn’t even blip in any of my Spanish expat communities as an example. Nor for that matter did homophobic or transgender violence, even when the national news was reporting on it… but story for a different day in a different place.)
This is thus a summary of 2021 Spanish lesbian history that I know. It is broken down by month and theme, starting with some undated information and issues that impacted the whole year. Major themes included that lesbians continued to fight for our reproductive rights and family rights, with these often being explicitly fought for in the context of the feminist movement. Violence against lesbians continued, in places like Galicia, Castilla y León and Galicia. Politically, lesbians seem to be recognized most by the far-right political party Vox, either because Vox was supporting lesbians as an example of them being inclusive, because Vox said lesbophobic things or because lesbians left Vox. In the broader LGBT movement, lesbians only seem to be discussed when they were included with transwomen and rarely in homosexual only spaces. Despite this, women’s sections did offer events even if there were limits because of the Covid situation. As individuals, lesbians had their own stories going on this year, be it creating new podcasts, playing for a new football team, being charged with plagiarism, running for political office, being featured in a documentary or having their story told as part of an exhibit.
Overall, the situation for Spanish lesbians feels about the same or a little worse off than the year before. Visibility remained low and lesbophobic violence was still an issue. There was some movement on family rights, but not enough and still plenty of ways those baby steps forward could be undermined. The Ley Trans was a step back for lesbians as women. For a number of Spanish lesbians as individuals though, it was a decent year.
Compared to politicians of previous eras, including those inside PSOE, Pedro Sanchez is very lesbian and gay friendly. He has supported lesbian and gay rights through his policies and legislative goals, along with supporting women as a sex protected class. At the same time, he also supported transrights, especially in 2020 and 2021, through his appointment of Podemos’s Irene Montero as the Minister of Equality. Montero was responsible for pushing through #leytrans , with PSOE agreeing as a condition of keeping in government and maintaining their pact with Podemos despite huge opposition from militant feminists in their ranks who took to the street to protest a actions they viewed as being anti-women.
Homophobic aggression continued to be a problem for lesbians in Spain in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The aggression included verbal abuse and physical attacks. It happened around the country, in smaller pueblos and in bigger cities. Many lesbians, in the face of this abuse, opted not to report it for a variety of complex reasons.
In 2021, Marta Álvarez was threatened by a couple after an LGBT event in Lugo she was involved with, who told her she and her companion were useless. They then came back with a pair of dogs and threatened her again.
Lesbian centric night life had declined dramatically by 2021 in Barcelona. There was only one lesbian only bar in the city, Carita Bonita, and it was only open on Friday and Saturday nights.
Las insurrectas del Patronato de protección a la mujer is a Spanish language work that was published in 2021. Author and investigator Consuelo García del Cid Guerra had started writing the book back in 2012 to fulfill a promise to a woman friend who passed away to bring out of the catacombs the ignored history of women aged 16 to 25 during the Franco dictatorship and the Spanish democratic transition. This included the history of young lesbians and pregnant women, who defied the state when it came to their own sexuality and whom the state described as deviant.
Arcopoli_UPM, located at Avenida Juan de Herrera, 4, is a branch of Arcopoli based at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. The branch has been around since at least 2007 and was still active in 2021, with events specifically tailored for the new covid-19 reality. While catering to the whole rainbow, they have not had as much lesbian programming or lesbian leadership compared to other groups.
Dones i Lesbianes Documentant-se (DILDO) was created in 2009 in Barcelona. They described themselves as distrifeministaqueer, feminist, queer and anti-capitalist. They appear to have disappeared from the city by 2015, and re-emerged in Valencia, were based out of Casa de la Dona at Calle Buenos Aires, 13 and continued to be active in 2021.
Nos Mesmas, headquartered at Calle Conde de Torrecedeira, 26 BAJO, is an organization for lesbians created in Vigo in 2008, aiming to serve not just the city but the whole province. They quickly became involved in local events and interacted with other similar organizations in the area. Nos Mesmas was still in existence in 2021.
