History of Pride in Madrid: Socialist government of Felipe González (1982 – 1996)

Spain held general elections on 28 October 1982, ushering in a government run by PSOE’s Felipe González that lasted until the party was voted out in the 1996 elections. The party’s election following a mainstream modern social democratic campaign is widely considered to be the end of the democratic transition period, ushering in a new era in Spanish politics.

            The first debate around homosexuality took place on TVE on 1 July 1983. Such a debate had first been announced that it would take place five years earlier.[1] Despite this, disunity within the homosexual rights community was present by 1983 and had an impact on Pride in Madrid and elsewhere around Spain.[2]

            New conveners of Pride appeared on the scene in 1983, with Grupo de Acción por la Liberación Homosexual (GALHO) and Asamblea Gai de Madrid (AGAMA) organizing Pride that year. Both were gay rights movement organizations, and both disappeared within two years as the movement dealt with ideological rivalries and personalities that tore it apart. Despite the conveners being male dominated, lesbians took part and were actively involved in the march. It seems likely that the route was either in Vallecas or returned to Centro.

            ILGA dedicated 1984 as the year of worldwide action, something lesbians in CFLM and Madrid tried to do. That year Pride was again convened by CLFM with support from a number of feminist organizations that had been involved in 1982, when CFLM previously organized Pride. Organizations supporting the march included Union de Mujeres Feministas de los Barrios of Quintana, Malasaña, Barrio del Pilar, Vallecas, Carabanchel, Aluche, Aguilas and Peublo Vallecas, along with Grupo de Feministas Independenientes de Madrid, Asamblea Cultural de Mujeres Manuel Malasaña, Comision Pro Derecho al Aborto de Madrid, Secretaria de la Mujer CCOO and Comision Antimilitarista del Movimiento Feminista. The march itself took place at 8:00 PM on 18 June along the Puente de Vallecas-Avenida de la Albufera-Portazgo axis that had been used twice before. Lesbians marched and celebrated on the day because they believed it was important to do so specifically because they were lesbians. The poster for the march had a conspicuous absence also found during the march: gay men.[3] 

            A number of activities were organized by CFLM around Pride that year, including an international round table about feminism and lesbianism on 19 June 1984. Participants included American Kate Millet, Greek Tasia Jatzi and CFLM member Montserrat Olivan. It took place at the Salon de Actos of the Ministerio de Sanidad at Paseo del Prado, 18 y 20.[4] In honor of Pride, Empar Pineda wrote a piece that was published in El País titled, “La dictadura del heterosexismo”[5].[6]

            Little information is known about Pride in 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1992. Generally, at this time, the Pride march took place on the last Sunday in June, though sometimes the second to last Sunday in June. These marches are only spoken about in generalities like the route was “de la plaza de Santo Domingo hasta Sol” and that very few people attended them. They are also heavily associated with lesbians, and it seems likely they were convened or co-convened by CFLM. [7]

            Pride again convened by CFLM in 1986 with Grupo Anti-SIDA as a co-convener. The representative for the march said in the ten years since Spain had become a democracy, very little had been to improve the lives of lesbians and gays. The march denounced the discrimination suffered by homosexuals serving in the military.[8]

            Timed with Pride in June 1986, Partido Comunista de España celebrated the Jornadas sobre la cuestión homosexual, an event organized by Comisión Gay and the Área de Movimientos Sociales del Comité Central.[9]

            Pride was convened by COGAM for the first time in 1987, with COGAM as the sole conveners. It is another year where little is known of the exact march route as during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Pride march had a quasi-clandestine route that generally ended in a central location like Puerta del Sol. What is known is the route did actually end in Puerta del Sol as that year was the start of a regular tradition for a number of years of ending the march with a kissing event as an act of protest of the 19 September 1986 arrest of a lesbian couple arrested there for the same reason and accused of creating a public scandal. [10]

            COGAM, the major LGBTQI+ organization and institutional representative in Madrid, came out of Coordinadora de Frentes de Liberación Homosexual del Estado Español (COFLHEE) and was formally established in 1988 after emerging as an idea following a seminar in Chueca in 1986. COGAM and CFLM decided to organize a joint celebration of Pride in Madrid in 1988, intending the partnership to be a one-off collaboration but one that in actuality would continue for a couple more years. Within a few years, COGAM took over management of Pride in Madrid. While lesbians were members of COGAM, they were largely relegated to the background.

