Preface: Still plugging away at writing a broad historical overview of Spanish lesbian history before rewriting travel guides.
Feminism, lesbian political feminism
In 1989, the lesbian feminist focus shifted to the creation in law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians. In Madrid, these efforts were led by the Grupos de Feministas Lesbianas in COFEE. This was expressed through the Anti-Discrimination Platform, which had 12 points, including third party recognition of same-sex defacto couples, no discrimination allowed in terms of inheritance, pensions, nationality, work permits, and rental contracts. The 12 points were published by CFLM in 1991. It represented one of the first time that lesbians working inside the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Feministas del Estado Español did so on a purely lesbian related topic and where lesbians were not in mixed groups with straight women.
The broader militant feminist movement in the 1990s did not respond to outside attacks against them related to lesbians like they had with earlier campaigns like adultery where they had said, “I am also an adulteress” or abortion where they said, “I also have had an abortion.” Militant feminists feared being stigmatized by broader society as lesbians or having the whole movement depicted as being run by lesbians. The whole concept of lesbianism was still very taboo in Spain, even in the mid-1990s. Feminists began to abandon lesbians in their ranks, after never having bothered to fully integrate their causes in their ranks to begin with. Feminists also distrusted lesbians for their gender non-conformity; it was a period when the feminist movement was trying to erase sex differences while maintaining gender difference.
Lesbian political ideology in the early 1990s was often about solving practical issues faced by lesbians, not by any strong underlying feminist or queer ideological theory. Political activities for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights activists were often around addressing specific issues.
CRECUL was characterized by radicals almost from its founding in 1991 as institutionalized, mainstream lesbianism. It was not militancy CRECUL were viewed as offering but the services of an NGO. CRECUL’s priority in being founded was for lesbian feminists, not feminist lesbians. Their main priority though was lesbian issues, though they approached that from a feminist point of view and were committed to the rights of women in general. Their definition of lesbian feminist through differed from the generation before in the 1980s in that it did center lesbians. While CRECUL came out of the lesbian third wave of activism, they were different from their peers in that they embraced autonomy inside the militant feminist movement. Doing so positioned them at the front of the lesbian feminist movement nationally. CRECUL, by choosing to be exclusively lesbian, lacked state-backed funding. This was a challenge as it decreased their visibility, but at the same time gave them greater autonomy. CRECUL produced a magazine called Informales, which had a national audience during the mid-1990s.
Asociación Feminista de Autodefensa Walkirias was a feminist self-defense group who took their name from the Norse female mythological warriors, Valkyries. The group was active in the 1990s, having been founded by at least 1992, with a core membership of four women, Merche, Yolanda, Alicia and Nina. Others involved with the group included Nuria Parrón and Asunción Paños. A woman named Conchi was one of the monitors. The Valkyries were founded with the goal of teaching women how to protect themselves after a series of sexual assaults and rapes that had brought women to the streets to demand better protection. Lesbians were a majority of participants in the association. In 1992, the organization received a grant of 700,000 pesetas from the Instituto de Mujeres located inside the Ministerio de Asuntos Sociales. The courses were hugely popular and had a waiting lists 200 deep, with 60 total women from the ages of 12 to 50 participating in three daily course. They worked with similar groups in France and Germany. One of the group’s teachers, Concha Arnal, came from Zaragoza.
Among those women whose lesbianism informed their activism in the mid-1990s, there were questions as to what lesbianism 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.
During the mid-1990s, Spanish lesbians would finally develop their own unique political movement independent of the broad LGBT and feminist movements, taking to the streets to demand equality under the law and full rights of citizenship.