In 2018, there were only seven same-sex marriages that took place in Melilla, most between men. In 2020 and 2021, there were no lesbian bars in Melilla. There are no historical references to lesbian bars ever existing in the city.
In 2021, FELGTB had a section on their website dedicated to sexual health, with a section related to the sexual health needs of transwomen and male sex workers. There was no section dedicated to cis women, and their sexual health needs.
Triángulo Castilla y León y la Diputación de Valladolid published a guide in 2021 about sexuality among older people. This guide did reference lesbians and provided explicit written information about female biology, and how it could be used for sexual pleasure. The guide was shared nationally by Fundación Triángulo.
calle de Barquillo, 44 has been the home of militant feminism in Madrid since the late 1970s. It has housed a number of militant organizations over the years and continued to do so up until the late 2000s. Among the militant feminists to meet there were lesbian feminists. In the late 1970s, militant feminists in Madrid at calle de Barquillo, 44, opposed the creation of specific groups of lesbians since they did not feel that sexual orientation was a legitimate element to base an organization on. Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Mujeres para la Participación y la Igualdad still had their offices in the building in 2021 and lesbians continued to be involved with them.
Stories of individual women
Laura del Río was a forward for the Spanish women’s national football team and one of the few women to coach a men’s team at the professional level, coaching fourth division team Flat Earth Fútbol Club. She is a lesbian sports icon because she was one of the first women to come out, though she only came out when she started playing overseas in 2008 when she joined the FC Indiana squad. Laura del Río moved into the national football team coaching set-up, serving as a technical assistant for the women’s u-17 team in 2021.
Miriam Beizana Vigo is a writer and literary critic. Her debut novel, Marafariña, was critically acclaimed and had a lesbian storyline. Beizana was a finalist for the Award Misteria 2018. . In 2021, she launched her own podcast.
Teresa Abelleira Dueñas is the first Galacian woman to become a professional football player and has been a member of Spanish national women’s youth teams. She made news in 2019 after she and her then girlfriend Patricia Curbelo, another member of her Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña team, announced they were in a relationship. For the 2020 – 2021 season, Abelleira made the move to Madrid and played for Real Madrid Club de Fútbol Femenino.
Sandra López was the president of Les Coruña. In this role, she was active in promoting the visibility of lesbians in A Coruña at photographic exhibition like a show called A Rede Visible and during a presentation at the Palacio de la Ópera on the history of LGBTI rights in Spain. She also organized a number of other lesbian oriented LGBTI events in the city, addressing issues like sexuality diversity. Her most active year in this role was in 2021.
Dolores Vázquez is a woman who was caught up in the middle of the 2003 Wanninkhof-Carabantes murder case, depicted by both the media and the judiciary as a villain despite a lack of evidence connecting her to the crime. Her false conviction largely was based on her being a lesbian, and having a poor relationship with the victim, the daughter of her ex-partner. In 2021, she was featured in an HBO Max documentary about the cases.
Marta Álvarez is a farmer from Galicia. She found a way to be both a farmer and a promoter of LGBT rights in rural Galicia. After doing a presentation around 2021 about Agrocuir in Lugo, she was threatened by a couple, who told her she and her companion were useless. They then came back with a pair of dogs and threatened her again.
Patricia Curbelo Socas is a goalie from the Canary Islands. She made news in 2019 after she and her teammate Teresa Abelleira went public about their relationship at the end of the 2018-2019 season, a season which saw their team finish well enough to qualify for the first division in the following season. For the 2020 – 2021 season, she signed with Córdoba CF Femenino, competing for the starting goalie position with Carmen Gordillo.
Lucia and Rosa were denied reproductive assistance in public health in 2017 in Catalonia because their request did “not conform to any of the suppositions contemplated”. They faced two more years of continual denial before turning to private health. Lucia, with support from UGT, finally sued the Ministerio de Política Territorial alleging discrimination. On 18 January 2021, the TSJ de Catalunya ruled in the couple’s favor, awarding them €2748.