            Taking place on 28 June 1988, around one hundred people marched on a route taking place from Plaza de Callao to Puerta del Sol via Calle de Preciados before participants finally dispersed into Chueca. Gays and lesbians continued their political demands that year, asking that the law discriminating against same-sex sexual behavior in the Spanish Penal Code be amended. Compared to previous events, it was a more festive affair with brass brand marching the route. There was also a kissing event at Puerta del Sol to protest the persecution of homosexuals by society and denounce the “persecución de la sociedad”.[11]

            1988 was an important turning point for Pride nationally. Regional LGTB groups began to meet and try to coordinate their Pride celebrations, including shared mottos and themes. These national meetings would eventually be taken over by FELGT in the early 1990s and continue into the present, with Madrid’s Pride celebration having a huge influence on smaller marches and celebrations both because of the motto and the attempt to coordinate bringing in gays, lesbians and transgender people from across the country to Madrid’s celebration.[12]

            While gay and lesbian activists made their voices heard in the late 1980s, transactivist have criticized Pride in this period for excluding transwomen, engaging in transmisogyny and being largely focused on lesbian feminism. Lesbians disagreed, saying their need for visibility and the need to combat sexism in the homosexual rights movement was why they were being so militant.

            The 1990s would bring a cultural shift to Pride events around Spain, as many started to become commercialized, an occurrence that further accelerated into the 2000s. This was not done without criticism, especially from lesbians and feminists who saw that nature of that commercialism meaning segments of the LGTB community like lesbians would be excluded because Pink Capitalism almost exclusively focused on gay men.

            Commercialization of Pride helped to further the rift between two major segments in Spain and Madrid’s lesbian communities. Some lesbians became even more autonomous as a political group in the 1990s; lesbian departure from Pride was accelerated as main stream feminists left lesbians behind, wanting to explicitly focus on the needs and concerns of heterosexual women without the need to challenge problematic gender norms that lesbians found repressive. Some lesbians responded to the commercialization and increasingly male focused Pride by aligning themselves more closely with gay men, leaving some of their lesbian sisters in the cold politically and socially and setting the scene for queer feminism which would cause ruptures in lesbian circles starting in the 2000s. This re-alignment with gay men instead of feminists was the reactivation in part of the historical alliance dating back to the earliest part of the democratic transition; it was in part a result of changes in how the homosexual community had shifted its approach to the AIDS epidemic during the early 1990s.[13]

            The commercialization of Orgullo and the shift towards queer feminism by some lesbians, along with adopting a pro-sex, anti-prohibitionist viewpoint meant by the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was a difficult period for lesbian bolerra militants. These challenges were made even more difficult by the fact that state feminism also started to make the shift from traditional feminism to queer feminism, leaving a segment of lesbians feeling bereft of state support and institutional feminism to address their specific needs as women and homosexuals.

            Lesbians were not the only member of the collective having issues with Pride. Starting in the early 1990s, transsexuals began organizing their own Orgullo events in Madrid and Barcelona as they felt like Pride did not address their political needs. Their major political demand at the time was that social security system should pay for sex-change operations. [14]

            Splits in the feminist community were not always translated over to Pride in the early 1990s. Feminist groups like CS Seco de Pacífico and Grupo de Mujeres Doble X mobilized to support Pride in Madrid in the early 1990s despite their opposition to institutional feminism based around Calle de Barquillo.

            CFLM continued to convene Pride in the first few years of the decade, doing so alongside COGAM. As the decade progressed, CFLM disappeared from Pride and the city, with its militants joining an intermediary before finally fully integrating into a women’s section of COGAM. For its part, COGAM had lesbian members during this period but the bulk of them were largely relegated to the background.

