History of Pride in Madrid: Spanish democratic transition (1975 – 1982)

The early Democratic Transition activists faced a series of challenges. Early media discussion in the very immediate post-Franco period still saw homosexuality as a medical or psychological issue. If the media viewed homosexuals as having any rights limited in their reporting as a result of the current laws, it was the basic human rights of gays and lesbians. The civil, social and political rights of homosexuals were not considered. The Spanish media also failed to make any distinction between sexual orientation and sexual politics. Lesbians were assimilated into reporting on feminism, and all feminists were suspected of being lesbians.  This climate created a situation where media coverage of early Pride events was limited and biased. More reliable sources are firsthand accounts, which are harder to come by. [1]

            The history of the dictatorship meant that gays and lesbians were not treated the same by the state, and each group faced sex specific persecution.  Early lesbian activists often focused more on state persecution of them as women before their persecution as homosexuals; the state tended to institutionalize women and use extra-judicial means to punish women for their same-sex attraction or hide prosecution of female homosexuality by charging lesbians for crimes like prostitution instead.  In contrast, gay men and to a different degree transsexuals were specifically and intentionally prosecuted using the 1970 Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation, even after Franco’s death. One of the early homosexual political demands in the transition period was to repeal the 1970 Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation, an effort largely driven by homosexual men which increased their visibility in the media.[2]

            With early homosexual rights activists dispersed across different parts of the city, a lack of a cohesive and unifying organizing body, with government opposition to their demands and still lacking the legal right to march and self-organize, the early Pride marches in the late 1970s took place at Menéndez Pelayo, the Casa de Campo or the Paseo Pintor Rosales.[3]

            With Franco having died only seven months and five days prior, lesbians once again took to the streets on their traditional route along Calle Preciados to Puerta del Sol, on 25 June 1976. Victoria Virtudes, who had participated in the marches before Franco’s death, was once again present. At one of the early marches, people threw eggs at Virtudes and other lesbians while calling them marimachos.

            The first “official” pride march in Madrid in the post-Franco era took place on 25 June 1977, about 18 months after Franco’s death and not long after the Barcelona march which is traditionally considered Spain’s first Pride march. Radical feminists and lesbians were part of the march. Despite a desire for visibility, many were fearful of misogyny and stayed at the middle or back of the march. Empar Pineda was among the women participating, holding a banner at the during the march. Pineda went on to become one of the cofounders of Colectivo de Feministas Lesbianas de Madrid (CFLM). Victoria Virtudes, who had marched in the Franco era lesbian organized Christropher Street Liberation Day marches, also was present.

            Barcelona had led the way nationally in holding a Gay and Lesbian Liberation Day march in June 1977, and in having played a more central role in visible homosexual life during Francoism. Their march on Las Ramblas saw protesters attacked by the police. One of the consequences following this was that a number of activists started to fear the police less and less as they saw them in action; they better understood the police response in the post-Franco era as a result and had a better idea of how the police would respond. Consequently, activists were less afraid to be visible, which helped spur further protests in other cities, including Madrid later that month, and across Spain in 1978.[4]

            Frente de Liberación Homosexual de Castilla (FLHOC) convened the first officially recognized and permitted Gay and Lesbian Liberation Day march in the city on 25 June 1978, with sources conflicting about the exact route taken, with one day a route along from Calle de O’Donnell to Torre de Valencia, a second saying the march went from Calle de O’Donnell and along Avenida Menéndez Pelayo to Plaza Mariano de Cavia and a third saying it went from Plaza de Santo Domingo to Puerta del Sol. Estimates for the number of marchers are conflicting. One put the attendance at 4,000, with another at 7,000 and third at 10,000 people. Many came out to march specifically to demand the Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social be struck from law, something that eventually happened in December of that year. Lesbians represented an important group of participants. [5]

            The actor and environmental activist Ramón Linaza, along with actor Carlos Patiño whom Linaza later married, were two of those in charge of requesting permission from the corresponding government authority on behalf of FHLOC. Alonso Puerta, then the PSOE Deputy Mayor of Madrid and a deputy from the PSUC-PCE accompanied them as homosexual rights organizations were not yet legal. Despite representatives from PSOE and PCE going with them to seek a march permit, neither political party sent representatives to the march itself.

            Halfway through the 1978 Pride march in Madrid, a minute of silence was observed for Esmeralda la Francesa, a homosexual man / transsexual women who had committed suicide in 1976 by throwing themselves through a hole in a gallery located on the fifth floor of the Carabanchel prison.[6]

            The police were very nervous during the march. At some point, a smoke canister was thrown at marchers during the demonstration and while people screamed and shouted, it ultimately did not disrupt the march much.[7]

            Vito Virtudes continued her support for these marches by attending the 1978 edition. At the time, she was surprised at how many people turned out, thinking only four or five people would turn but and was surprised when several thousand actually did. For her, it was a date when she declared her freedom. Virtudes was at the front with the Frente de Liberación Homosexual de Castilla banner.

