Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez eras: Everyday life, societal perception and media depictions

Background: This is the last era of the rewrite of the background information. It includes the Pedro Sanchez period up to more or less March 2020 when the pandemic began as it needs an actual ending point. Hoping to get this period finished writing this month and then doing the Amazon self-publishing thing.

Everyday life, societal perception and media depictions

While 2005’s marriage equality made it easier for lesbians and gay men to be out of the closet by the Mariano Rajoy era, it did not end discrimination or heterocentric assumptions in everyday life. A married lesbian woman who wrote the name of her wife on a form might be corrected by a worker, telling her that line was for her husband and she must have put the wrong name down. A married immigrant lesbian who was a non-native speaker who used the word esposa in everyday conversation with a stranger might have her Spanish corrected to explain she should use esposo as esposa means woman.  Lesbians encountered this as a daily experience, even if publicly they were out of the closet through the act of marrying another woman.

Challenges of the past would remain in this period, including continued discrimination in the workplace, healthcare and education and the ever-present risk of violence by people on the right.  One major change would be hugely evident by the end of this period and that was lesbians having to worry in their social and cultural life about being accused of transphobia for not being willing to date or have sex with people with penises.  The latter would play a role in furthering the abandonment of the use of lesbian as an identity, avoiding mixed LGTB spaces and avoiding dating apps that allowed for woman/woman matches. It also meant accepting that women’s LGTB spaces worked best when bisexual and transwomen were included because it was better to organize around the term women to avoid accusations of discriminatory behavior; despite this, those spaces would often still fail socially because they did not work for participants.

Popular culture better reflected the lives of lesbians when it existed.  This was in part because lesbians and women more generally were more likely to be involved in the creation of various television and movie productions.  At the same time, the overall visibility of lesbians continued to be very low, assisting in making it easier culturally to continue specifically misogynistic behavior aimed at lesbians in everyday life because the media rarely portrayed lesbians enough for humanity of lesbians as a class to be apparent outside the niche market of LGTB media.

In 2012, a study found that 43% of gay, lesbian and bisexual Spanish youths between the ages of 12 and 25 had suffered discrimination because of their sexual orientation, and that 17% had contemplated suicide.  The study did not break down the numbers by sex and specific orientation.

According to GYLDA President Francisco Pérez Diego in 2012, it was very difficult for LGTB people to come out of the closet in La Rioja at that time in part because the area was very conservative had had a Partido Popular government for 20 years. Many members of the LGTB community chose to migrate to other parts of Spain so they could be out of the closet. Pérez Diego never discussed the specific plight of lesbians in the region though when commenting on everyday life for members of the LGTB community.

An Amlega study published in May 2012 found that Muslims in Melilla were the group in the city to be least tolerant of homosexuals. The study results were presented by the association on Campus. 83% of the Christians and 90% of non-believers in the city were tolerant of homosexuals, compared to only 31% of the city’s Muslims. This low level of acceptance extended to issues like homosexuals having children, adoption by same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.

Donde están las demás was an organization for lesbian and bisexual women created in 2012 in Madrid that appears to have disappeared by mid-2014. Their purpose was to provide social activities for women in Madrid. Among the activities they offered were self-defense classes, hiking in rural Madrid, paddle competitions, canoeing, foosball, cooking workshops, and beer tasting.

Maia Jenkinson was found guilty having a high blood alcohol level in Catalonia in 2012. She negotiated with the courts to allow her to produce a documentary about lesbians as a penalty instead of a fine or prison. The court in Barcelona agreed, and Coordinadora de Lesbianes, Gais, Transexuals i Bisexuals de Catalunya (CLGTB) soon got on board with the project that was released a year later. The film titled Les nostres dones featured the concerns of ten different lesbians, including Silvia Bel, Miriam Escurriola, Laura Antoja, Thais Cuadreny, Marta Cabané, Les Fatales, Isabel Franc, Clara Peya, Paula Alcaide and Adri.

At the 2012 edition of the Festival Internacional de Cinema Gai i Lèsbic de Barcelona, Canadian Laurie Colbert’s film Margarita won the Jury Prize. The film an immigrant lesbian Mexican woman from Mexico, who risks deportation after the Toronto based couple who employee her get into financial trouble.