Stories of individual women
Lucía Etxebarria Asteinza was part of the third generation of lesbian writers who built the modern canon of Spanish lesbian literature; her era started in 1985 and continues to the present. Lesbian themes appear in her works including 1998 Nadal prize winning Beatriz y los cuerpos celestes and the 2001 screenplay Amor, curiosidad, prozac y dudas. She herself is not a lesbian, but a feminist who sees no problem with women being lesbians and that all women should be free of sexual violence. . In September 2020, she was accused of plagiarism though the author has maintained her innocence; in January 2021 was referred to the Madrid Prosecutor’s Office for the alleged crime of plagiarism.
A pair of lesbians in Spain, one a British national and the other a Bulgarian national, had a child in December 2019. The Spanish issued birth certificate listed both women as mothers as parents of the child. The British national acquired her national by descent and was unable to pass on her nationality. The Bulgarian mother, referred to as Kalina, was refused in her application was the Bulgarian courts did not recognize the possibility under law that a baby could have two mothers. This left a situation where the child would have been rendered stateless. In theory, this situation should have resulted in the child being eligible for Spanish nationality but the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) referred the case to a Bulgarian court in February 2021, saying the couple and their child were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The EUCJ reminded the Bulgarian courts that 2018 EU directive said that freedom of movement was gender neutral, and that this covers same-sex spouses of EU citizens, even when the country itself does not recognize same-sex marriage for its own citizens internally.
On 13 February 2021, the Comité reivindicativo y Cultural de Lesbianas (CRECUL), Partido Feminista, Federación de Asociaciones de Mujeres de la Comunidad de Madrid, Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Mujeres para la Participación and the Igualdad y la Asociación de Mujeres Feministas Marcela Lagarde submitted a draft of the Family Diversity Law to the ministry. The proposed law sought greater recognition for different types of families, assisted reproduction in public health, and the ability for unmarried female couples to adopt children together. The Consejo de las Mujeres del Municipio de Madrid and other involved in the creation of the draft legislation met with Minister Ione Belarra at Ministerio de Derechos Socialies y Agenda 2030 Law on the Equality of Diverse Families. Others were included on a video conference call. Organizations included were Plataforma “Familias Diversas, Iguales Derechos”, CRECUL, Partido Feminista, FAMS, FADEMUR, UNAF, FELGTB, CERMI, Madres solteras por elección, CORA (Coordinadora de Asociaciones de Adopción y Acogimiento), Federación Española de Familias Múltiples, and the Federación Española de Familias Numerosas. This was the final step before public comment opened on the law a few days later, with public consultation scheduled to end on 9 July 2021. Among those leading the group is CRECUL president Elena de León Criado.
Stories of individual women
Patricia Yurena Rodríguez Alonso is a model and the winner of Miss Spain 2008 and 2013, along with being Spain’s representative at the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. Yurena is also an out lesbian. Rodríguez said in an interview in February 2021 that she was currently involved in a relationship with a man, because love does not understand gender.
A 16-year-old girl was arrested in Alcorcón in May 2021 for an alleged hate crime against another girl, aged 14, that was allegedly motivated because of the victim’s sexual orientation. The attack took place on the side of the road in March 2021, with the victim requiring medical attention. The charges in May followed early charges in April based on the violent attack itself.
Centro Penitenciario Mujeres in Alcalá de Guadaíra was a women’s prison that opened in 1992. It is where Dolores Vázquez was held following her wrongful conviction in the murder of 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof. She would be freed from the prison in 2002 after over 500 days behind bars following a successful appeal. A year later, British man Anthony Bromwich confessed to the murder and that of Sonia Carabantes in a final vindication of Vázquez’s innocence. The prison closed in early 2021, and was converted into a penitentiary psychiatric hospital. This was done because such a facility was needed and because the 230-bed prison only had 70 beds occupied.
The Grupo de Lesbianas, part of Asociación de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales, Trans e Intersexuales de Canarias (Algarabía) held a virtual meeting to discuss Patricia Mateo Gallego’s work “Transdeseantes: de la heterosexualidad obligatoria al deseo lesbiano” in March 2021 on Zoom.