            Chueca began to play an increasingly important role in Pride starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With marches now taking place in Centro near Sol and Gran Vía, people slipped into Chueca after Pride marches where they flooded local bars and clubs. By the mid-1990s, businesspeople in Chueca started organizing festive events to coincide with the march. [15]

            Pride in this period was not without potential safety concerns. Marches in Centro in rarely saw traffic cut off for whole streets like Calle de Alcalá. Sometimes, the local government just cut off the bus lane for use by marchers and the buses overtook protesters. These marchers were not well attended, sometimes with only a few people but more media who took photos and risked outing people who were already marginalized and making their situation worse. After these marches in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some people opted to go to Parque Retiro instead of Chueca to relax.[16]

            Pride continued to be a small event in 1991 though larger than a number of marches in the previous decade, with between five hundred and one thousand people taking part in the CFLM and COGAM convened event. Despite an improved legal situation for gays and lesbians, homophobia continued to be a problem across Spanish society. To explicitly send a problem that homophobia was an ongoing problem, protesters wore masks to send a message that they needed to hide their homosexuality in order to avoid homophobic reactions in their daily lives.[17]

            The October 1991 murder of the transsexual Sonia Rescalvo at the hands of neo-Nazis in Parque de la Ciudadelain Barcelona was difficult for all members of the collective in Spain at the time as it made them feel less safe. That feeling of insecurity raised he importance of Pride for many in 1992 as members of the LGTB community felt a need to assert themselves and make themselves visible in the face of potential violence. [18]

            An event that would have a huge impact on Pride in Madrid and Spain took place in 1992, with the founding of FELG by COGAM and Comité Reivindicativo y Cultural de Lesbianas (CRECUL) in April 1992. COGAM did this after breaking with COLFHEE. Armand de Fluviá served as the group’s first president in what was originally supposed to be a rotating gay and lesbian presidency. The new organization would get involved within a few years in organizing Pride and helping to coordinate Pride activities around Spain. [19]

            Inside COGAM, gay men and lesbians like Mili Hernández wanted to move Pride away from activism and feminism by 1992, wanting to change the face of Pride and make it an event where non-militant lesbians and gays could participate and have fun, while also helping organizers recoup costs and also increase sponsorship opportunities.

            Little is known about Pride in 1992 outside the background of which it took place. Similar information is lacking about Pride in 1993. Five hundred people or so attended the 1993 edition of Pride, with a route that went from Plaza de Tirso Molina to Puerta del Sol. [20]

            Participation rates in Pride on 28 June 1994 was similar to the previous year, with between five hundred and one thousand people taking part in a route that started in Plaza de Tirso Molina and again ended in Puerta del Sol. A special commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots took place, which did little to increase the number of people taking part. Meanwhile in New Work City, there were around 750,000 people in their Pride march.[21] Still, the included the recognition of an important turning point in the battle for relationship equality, being the first one after unmarried couples were allowed to register in some places as civil union. As a result, the march was led by a delegation from Vitoria. Among those participating in the 1994 march were COGAM, CFLM, Radical Gay, Asamblea de mujeres de la complutense and LSD. Following the march, people flocked to Chueca for an impromptu party. After the 1994 march, Mili Hernández told COGAM that the march in Madrid needed to be held on a weekend as most people could not attend it on a weekday.[22]

            Mili Hernández attended the Pride march in New York City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the march in 1994. She had organized a trip through the Berkana bookstore she founded. The Spanish delegation she took included Hernández García, Mar de Griñó and 16 other people. They were joined by Jordi Petit, Isabel Castro and others. The Spanish delegation in the march had a banner that said, “Gays, lesbianas y transexuales de España”. It was written on pillowcases from the hotel room they were staying in. [23]

            A rainbow flag was brought back from New York City to Madrid in 1994. The local homosexual rights activists were initially hesitant to use it in Spain at the 1994 march because they viewed it as a Yankee symbol. Homosexual rights groups were still using pink triangles and lambda letters that soon would be banished. [24]

