Context: Still plowing through and writing these as I rewrite so I can move the history into one book and the travel guide and place info can be more self-contained without a huge historical background longer than the actual geography information. As I work through these, some of the earlier sections already posted get additional things added to them or moved around. But plugging away… This section feels the hardest so far to right to avoid it sounding like a word salad sandwich as the sources at times were offering so many different ideological perspectives on what was happening.
Labels, language and identity
The early 1990s brought the start of the most complicated around internalized concepts of identity for lesbians ant the labels they applied to themselves and how they projected themselves outwards into Spanish society. This was a result of a number of complicated factors, including generational shifts, differences in geography, lesbians being inside the feminist community, lesbians leaving the feminist community, lesbians inside the gay and transsexual right’s movement, and lesbians dealing with continuing discrimination. While never entirely unified, lesbian identity fractured by the end of this period with four distinct camps coming into existence. One was still embedded in the feminist community. Another was in the queer feminist community. A third involved feminist lesbians. The last mostly existed outside both.
Labels, words and their inclusion in broader usage continued to evolve and be acknowledged after long periods of usage in this period. bollera first appeared in the Diccionario de la lengua española in 1989. It is defined as a word used to describe lesbians. It would not be until 2001 where the vulgar nature of the word is added to the definitions. In colloquial usage, transfeminism in the 1990s was often called queer bollero feminism.
There was a generational gap in the lesbian culture in this period that existed in cities like Vitoria in the Basque Country until around 2000 and 2001. This was because following the end of the dictatorship, it had been increasingly easier for young lesbians to identify as such and to feel they had rights. They did not need to fight for these things as they already existed. This could make older lesbians feel disconnected from younger lesbians as they did not have the same shared experience.
Lesbians were aware of the rise of pornography in broader Spanish society during the 1990s, including pornography that hyper-sexualized their sexuality for the heterosexual male gaze. For lesbian activists in queer spaces, they worked to try to subvert these images and in the construction of their identities.
Lesbian continued to be problematic as a label and identity in some parts of Spain and for some generations of lesbians. The term lesbian was not used in Vitoria in the 1980s and mid-1990s. It took a lot of effort by lesbians in the city to get the word to be used regularly to describe them. This pattern would continue into the 2020s, and its use in self-labeling would often depend heavily on how lesbians situated themselves in culture and as activists, with certain groups avoiding the word and its association.
The term queer did not enter the Spanish vocabulary until 1993 but its conceptual antecedents were starting to be in place by around 1991. This set the stage for a major conflict within the lesbian community, and around lesbian labels and lesbian identity that is discussed more fully in the next section on homosexual and trans rights activism.
Lesbian identity started changing in the 1990s in response to what was happening in the militant feminist community. Lesbian identity arrived late in Spain, fully emerging only around 1993. A homogeneous identity among feminists had begun to disappear and fracture, with specific discourses emerging to address the needs of specific groups. The practice had begun in the United States a decade earlier and traveled over to Spain. The formation of this identity required feminism to set limits, to set up discourse based on we-they, and for different groups inside the movement to differentiate themselves as minorities within that movement. These differences were then politicized and given different values, even as they worked towards shared goals. One of the groups that lesbians would run into conflicts with were transsexuals who wanted their voices heard within the feminist movement during this period. For lesbians, this change proved challenging as they had used a we-as model, not a we-them model for most of their discourse during the previous decade. Suddenly, lesbians who had left the homosexual rights movement because of the misogyny found in that movement were being othered in the feminist movement despite efforts to subvert their own identities as homosexual women to fit in.
Identity politics had become important in some lesbian groups during the mid-1990s. One of the women involved with introducing this concept to some groups was Gracia Trujillo. The introduction of identity politics into Spanish lesbian communities occurred concurrently with the state began introducing gender perspective into policies around women and groups of women like lesbians and immigrant women. A number of feminist groups and lesbian groups opposed this practice as they saw it as a return to Fascist policies, which defined womanhood as victims who needed state protection and that women needed the state to define the goals and direction of feminism and lesbianism. This took place against a backdrop of there two types of lesbians who were often not closeted. The first were radical activists interested in bringing visibility to their campaigns for their causes, be it queer rights, homosexual rights or feminist goals. The second group was about creating self-help groups and networking, keeping a lower profile and allowing closeted women to participate.
For militant lesbian feminists in spaces outside the feminist movement, the start of the 1990s and the beginning of lesbian identification with queer politics or queer feminism was viewed as a rejection of a lesbian identity and supporting a community that rejects the very existence of a lesbian identity that supports making lesbians invisible. As the decade progressed, lesbians in the feminist movement responded to the newly created identity crisis not by addressing the gender issues or gender identity but by bringing up the issue of sexuality. The issue was an evolving one, and there were frequent questions as to what this meant. Some believed that lesbian sexuality was less insistent on sex, especially when compared to gay men and straight women. Another group argued that sex was not central to lesbian existence because once sex is disengaged from penetration, it becomes something that is just part of everyday life and completely entangled with affectionate relationships. It means that lesbians constantly have to navigate relationships, consent, definitions of pleasures and the roles that each partner plays as there were no roles to fall back on. In some cases, this made relationships in the period more confusing because partners could not be othered away by gender roles, leading to confusion over desires that could make relationships shorter or lead to overdependence in longer lasting relationships.
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