Stories of individual women
Beatriz Gimeno Reinoso is an LGBT activist, politician and author. She describes herself as a lesbian feminist, and has talked about the double discrimination faced by lesbians for being both homosexuals and women. During the 2010s, she became one of the most prominent lesbian voices in Madrid because of her media visibility. She resigned from the position of the director of the Instituto de la Mujer in March 2021 to run on the Podemos list for the March 2021 regional elections, where she again won a post as a deputy.
International Lesbian Visibility Day
Berdindu!, the Basque Country state LGBT organization, published a statement on 26 April 2021 on the International Lesbian Visibility Day in support of the day, recognizing the importance of lesbian visibility and the challenges lesbians face.
Platforma LGTBIQ+ Ceuta were the main promotors of the International Day of Lesbian Visibility on 26 April 2021. They used an illustration by Raquel García Sedeño as part of their campaign to mark the day.
In April 2021, lesbian feminists and radical feminists sprayed graffiti on COGAM’s office building, accusing them of misogyny and homophobia. A 2019 COGAM survey found that only 13% of their members defined themselves as lesbians, while 50% identified as gay, 19% identified as heterosexual and 14% as bisexual. A number of LGBT organizations ignored the concerns expressed by these women with their graffiti and condemned it for being transphobic, among them Melilla based Amlega.
Les Galicia established a presence the site Meetup in February 2019 and continued to be active into the 2021 with events both in person and virtual during the pandemic, mostly based in A Coruña. The board of directors of Les Coruña in April 2021 included Begoña Lourido, Carola Prego, Sandra López, María Setién, Susana Milnes and Lucía Trenor.
The Pink Economy
Mary Read, located at Calle del Marqués de Toca, 3, is a transfeminist bookstore that opened May 2021. It positions itself as lesbian, but also responding to what the owners saw as the rise of the right and anti-trans efforts coming out of the broader feminist movement in Spain. As a result of the pandemic, they wanted to put their money and privilege where their beliefs were by opening the shop. They criticized feminists undermining transrights, and suggested that lesbians should be allies because there shouldn’t be divisions on the street when it comes to fighting for queer rights.
In June 2021, as part of Pinto’s Orgullo celebrations, Casa de la Cadena hosted a presentation by Elena León Criado, CRECUL President, about the double discrimination lesbians face in Space, a talk by Zaida Carmon about the invisibility of lesbians in the media, and concluded with a talk about Sara López Jiménez asking where the lesbian and bisexual women in history were.
Sexual Diversity Week
Plaza de la Almazara in Alcalá de Guadaíra played host to a ceremony celebrating the IV Week of Sexual Diversity, which included a raising of the rainbow flag and the reading of a manifesto in June 2021. It was led by Ana Vannereau, the Delegate for Equality, along with Rosa Carro, the Delegate for Youth. Vannereau said at the opening of the event that “what is not seen, does not exist”. Like other events run by the city, lesbians were included but no special recognition was provided.
The covid-19 situation had improved by June 2021 and most of the restrictions had been lifted that prevent any sort of protest from taking place. Nationwide, the national, regional and local governments approved events so long as organizers promised that social distancing could be maintained and other health safety measures were put into place.
The Mayor of Madrid Martínez Almeida, a member of Partido Popular, decided that the rainbow flag would not fly from the Ayuntamiento de Madrid during 2021 Orgullo festivities. The TQI+ community, with support of traditional LGBT organizations, had been very active during 2021 in demanding the passage of a self-ID law on a national level, increasing their national visibility compared to past years. At the same time, they had met resistance from feminist groups and aligned lesbian groups who opposed the erosion of Spain’s constitutionally protested sex-based rights. Those activities were intensified, and polarizing, as the TQI+ lobby intensified efforts to have a win they could take into Orgullo festivities in Madrid. The previous year, the flag was banned from flying on the building as a result of a Supreme Court ruling, with a compromise being reached of the flag being hung on the side of the street. The Ayuntamiento did agree to illuminate the building in the colors of the rainbow during pride. No big parade was held in 2021, with other face-to-face meetings and events taking place at smaller venues.