            Going into Pride 1995, organizers had decided moved the march away from the Stonewall date of 28 June to a weekend in order to try to increase participation by hosting it on a weekend in late June or early July, scheduling it for Saturday 24 June of that year. COGAM, the event conveners, also asked for a change in route, which the government accepted. This route with a starting point at Puerta de Alcalá and ending point at Puerta del Sol would be the route used each year until 2003. The route important because the streets representing symbolically important space in the city. For the first time, organizers made a point of trying to make all three members of the collective visible, gays, lesbians and transsexuals. Sound speakers and commercial sponsors were also introduced as part of the goal to expand the appeal of Pride beyond homosexual rights and feminist militants. [25]

            Estimates for participation at Pride in 1995 ranged from 1,200 to 2,000 to 4,000 or 5,000. This was still small compared to other cities like New York City and London, with London having 50,000 turn out that year to make similar political demands to their counterparts in Madrid. The small numbers were used by some politicians to dismiss gay rights activist as a class worthy of fighting for; they were viewed as lacking visibility. [26]

            The 1995 march featured four drag queens who bathed in the fountains in Puerta del Sol. Protesters demanded marriage rights. Some of the slogans on signs said, “Si no entiendes por lo menos comprende” y “Compartimos casa y techo sin un triste derecho”. Another banner read, “Nos Amamos y Queremos Casarnos.” Pictures of the event show men outnumbering women by at least a ratio of two to one. Large rainbow flags were carried by participants in order to make the space seem more filled with people and Pride seem more well attended. This was a tactic intentionally employed by COGAM from 1995 until around 2003, with the rainbow flag in at least one case being at least 50 meters long. COGAM also employed using large number of balloons to occupy space. [27]

            Promoting Pride and participating in Pride was not risk free. A group of gay men were distributing posters for Pride in 1995 near Metro Moncloa, an activity they intentionally did in groups as they knew the barrio could be hostile towards gays. During one such postering session in that area in 1995, a member of the group was stabbed.[28]

            One group that would play an active and important role in the 1990s in terms or providing art for Pride in Madrid and elsewhere was Lesbianas Sin Dudas (LSD), a lesbian activist organization, but not in the institutionalized sense. Instead of working from the inside, they worked in challenging political ideas in society. The work of LSD artists often showcased the power of friendship as a motif. The body of work produced by LSD artists also included photographic depictions of lesbians, acknowledging their existence, and challenging a status quo that often denies them visibility. They had participated in Pride the previous year and were back again in 1995.

[1] (moscas de colores, 2014)

[2] (El País, 1983)

[3] (CFLM, 1984; Pineda, 1984)

[4] (CFLM, 1984)

[5] English: The dictatorship of heterosexism.

[6] (Pineda, 1984)

[7] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020; El País, 1986)

[8] (El País, 1986)

[9] (Goicoechea Gaona, Clavo Sebastián, & Álvarez Terán, 2019; García Dauder, 2019; Llamas & Vila, 1999)

[10] (Enguix Grau, “Nos defilamos, nos manifestamos”: Activismis y manifestaciones LGTB en España, 2017)

[11] (Enguix Grau, “Nos defilamos, nos manifestamos”: Activismis y manifestaciones LGTB en España, 2017; moscas de colores, 2014; Medialdea, 2018; Sainz, 2018)

[12] (Caro, La Rioja. Logroño, sede del diálogo plural, 2007)

[13] (Villena Espinosa, 2020)

[14] (Llamas & Vila, 1999)

[15] (Santaeulalia, 2011)

[16] (García Dauder, 2019)

[17] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[18] (Fernández, 2018)

[19] (Enguix Grau, “Nos defilamos, nos manifestamos”: Activismis y manifestaciones LGTB en España, 2017; Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[20] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[21] The reasons for this were complex. Legislative changes in favor of sexual diversity reduced tension and fostered the gradual social change that would come later. Homosexual rights groups had disbanded. HIV and its association with homosexuality was also still a factor

[22] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020; moscas de colores, 2014; Sainz, 2018)

[23] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[24] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[25] (Enguix Grau, “Nos defilamos, nos manifestamos”: Activismis y manifestaciones LGTB en España, 2017; Berzal de Miguel, 2020; Villena Espinosa, 2020)

[26] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[27] (Enguix Grau, “Nos defilamos, nos manifestamos”: Activismis y manifestaciones LGTB en España, 2017; Villena Espinosa, 2020)

[28] (García Dauder, 2019)

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