By the mid-1990s, political lesbianism would become its own unique movement, independent of both feminism and queer politics, and uniquely Spanish as a result of French and English language influences that the language barrier that were coupled with influences from the Chilean feminist movement did not allow easy exportation to other countries’ lesbian activist movements. Lesbians began to take to the street agitate for specific political issues, including legal equality and full rights of citizenships that the rest of the Spanish populace had. These issues were often practical, relating to everyday life; they were not underpinned by queer theory nor was queer theory something they heavily emphasized. The number of lesbian political organizations expanded exponentially, with various types of groups coming into existence. Some sought media attention and international affiliation in support of their goals. Others were quieter, more locally focused and sometimes obfuscating their lesbian origins as they fought for women’s rights that would also explicitly benefit lesbians.
A lot of the issues for lesbians in the mid-1990s were region specific, based on their own unique situations. Lesbianas Sin Dudas sometimes found themselves in conflict with other less radicalized lesbian and feminist groups in Madrid during the mid-1990s. These groups would sometimes marginalize their work in shared lesbian and feminist spaces. The Basque group Agerian Lesbianen Taldea led numerous conversions about sexuality and gender in the mid-1990s across the Basque Country. Lesbians in the Basque country were also being marginalized in shared spaces with heterosexual women. Of the 38 papers presented at the III Feminist Days of Euskadi in 1994, only one was about lesbians. It was titled “Reflections about lesbian politics” and presented by the Collective of Lesbian Feminists of Bizkaia.
Lesbians in the feminist community in Barcelona found that their issues were ignored or relegated in the mid-1990s. Situations that were unique to heterosexual women were treated as if they were applicable to all women, and situations applicable to all women, like intimate partner violence, were treated as if they only happened to heterosexual women. Barcelona lesbian feminists began to feel stigmatized.
The Asociación de Lesbianas Alavesas / Arabako Lesbianen Alkartea (A.L.A.) was created in June 1994 by lesbians from Vitoria, and was the first lesbian associated created in Vitoria. It was also one of the last explicitly lesbian feminist groups to be founded in the Basque Country. The women had originally been part of a feminist collective, and the creation of a same-sex registry put them into a position where others were asking them to articulate political demands. They held regular meetings to organize campaigns and discuss topics of interest to members. They soon joined the Basque Colectivos de Lesbianas Feministas.
Agerian Lesbianen Taldea, COGAL and Asamblea de Lesbianas de Alava organized a conference in Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1994 to discuss where homophobia was still enshrined in the Penal Code, the issue of homosexual adoption and the need for programs to address these issues in education, gender models, and how homosexuality was discussed in the media.
Starting in 1994 and lasting until June 1998, the Basque and Spanish language lesbian feminist magazine Sorginak ceased publication. Colectivo de Lesbianas Feministas de Bizkaia became the exclusive publishers Sorginak in 1998 and and 1999 before the magazine finally disappeared.
In 1994, one of the first major attempts at reform in lesbian feminism took place with CFLM and CRECUL partnering to offer an information and telephone lesbian welfare service called “info-lesbo”. This sort of practice was not widely adopted though. CFLM was having issues though, and would not be around much longer. CFLM was renamed, CLYP, Colectivo de Lesbianas CLYP, Colectivo de Lesbianas, in 1995 and largely became inactive within a year and a half after that. They participated in a call by LGBT organizations that year in November for a protest called “Gais, lesbianas y transexuales por nuestros derechos”. They did so without much force. The organization officially dissolved in 1997.
Colectivo Hetaira is a Spanish non-profit dedicated to protecting the labor rights of prostitutes, combat gender violence, protect the immigration rights of trafficked women who were forced to engage in prostitution founded on 12 March 1995 in Madrid by Cristina Garaizabal and Mamen Briz. Among the lesbians involved in the organization was Colectivo de Feministas Lesbianas de Madrid cofounder Empar Pineda Erdozia and Montse Oliván. Both women came out of the queer feminist lesbian communities.
Two important lesbian gatherings took place in Galicia in 1995. These meetings gathered lesbian feminists together to discuss their thoughts and discuss plans of action.
Las Goudous was founded in 1996, with the purpose of trying to make lesbian political and social struggles more visible in Spanish feminist spaces. 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.