Background: Still rewriting this section which is currently 57 pages long. Yikes. I thought Franco was bad at 30, and the transition at 36. These two sections are grouped together because they are short. In terms of the book draft, the section on lesbian feminism actually sits between them. I’m pretty sure at some point the Orgullo section will be added to just because the history is just so damned short considering everything.
AIDS / HIV and STIs
In the early 1990s, lesbians faced a number of specific challenges as it related to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. First, women in general were maligned as the focus of attention tended to be on depicting women as transmission vectors, not as people who were victims of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Women were viewed as passive participants in the fight against AIDS and HIV, with the disease largely being a male one which men should fight. For lesbians, there were additional specific challenges. One was the existence of large amounts of of misinformation about how lesbians could or could not acquire HIV or AIDS because of male based assumptions about lesbian sexual practices. Lesbians were often portrayed as a group completely not at risk of getting AIDS or HIV which opened them up to harassment and abuse when they went in for testing or treatment. Another was the AIDS made lesbians even more invisible. Lastly, AIDS displaced some lesbian feminist goals as activists diverted their attention away from other causes and towards the epidemic.
AIDS at times rendered lesbian sexuality even more invisible in the 1990s because AIDS impacted men and women different. Because lesbians were less likely to contract AIDS through sex, their sexual practices were sometimes viewed as less important by both society and by LGBT organizations. The focus of the gay rights movement on HIV and AIDS in this period was used institutionally to downplay lesbian and feminist voices, citing the intense urgency to combat the ongoing epidemic. They were more effective at using this approach in this period because lesbians and feminist groups to which lesbians belonged had effectively become demilitarized as a result of institutionalized views that the major goals of both groups had been accomplished during the transition period.
One of the results of the AIDS epidemic in Spain by this point in the 1990s, according to a paper by Ricardo Llamas, was that in the mind of the public, AIDS had often rendered gay men to little more than bodies and lesbians to a place where they did not even exist because of a lack of visibility as a result of the media attention given to their male counterparts. Male homosexuals became defined almost solely by their sexual practices, and the contagion they could get from them.
The AIDS epidemic created renewed interest in LGTB organizations in Madrid and nationally. Most of this interest came from gay men, with organizations seeing their membership increase exponentially by this group. This at times further pushed lesbian and transexual interests in these groups to the margins. Increased membership by gay men also sometimes resulted in fewer representations of women and women’s sexual health in campaigns run by these organizations, with almost none mentioning the prevention of AIDS via vaginal prevention, cleaning of sex toys or using vaginal prophylactics.
The fight against AIDS in Spain emerged in the early 1990s not from lesbian activist circles or gay rights activist but from a new activist group identified as queer activities, which grew out of anarchist culture and the newly emerging transgender culture that was replacing transexual culture in Spain. These newly emerging queer organizations challenged the more conservative and homosexual organizations that already existed, such as Col·lectiu Lambda, Coordinadora Gay y Lesbiana (CGL) and the Colectivo de Lesbianas y Gais de Madrid (COGAM) who were perceived as not capable of taking direction on the street to effect social change in the face of blatant homophobia. Queer activist groups challenged existing lesbian and gay men activist groups by demanding acceptance for who they were, without the need to conform to heterosexual norms as a means of being acceptable to society, culture and the legal system.
For lesbians in Oviedo with AIDS or HIV during the 1990s, getting lesbian specific support may have been challenging. The state supported organization to fight AIDS was the gay only, XEGA, Xente Gai Astur. For lesbians in Vitoria, the state supported organization to fight AIDS was the gay only, GAYTASUNA, Colectivo Gay de Álava, along with the general organization, Comisión Ciudadana Anti-Sida. In Bilbao, it was the gay only, Gays por la Salud.
During the early 1990s, Asociación Ciudadana Anti-Sida de Málaga ran one of the only campaigns against AIDS in Spain aimed at lesbians, highlighting risky sexual practices lesbians engages in like mutual masturbation with cuts on your hand, “black kissing”, unprotected oral sex and sharing sex toys.
Lesbianas Sin Duda and La Radical Gai were soon at the forefront of the battle against AIDS and HIV in the city of Madrid in the early 1990s. They would play key roles in turning the body into a dimension of space from which sexuality and gender would then be used to exercise resistance against the state.
Lesbianas Sin Duda were created in Lavapies in February 1993 from a network of friends. The women came from different backgrounds. Some had been active in homosexual rights activism during the 1980s, some came from feminist groups, and some came from left wing extra-parliamentary groups. Lesbianas Sin Duda working to erase the AIDS stigma would focus not just on lesbians and bisexual women, but also on other groups including female drug addicts, prostitutes and those who had passively contracted the virus but were not part of marginalized classes.
During 1993 and continuing into the next few years, LSD worked on drawing attention to the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and on lesbians through art. They teamed up with a number of other organizations as part of these efforts, including ACT UP (France) and La Radical. They held photography exhibits, designed posters and created fanzines inspired by Barbara Kruguer as part of these efforts. One of their goals was to stop allowing others in the broader AIDS and HIV activist community to represent lesbians and lesbian sexual activities, and to give lesbians their own voice in describing their sexual practices as it related to AIDS and HIV.