A much smaller scaled down Orgullo march took place on 3 July 2021 starting at Glorieta de Carlos V and ending at Plaza de Colón. The focus of the march was on trans rights, vindicating LGBT organization efforts to get self-ID efforts put into law. Most of the lesbian specific activity around Orgullo was organized by trans-friendly lesbians. It was organized by Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales (FELGTB), COGAM, Colectivo LGTB+ de Madrid and AEGAL among others. Organizers asked all attendees to practice social distancing and to wear masks.
A pride parade was held in 2021 in Salamanca, organized by Iguales de Salamanca y de la Usual. They marched at Plaza de la Constitución starting at 7pm and ended at Plaza Mayor at 8:15 PM. They passed through Avenida Mirat and Calle Zamora. Around 200 people participated. Among the slogans chanted were, “Soy lesbiana y castellana”. While there were visible lesbians, there were also transactivists present who advocated the believe that transwomen could be lesbians and condemned Carmen Calvo for not supporting the proposed self-ID law. Much of the march focused specifically on transrights and advocating for self-ID, with homosexual rights and sex-based rights being marginalized. Most lesbians present at Pride supported these positions.
In July 2021, VOX Moratalaz promoted a video featuring Javier Ortega Smith at the Ayuntamiento de Madrid, criticizing public money going to LGBT organizations.
In August 2021, Iglesia parroquial de El Salvador in Almoharín, Extremadure posted to their social media that they can converted a lesbian named María away from the lesbian life as a result of bringing her back to the faith. Their post about a parishioner was denounced by Fundación Triángulo Extremadura and several members of the local community, and it was subsequently deleted a few days later. Despite this, the church defended their post saying this sort of conversion happens but is often hidden by the media. The church was supported by members of Vox, who decried their freedom to be free of LGBT propaganda.
Stories of individual women
Kathy Sánchez is a lesbian from El Salvador. Her story was told as part of the history of resistance exhibition organized by the Fundación Triángulo Extremadura in August 2021. Born around 1990 in San Martín in the capital district of El Salvador, she realized she was a lesbian when she was a 12-year-old. After confessing this to her father, she was mistreated and rejected by her family after conversion therapy failed to work. Her mental health deteriorated and she tried to commit suicide twice. When her sexual orientation became known in her barrio, Sánchez decided to flee to protect her life. She managed to save some money and bought an airplane ticket to Madrid-Barajas, and from there onwards to Talavera de la Reina where she had an acquaintance named Manoli who provided her with a new and accepting family. She also was supported locally by Fundación Triángulo in Caceres, attending their events and growing her support network
Año Familia Amoris Laetitia celebrated in Madrid in 2021 by the Catholic Church featured a request by the Delegación de Laicos, Familia y Vida de Madrid to include homosexuals in their midst. In line with this desire, several sessions related to homosexuality were held, including one by Marciano Vidal titled The foundation from the moral theology of spiritual accompaniment of people of diverse sexual orientation on 29 September and another by María Luisa Berzosa on 13 October titled by Welcoming and accompany all diversity in the Church. A third session in November by José María Rodríguez Olaizola was titled Difficult belongings in the Church.
CRECUL have been involved in efforts to draft adoption legislation to allow gays and lesbians to adopt while being in de facto relationships since the early 1990s. The proposed law from their 1997s efforts was dealt with for a number of legislative sessions before finally a version passed in 2005 but not for de facto couples. The Consejo de las Mujeres del Municipio de Madrid held a press conference and demonstration on 28 Madrid 2020 in front of the Congreso de Diputados after they delivered their draft of the proposed legislation on the Law of Equality of Diverse Families. This was the second major step in their renewed campaign that started a month earlier. Among those leading the group is CRECUL president Elena de León Criado. On 31 October 2021, CRECUL and Partido Feminista representatives met with Sonia Guerra and Laura Berja, deputies in the Grupo Parlamentario Socialista and with representatives of the Comisión de Igualdad, and Comisión de Derechos Sociales y Políticas Integrales de la Discapacidad to discuss the Equality of Diverse Families.