A 2013 COGAM study of secondary school students in the Comunidad de Madrid found that 81% of gay, lesbian and bisexual students were in the closet, while only 19% were open about their sexual orientation. Of the 19% who were open about their sexual orientation, 10.9% had been physically attacked for it compared to 3.4% of students who tried to hide their orientation.  Of those out of the closet, 17.6% were 1st and 2nd year ESO students while 19.7% were 3rd and 4th year ESO students.  Of those out of the closet, the largest group was bisexual girls, representing 22.3%, followed by bisexual boys at 19.2%, gay boys at 18.8% and lastly by lesbian girls at 13.9%.

A 2013 study of adolescents in urban Spain attitudes towards homosexuality by Rodríguez-Castro, Lameiras, Carrera and Vallejo found that boys were more homophobic than girls, that boys were more likely to be intolerant of male homosexuals and that their attitudes were rooted in their general sexist beliefs.

In late 2013, Teatro Campoamore de Oviedo hosted a production of Ainadamar, an opera by composer Osvaldo Golijov and playwright David Henry Hwang based on the life of Margarita Xirgu Subirá and specifically her friendship with Federico García Lorca, for whom she was his muse.

From 2014 to 2017, Irene Milleiro was named one of the Top 100 Women in Spain, and in 2019 was on La Otra Crónica‘s list of 50 most influential gays in Spain, one of only thirteen women to appear. She has said that not all lesbians need to be activists, but that they should all try to lead their lives normally.

For members of the LGB community from Galicia in 2014 of whom around a quarter were lesbians, the most popular LGB tourist destinations inside Spain the preceding three years were, in descending order, Madrid, Barcelona, Asturias, Ibiza, Castilla y León, País Vasco and Cadiz. These destinations were largely to places with reputations for being LGB friendly or that were in close proximity to Galicia. Most members of the Galician LGB community going on holiday did not book with an LGB friendly travel agency as there were no such agencies that promoted themselves as gay friendly in the region. Instead, most used conventional travel agencies and the rest booked themselves on the Internet.

La Mala Mujeris a women’s cafe and bar, focused on the interests of women, lesbians and transpeople in Madrid that has been around since at least 2014 and has a library of activities that women can use to learn more about each other, make friends and better share feminist ideals. The project also hosts workshops and training sessions about the need for feminism, especially the needs of women, lesbians and transpeople. Workshops that have hosted include Women in Art History, Queer Tango, Biodanza for Women, Political Theater, Reflections on Power and Feminism, Let’s Question Romantic and Monogamous Love, Communication Skills, Post-porn for Women, Bolleras and Trans, Compose Your Own Songs feminists, Introduction to feminism, Lesbian sexuality, Feminist self-defense, and Transfeminism.

The lesbian vice-president of AMLEGA was subjected to insults and threats because of her homosexuality in April 2015. AMLEGA denounced the threats and insults towards the woman by her neighbor.

The environment for gays and lesbians in the Bilbao deteriorated, with police having arrested gay and lesbian couples for showing affection in public in mid-2015. A law had been put into place making these displays illegal a few months earlier.

In July 2015, a pair of young lesbians were insulted and harassed near the fair grounds in Barakalda, Basque Country during a lesbophobic attack. Alcohol likely played a role in the attacker’s behavior, which took place during the celebration of the town’s patron saint. Fair organizers wanted to show commitment to not tolerating this sort abuse so pushed the time when alcohol would stop being served ahead a half hour on Friday.

El ministerio del tiempo premiered on Spanish public television in February 2015, and included a lesbian character named Irene Larra played by Cayetana Guillén Cuervo. The character was applauded by critics and the lesbian community for being a multifaceted, intelligent manager of power who, coincidentally, happened to like the ladies. Despite the increased frequency of lesbians on television, this type of depiction found in the show continued to be a rarity.

By 2016, some exclusively same-sex attracted females in Catalonia were no longer using the word lesbian to describe themselves as they did not desire to associated with a “diversity of women” that included transwomen in their sexuality.  These women were being criticized for deserting the use of the word to describe themselves.