On 1 December 1993, Lesbianas Sin Duda held a protest outside the Ministerio de Sanidad to protest their policies related to HIV and AIDS. The group was one of the only ones in Spain to trying to actively draw attention to women and lesbians, and their needs as it related HIV and AIDS, both in treatment and in terms of health-related policies. Fefa Vila was a member of LSD involved in these efforts. On International Day of the Fight against AIDS that took place on 1 December 1996, Lesbianas Sin Duda protested on the street in front of the Ministerio de Sanidad, demanding intervention to combat the AIDS epidemic taking place in the country.
La Radical Gai and Lesbianas Sin Duda organized a workshop in December 1993 as part of the Jornadas Feministas del Estado español about the practice of safe sex. Their imagery in promoting the workshop was sexually explicit, and included nudes of the female form receiving oral sex.
The group Radical Morals, which emerged from the gay rights group La Radical Gai founded in Lavapiés in 1991, opposed the inclusion of lesbians in literature on the prevention of AID/HIV during the 1990s because, according to one of their proposals, lesbians do not fuck and cannot pass on the virus as a result, the media does not discuss lesbians getting AIDS/HIV, lesbians cannot enter hospitals and, anyway, lesbians do not exist.
Despite an awareness for a number of years that AIDS could be transmitted from a mother to a fetus, it was only in 1993 that the clinical definition of AIDS changed in Spain to allow for the possibility that women could contract the virus. For some feminists in Spain, this was viewed as another type of violence enacted upon women’s bodies as the medical establishment, aware of the virus since 1981, had not bothered to verify its transmissibility to women.
The Instituto de la Mujer prepared a report for the first time on women with HIV / AIDS in 1992. Instituto de la Mujer had been founded on 24 October 1983 and attached to the Ministerio de Igualdad to promote equality between the sexes, and to encourage the participation of women in political, cultural, economic and social life. At the time the document was released, the institute was between plans with the first plan having been focused on six areas, one of which was women’s health, and a second of which was family and social protection. The document then takes a heterocentric perspective to advice regarding the prevention of transmission. Lesbians and women who had sex with other women were not mentioned.
Sevilla was particularly hard hit by the HIV / AIDS pandemic during the mid-1990s. While lesbians did not die, a number were involved as activists in trying to raise awareness to fight the disease and support gay men who were dying.
CGL launched a major AIDS prevention campaign in 1995 called “Cuídate 95” at over 400 bars, saunas and clubs frequented by gay men. Twenty different LGBT organizations from 14 of Spain’s 17 regions participated. Other participating organizations included Colectiu Lamda del País Valencià. Lesbians were deliberately left out as CGL and participating LGBT organizations did not believe AIDS and STI prevention among lesbians was worth diverting resources to at that moment.
At pride in 1991 in Madrid, protesters wore masks to send a message that they needed to hide their homosexuality in order to avoid homophobic reactions in their daily lives. Despite gains improving legal status for homosexuals in Spain during the 1980s, homophobia was still an issue for both gay men and lesbians.
Gay men and lesbians like Mili Hernández at COGAM, which by 1992 had become institutional organs of the state, wanted to change the face of pride during the 1990s. They wanted to move away from activism and feminism, and make it the type of event where non-militant lesbians and gays could participate and have fun and so organizers could also increase sponsorship opportunities. As a result, Pride started becoming commercialized across the country in the 1990s, and accelerated on into the 2000s. The commercialization brought criticism from a number of circles, including from lesbians and feminists. They argued that the nature of commercialization meant that certain segments were excluded because pink capitalism mostly focused on gay men.
During the 1990s, XEGA worked with Colectivu de Feministes Llesbianes dAsturies on joint activism, including Pride events in Asturias. Colectivu de Feministes Llesbianes dAsturies and XEGA had designed posters in 1995 for Orgullo in support of same-sex marriage but decided that this was potentially to inflammatory and instead went with a more neutral one seeking equai rights for gays and lesbians. Still, an unofficial poster circulated making this demand and was one of the first of its kind to appear at a Pride event in Spain.
On 28 June until 1992, Lambda Collective joined the Pride parade in Valencia as participants and marchers after a long break from the event of several years. They largely took over the work at Valencia Pride that had previously been done by MAGPV.
Gays y Lesbianas De Aquí (GYLDA) was founded in the mid-1990s in Logroño by a small group of lesbians. They soon started organizing local Orgullo events, and would do so for over the next two decades with assistance from locals and popular meeting places.
In 1995, Madrid Pride organizers decided to de-couple Pride from the Stonewall date and to have events on the weekend after it. Organizers also wanted to make it more fun, so that lesbians and gays who were not militant would feel more comfortable and have fun while participating and so organizers could also increase sponsorship opportunities. Sound speakers and commercial sponsors were also introduced as part of the goal to expand their appeal beyond militants. There were 5,000 participants at the 1995 Orgullo Madrid event. Puerta de Alcalá was the starting point for the city’s pride route between 1995 and 2003, with Puerta del Sol being the end point for the march each of those years.
The first time a float appeared at a Madrid Pride event was the following year, on 28 June 1996. That year was also the second year that Pride was a weekend affair. Since then, the political aspects of Madrid Pride have been overshadowed by continued commercialization of the event as it attracted ever more media attention.