Feminists in Madrid marched in protest of sexual exploitation, surrogacy and the proposed Trans Law on 23 October 2021. Their route started at Plaza de Neptuno and ended at Puerta del Sol. Several thousand women participated in one of the largest marches by women since the start of the pandemic, after the previous 23 Marzo International Women’s Labor Day marches had been denied permits by the government. One of the groups of women actively participating in the march were lesbians, who claimed that the gender self-identification components of the Trans Law were homophobic and lesbophobic. Many lesbians in Spain have been accused of being TERFs for excluding male bodied individuals from their dating pool. Some of this was reflected in signs, both by lesbians and other women in in attendance, including signs that said, “Terf es el nuevo feminazi” and “Ser lesbiana no es transfobia”.
A Vox councilor from the townhall of Bormujos, Andalucía left the party in October 2021. Her departure from the party was a result of her decision to marry a divorced Venezuelan immigrant. The lesbian Vox councilor said at the time of her announcement that she felt cheated by the party, because they were not accepting of her relationship.
The 2021 edition of Feria del Libro de Sevilla was held from 21 October to 1 November once again at Plaza Nueva de Sevilla. Lesbian Muslim Fátima Daas was among the authors presenting their books at the event. Hers was La hija pequeña, a book originally published in her home country of France that explored her own identity as a woman, a lesbian and a Muslim.
A young woman was assaulted by a man at a bus stop on Paseo de Carmelitas, Salamanca in October 2021. The man assaulted the young woman after he witnessed her kissing another woman, saying her action was shameful and she should not have done it in front of children. The victim was slapped, knocked to the ground and kicked in the head. The aggressor was arrested a few days later, and charged with assault and a hate crime.
Three young Moroccan men, aged 19, 19 and 20, were investigated in October 2021 for two homophobic attacks that took place in Malaga´s city center near calle Mundo Nuevo on 31 August 2021 and 2 September 2021 around 3am. The first attack was against a gay male couple. The second was an attack on a lesbian couple, with one of the victims having a glass bottle broken over their head; the injury and others required stitches.
In November 2021, the Minister of Health Carolina Darias, signed a ministerial order that restored the rights of single women, lesbians, bisexual women and transmen to access reproductive assistance in regional healthcare. The ability to do so had been removed by a previous Partido Popular led government in the region in 2014.
In December 2021, Palacio de la Ópera in A Coruña hosted a presentation by Carla Antonelli, Andrea Nunes, Sara Romero, Noelia Otero, Bárbara G. Vilariño and Sandra López on the situation for LGBTI people in Spain, and in particular in Galicia. The group brought with them a historical perspective to their critique of the current situation.
On 4 December 2021, Patricia Aguilera and Raquel Ruz were attacked at a local cocktail bar in Motril. 22-year-old Aguilera and 24-year-old Ruz were head to the bar with a friend when a man came to speak to their friend as the two knew each other. When the group tried to enter, the man blocked their path and asked if they thought he was homophobic and going to attack them. The couple were unsure how to respond. The 25-year-old man then said that Aguilera was confused and what she needed was a good cock. At that point, he punched her. Ruz tried to intervene and protect Aguilera but was punched in the face. She fell backwards and was unconscious for a few seconds. During that time, the man hit Aguilera in the head with a beet bottle and then kicked her in the head. The police then appeared on the scene. The women filed complaints against him, and he was processed though the courts in a speedy trial for an alleged crime causing minor injuries, facing a potential sentence of 3 months to 3 years in prison.
On 13 December 2021, a protest was held in the city to protest homophobia and to show support for Aguilera and Ruz. It was attended by dozens of people. The main sign at the protest, attended by supporters wearing facemasks in compliance with covid-19 guidance, said, “Motril contra la violencia”.