Carita Bonita first opened in February 2016. Despite being lesbian only, it advertised itself as queer friendly. As of 2021, it was the only remaining lesbian bar in Barcelona.

The Closet Club was a gay and lesbian bar that opened around 2016 in Madrid. Occupying a 2-story location, it had live music, a dance hall and was decorated in multi-color lights. It also offered quiet spaces for people to socialize, and enjoy conversation and a cocktail. It had closed by 2021.

Laura Muñoz and her partner, Aroa Montano, squatted in an apartment in Móstoles with their three children from July 2016 until they were kicked out by the Catholic Church until August 2016 so the Church owned apartment could be occupied by some priests. The couple said a priest had visited them, chatted with them and then shortly after that, eviction proceedings were launched by the diocese of Getafe. The couple alleged that attempts to get rid of them were based on their sexual orientation. They said they had little choice but to squat in the apartment as they had been seeking social rent since 2014 and had made no progress. The courts ruled against them in the eviction proceedings and required the couple to pay €270 each to the Catholic Church.

People would stare at lesbian couples walking arm-in-arm or holding hands as they walked down the streets of the city in late 2010s in cities in Extremadura like Cáceres. Some of this was in part because lesbians were just not that visible in the city, and people were not used to seeing them going about their daily lives in the same way they would see straight couples doing so. Cáceres saw a resurgence of hate speech aimed at homosexuals in the city. One of the consequences of that is that it prevented high school girls from coming out of the closet out of fear of social marginalization.

Lesbians in rural Castilla – La Mancha faced triple discrimination in the late 2010s and early 2020s.  They were discriminated for being women’s sole purpose was to procreate or fulfill men’s sexual desires, because of their sexual orientation and because rural life made their situations particularly difficult.

In the late 2010s in Valencia, some lesbians were accused of being transphobic for declaring that they were lesbians.  This surprised some of them because lesbians were being killed for their sexuality in places around the world, and being unable to name their orientation because of potential accusations of transphobia meant they could not do activism work to aid those women being persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation.

For some lesbians in the late 2010s, labels like lesbian and feminist or even migrant were just that, labels.  They were not hierarchical in nature, and were not core to identities.  Instead, they informed activism on a personal and political level.

2016 hate crime data

According to 2017 Observatorio Madrileño contra la homofobia, transfobia y bifobia report, there were 240 LGBT hate crimes with 316 victims in the Comunidad de Madrid in 2016. 93% of the aggressors were men. Gay men were 71% of the victims with lesbians and transwomen the second most with 13% each. Lesbians were one of the groups least likely to report such crimes, with only 18% of victims doing so. That compared with transgender people at 30% and gay men 25%. 185 of the incidents occurred in Madrid capital, with incidents taking place elsewhere as well. When trying to correct for the under reporting, the likely total of LGTB hate crimes was actually likely 307 against gay men, 57 against lesbians and 53 against trans.

A study was conducted of the attitudes of adolescents in rural Ourense in 2017 by Yolanda Rodríguez-Castro and Patricia Alonso-Ruido towards homosexuality with a sample size of 150 and a median age of 15.9 years. It found that boys were more homophobic than girls, but that boys were more tolerant of lesbians than male homosexuals because of their own internalized sexist notions and the eroticization of lesbians in pornography. Girls were more likely to have a greater level of personal discomfort around lesbians than boys. This is in part because these girls too believe, as a result of pornography, that lesbians are kinky and highly sexual.

In honor of LGBT Book Day on 1 April 2017, Arcópoli published a study on LGB cultural preferences and experiences in the Comunidad de Madrid. It found among the 18 to 44 year old lesbian, gay and bisexual population, they had more free time than other Madrileños, despite going out to bars, cafes, restaurants and churches at the same rates as the rest of the region’s population. The LGB population was more likely to go to museums, libraries, bookstores, discotheques and hairdressers than other populations in the city. The LGB community also read way more than the rest of the population and consumed different media than the general population. The LGB community preferred cinema and books more than the general population who preferred television, radio and videos. The LGB community found it difficult to find media in the city to consume that featured LGB themes in books, magazines, radio and television programs, video games, movies and art exhibitions. Books were the most accessible form of media to find representation of LGB communities.

