Preface: Still rewriting. This section follows marriage equality and is before the seconds on labels and identity, homosexual rights activism, AIDS / HIV, lesbianism and feminism, and pride marches. It is designed to give some cultural context for what lesbians were doing and feeling, before doing a deep dive into some of the major formative issues of the period.
1982 and 1986 Spanish general elections
Literary and cultural life, popular culture depictions
This period saw the publication of two of three most important firsthand accounts in novel form on upper-class lesbian life during the Second Republic period. The first was by Rosa Chacel and the second was by Elena Fortún. The third book by Victorina Duran, Así es, was existed in Duran’s archives but would not be published until 2018 and was not circulating underground.
Oculto sendero is a book written by Elena Fortún that was never published in her life time, but was widely circulating in lesbian circles during the Francoist period following her death, and has subsequently been translated into English as Hidden Path; the book details Fortún’s lesbian experiences. It was first published in 1986 in Madrid, and subsequently published again in Sevilla in 2016. The book focuses on the author’s experiences before 1936.
Acrópolis by Rosa Chacel is a 1984 book based on the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid of the 1920s. The fictional work was based on the group that included Marisa Roësset, Victoria Kent, Carmen de Burgos, Irene Polo, Carmen Conde, Matilde Ras, Elena Fortún and Victorina Durán. It was first published by Seix Barral in Barcelona. It was reprinted again in 1991 and 1994 in Barcelona.
Despite these works being published, historical lesbian life remained hidden in this period. Extensive research started in this period about male homoerotic desire in medieval and historical Spanish texts, with important work being done by scholars like Boswell, Bennett, Laquer, Murry and Greenberg. Similar research on female homoerotic desire in the same historical period would wait for at least another fifteen years.
Lesbian literary canon continued to expand in this period. María Jaén and María de Zayas Sotomayor were all active in this period. Lesbian canon was also augmented by past historical works like those of María de Zayas Sotomayor but also by men, like Pablo Casado who would be widely acclaimed for their work.
Sauna by María Jaén in 1987 was an important piece of lesbian literary fiction, depicting a public bathhouse as a place where women could find physical and emotional encounters during the previous historical period.
Maria Mercè Marçal i Serra was one of a number of writers who helped developed the lesbian literary canon in Spanish indigenous languages during the 1970s and 1980s. Terra de Mai is her Catalan language novel that in 1982; it was based on her first lesbian relationship. She herself was likely bisexual, having relationships with both men and women. Her last partner was a woman, Fina Birulés y Bertran, whom she was with from 1984 until her death in 1998.
Primera, y segunda parte de las novelas amorosas, y exemplares by María de Zayas Sotomayor was republished in 1983 in Valencia. It contains stories about sexual equality male violence. While the work helped cement a later view of the author as Spain’s first feminist, the work did not really do so as it supported male patriarchal perspectives.
Tres días / tres noches by Pablo Casado is a 1984 novel that forms part of the white, male, heterosexist literary canon of stories about the voices of women and sexual minorities published in the post-Franco era. The book won the VI Premio La sonrisa vertical. The book focused on a character named Rosa from the barrio of Malasana in Madrid who becomes involved with a dealer from Morocco. The book takes the couple to Ceuta and Tarifa and to the Galerías Preciados de Sevilla. It also has scenes in Mallorca. Unlike several male authors of the period writing such novels, Pablo made no effort to hide he was a male.
With legal barriers to the criminalization of homosexuality having begun to mostly be removed and ideas about acceptable behavior for Spanish women continuing to evolve, the social and cultural life and opportunities for lesbians began to really open up in the Felipe González period.
Lesbian artistic and theatrical life also began to resume more fully. Azucena Vieites was one of the most important lesbian artists of the Felipe González period. Her work referenced lesbian cultural norms, and showed lesbian affection could be intense.
Grup Gram Teatre was created in 1983. It was a lesbian theater group founded by the couple Gretel Ammann and Dolors Majoral in Barcelona. The group gave lesbian actors, both amateur and professional, an opportunity to work collectively with other feminist women independent of men. Their opening performance was at the Barcelona feminist bar, La Sal. The group traveled Spain in a van for a number of years, performing both improvisation and staged pieces.
At the same time that these aspects of lesbian literary and cultural life were expanding, Sitges was becoming an international LGBT tourist destination. It would offer an environment where members of the gay and lesbian community could go and relax without huge fears of marginalization when out on the street.
Despite these cultural advances, large barriers still remained, and popular opinions about homosexuals in general and lesbians in particular could be problematic. In 1988, only 16% of Spaniards considered homosexuality acceptable. Popular literature and movies presented a very limited scope of lesbian life, and often in derogatory ways. In movies, lesbians generally only appeared in women’s prisons or in vampire flicks. For homosexuals more generally, media depictions could also reinforce negative views.
Semanal de 1983 on TVE ran a report in 1983 titled, “Sida, la enfermedad de los 80”, which talked about how 70% of the AIDS infections in the United States were among gay men, which was why the disease was known as the “peste de los gay”.
Dark Habits, written by Pedro Almodóvar and featuring Julieta Serrano, was released in 1983. The plot followed a nightclub singer who hid away in a convent filled with eccentric nuns after her boyfriend died as a result of a drug overdose. The film was revolutionary on a number of fronts in Spanish cinema; first because of its criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and second because of its willingness to break the mold for the type of women shown on the screen. Dark Habits premiered at the Venice Film Festival at an unofficial section on 9 September after having been rejected by the Cannes Film Festival for sacrilegious. It was not included in the official screenings at the Venice Film Festival because organizers considered it blasphemous and anti-Catholic. A year before Dark Habits, Almodóvar released Laberinto de pasiones. Taken together, for the LGB community, both films represent an important response to the previously oppressive nature of state-censorship and homosexual erasure that took place during the Franco period.
La monja alférez is a 1986 Spanish film based on the life of Catalina de Erauso. Eduardo Torre de la Fuente was nominated for, but did not win, a Goya for artistic direction in the film. It was one of the more positive type depictions in this era, and even then that was limited.
 Spanish: Entre tinieblas.
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