Bones of Contention was a 2017 documentary by filmmaker Andrea Weiss. The film, focusing more attention on gay men like Federico García Lorca, described everyday life for gays and lesbians during the Franco period.

A March 2018 preview of the film The Best Day of My Life was held at Cines Calloa that was attended by Manuela Carmena and the film’s director Fernando González Molina. One of the stories told was that of Ugandan lesbian activist Ruth Muganzi. In her country, being a lesbian can result in up to seven years in prison and where others can murder lesbians with impunity.

Starting around 2018, there began to be an increase in homophobic aggression and attacks in places around Galicia, both in more urban and rural areas. This pattern continued into and during the pandemic period.

A 2018 study of rural secondary school student attitudes towards lesbians in Castilla – La Mancha 83.7% would accept their best friend telling them she was a lesbian and that it would not change their relationship with her.  9.0% said it probably would not change their relationship with their best friend, while 1.3% said they would probably end the friendship and 3% said they did not know how they would react.  The remaining 3% did not answer the question.

Así Es by Victorina Duran was published in 2018, twenty-five years after her death.  The work to publish it was done by Idoia Murga and Carmen Gaitán, who recovered it from the Duran’s archives.  The book, along with two other autobiographical works, was never published during her lifetime and, unlike Fortún’s Oculto sendero, did not appear to circulate covertly among lesbians in the Franco period.

In 2018, Isabel Coixet’s English language adaptation of the story of Elisa and Marcela’s 1901 lesbian marriage won three Goya Awards, Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars. Coixet was repeatedly asked in media interviews why she wanted to create a film depicting two women getting married, a type of event that male directors featuring male story likes such as the Battle of Dunkirk, are never asked despite both events involving heroic actions by the participants. In May 2019, Coixet started filming a Spanish language version of the couple’s story for a television series.

Festival ELLA took place in Palma in from 30 August to 6 September 2018, with more than 1,400 lesbians participating.  The event was mostly an opportunity for lesbians to share space together, to exchange opinions, to learn about fertility treatments and to have fun.  It was attended by women from France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Latin America and Australia.  The event was not connected to any feminist movement, but rather its director seeing a gap in the tourist market with little being offered to lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen. playa de Can Pastilla hosted some events related to the event, including yoga and beach volleyball. The La dama de Ella bar held a session by a fertility clinic.

Contemporary art educator Pepa López and her French girlfriend were looking for a room to rent in a shared home in Madrid in December 2018.  At one place they looked, the couple were told that while the owner is not homophobic, lesbianism seemed dangerous to him and he did not want his son to see two women living together. Her tweet showing the text message interaction with the owner went viral.

A bunch of stickers were left on street signs in the barrio of Retiro in October 2018 that said, “Orgullosos de no ser como vosotros” with a giant no symbol over a rainbow flag and a silhouette of a man, woman and child in white below.  The stickering efforts were widely condemned by LGBT organizations.  It was not the first time the stickers and ones similar to them had appeared, having also been found on Calle de la Puebla near COGAM’s offices in June 2018 during Orugullo.  They also reappeared in late July 2018, coinciding with MADO 2018 in Ciudad Universitaria, Chueca and Plaza de España.

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.

The Comunidad de Madrid saw a drop in the number of LGBT hate incidents in 2019, the first drop in a number of years. The total of 321 incidents was 24 fewer than 2018. Most of the incidents occurred at night, and either at on public thoroughfare or in a habitual residence. 22 of the cases took place on public transport, 6 at religious buildings, four at medical centers, five at secondary schools and three at universities. Most of the incidents were forms of verbal aggression at 83, with 35 involving physical assaults. Of the physical assaults, twelve occurred within a family. 19.4% of the victims were lesbians, the second largest group behind gay men at 68.1%.

A lesbophobic attack took place around 8:00 pm on 9 March 2019 at Calle Goya, 17, in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid. A lesbian couple named Capucine and Celia were walking in the area and looking at shop windows when a portero came out and told them to leave the area, saying, “que os larguéis de aquí, que este no es un sitio para daros el lote, guarras”.  When they questioned why they had to leave as it was an area with shops, the man kept calling them sluts and telling them to go. Celia told him that he would have to call the cops if he wanted them to leave because it was a public area and they had the right to be there.  The man responded by telling them they would suck his balls, and calling them sluts and degenerates.  Despite others witnessing the event, none stepped forward to stop his aggressive behavior. Celia then made a rude gesture towards the man, which he responded to by threatening to punch her.  After that, the couple went to a nearby shop where Capucine had a panic attack.  The couple went to the police to denounce the man, but since there was no physical element to the abuse and no death threats, the complaint came to nothing.

In July 2019, a lesbian couple were verbally and physically assaulted in Barcelona in Sant Martí in front of their children, with the male assailant allegedly grabbing one of the children under the age of 10 and asking them how they can belong to a homoparental family. People in the immediate area tried to intervene in the incident to protect the mothers and their children until the Guàrdia Urbana arrived. The family required psychological attention as a result of the incident.

Also that month, a pair of girls, one of whom is named Carla Gallén, who had been kissing on the metro in Barcelona were accosted by a woman, shouting at them, “You disgust me. I also have a queer brother and he does not French kiss in front of me because it disgusts me and he has respect for me.”[1] The woman also tried to take away their phones during her tirade. Only one female observer tried to intervene during the incident, and only when the aggressor tried to take away their phones; the other passengers just silently observed the incident.

Gijon hosted the XVI Rosario de Acuña Feminist School in early July 2019, with the title “Feminist Politics, Liberties and Identities”. The school found itself under attack from organizations such as the International Foundation for Human Rights as a result of hosting speeches with titles such as “The trivialization of feminism and patriarchal trap”, “The erasure of women and the appropriation of lesbianism”, “Post-gender feminism and sexual transidentity” and “Feminism and Diversity”. While lesbianism played only a small role in a broader attack against the conference for alleged transphobia, it demonstrated that lesbian interests were more clearly aligning with feminists goals instead of broad homosexual and transgender right organizations in mid-2019, especially with Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais. Trans y Bisexuales (FELGTB) siding with trans activists instead of lesbians who participated and supported the school.

A 2019 study of the police and armed forces in Melilla by C. Sánchez-Herrera found there were 8 lesbians in the armed forces in the city and 0 in the civilian personnel. The latter was despite the fact that there were 22 men compared 79 women. 7 identified as bisexual and 2 as gay. The armed forces comparatively had 17 gay men and 8 bisexuals. Members of the armed forces generally had a positive view of the LGBT community. Lesbians and gays had the lowest approval rate, with transgender people having the highest perception. In 2020 and 2021, there were no lesbian bars in Melilla or Ceuta. There are no historical references to lesbian bars ever existing in those cities.

The eighth edition of the Nuestra de Cine Lésbico was held at Cineteca Matadero from 23 to 26 May 2019. Among the films screened were Tell It To The Bees, Carmen y Lola, Rafiki, Cloudburst, Las Hijas del Fuego, Lesbofobia, Cárceles Bolleras, Small Talk and La Vida de Adele. The film festival was organized by Fundación Triángulo.

A study published in January 2020 in Social Psychology and Personality Science led by Maria Laura Bettensoli of New York University in Abu Dhabi of attitudes towards homosexuality in 23 countries found that there was a greater aversion to homosexual men in Spain than homosexual women, though not as divergent between the two groups as countries that are more openly homophonic. The study also found that Spain was the western country studied with the greatest overall tolerance to homosexuals in general, with Russia being the worst. In Spain, and other countries sampled, the aversion to lesbians comes in large part because lesbians violate traditionally established gender roles. Spain followed the trend of all but three other countries where intolerance of female homosexuality was most pronounced by other women.

A May 2020 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 45% of lesbians in Spain who did not conceal their orientation faced discrimination in either working, housing, education, health or employment.  This contrasted to 63% of transexuals, 38% of bisexuals and 37% of homosexual men.

Lesbians looking to use dating apps in the early 2020s had difficulties as most were dominated by transwomen, making finding other women difficult to use on those services. There were no online dating platforms in Spain for lesbians that were exclusively for female sexed individuals.

[1] Spanish: “Me dais asco. Yo también tengo un hermano maricón y no se come la boca delante de mí porque me da asco y me tiene respeto”.

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