            Not just for Virtudes but for many other homosexuals in Madrid, the march that year was a turning point for the LGTB community in Spain. It went from a fight for sexual liberation to the fight for rights.

The 1970 Ley sobre peligrosidad y rehabilitación social was officially amended on 26 December 1978 with the phrase “those who perform acts of homosexuality” being removed. The change was published in the BOE on 11 January 1979. This change was one of the biggest demands of primarily male homosexuals, transsexuals and transvestites at Pride to date, resulting in about half splitting off as their major political demand had been realized. [8]

            Despite the improvement in law, there were still a number of reasons for gay men to demonstrate against the state. Reasons included prohibiting the Jornadas de Liberación Sexual from taking place at the centro cultural de Prosperidad, massive raids against gay bars and clubs in Barcelona, Bilbao and to a lesser degree in Madrid and the government enforced closure of several gay venues like Oclock, Marilyn, Sacha’s and Otello’s. [9] Lesbians continued to have their political goals they sought to have accomplished by marching at Pride that were often separate from the goals of gay men, with the biggest one being the desire to become visible, stepping out of the shadow of gay men’s organizations and follow their own paths, and using Pride as part of that. Gay men were also somewhat eager to get lesbians out of their space, with FLHOC encouraging lesbians to join Grupo de Mujeres del FLHOC founded in 1979 instead of the main organization.

            FLHOC convened Pride again in 1979, setting the date for 25 June at the agricultural pavilion in Casa de Campo, arranging several speakers to arranged in an attempt to raise awareness of issues in the homosexual community and organizing music for the event. After that, a private party had been intended to take place. One 13 June, their permit request was officially denied, with the civil government saying, “The street environment is not for demonstrations.”[10] They also cited as part of their denial that the protest would cause too many problems with traffic, despite the fact that the organizers had not indicated how long they planned the march to last. The situation that played out in Madrid was the inverse to what happened in Barcelona, with that march not being permitted in 1978 but being permitted in 1979. [11]

            Despite the denial, FLHOC decided to go ahead with the march at the same location. By this time, the media was referring to the day as “día del orgullo gay”. A far-right youth group, which included men armed with pistols, disrupted the event. One man was hit on the head and seriously injured.[12]

            This period in the late 1970s and early 1980s would see support from feminists groups for Pride events in the city.  This included Coordinadora de Grupos Marginados de Madrid, and its members FLM, MMLL along with FHAR and Mercurio.

            The start of the 1980s saw major changes in Pride, with the number of participants greatly dropping off as a result of some political goals being accomplished relatively early in the democratic transition, resulting in the demobilization of large numbers of gay men. The number of marchers would remain in the hundreds for most of the decade. This collapse in Madrid was further fueled by the arrival of HIV/ AIDS because of its impact on the gay community and the homophobia confronting them. It confined the visibility of gay men to a very narrow window while completely invisibilizing lesbians. [13]

            The leadership gap around Pride was largely filled by lesbians, especially with regards to Colectivo de Feministas Lesbianas de Madrid (CFLM) and its members. They would remain at the forefront of organizing Pride until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some women left the women’s group of FLHOC and, along with other lesbians, went on to found CFLM in January 1981. This marked a turning point for lesbian activism in the city, as they largely abandoned mixed spaces for the feminist movement, where they created a more organized lesbian activist movement. [14]

            Lesbians pushed boundaries with Pride, moving the protest from centro to Vallecas where they thought getting a permit would be easier than it had been in the late 1970s. They also brought a decidedly feminist, sometimes radical feminist, perspective to Pride that had been absent from it before. Lesbian militants involved with organizing or attending Pride in the 1980s included Cristina Garaizábal, Pilar Albarsanz, Empar Pineda, Coral Cano and Mayka Contreras.[15]

            CFLM had three objectives in their early years. The first was the defense of lesbianism inside the feminist movement as a normal, legitimate sexual option. The second was to help other lesbians to live their lives with pride. The third was to spread their ideas. Pineda said of this early period, “We were firmly convinced that with this we would win all women and that the feminist movement would be more liberating than it already wanted or pretended to be.” [16]

            In the context of Pride in the city, lesbian political demands during the 1980s included issues like demands for custody of children, access to artificial insemination in public health, the macho tensions within the LGTB community and biphobia. Behind the scenes, lesbians involved with organizing Pride were debating a number of issues like lesbian separatism, and whether they should be lesbian feminists or feminist lesbians. [17]

            By the late-1980s, the crisis around HIV / AIDS had changed as the epidemic spread across the country. In some places and in some contexts, it began to heal the rift that had emerged between gay men and lesbians around differing homosexual political goals. The redevelopment of mixed homosexual spaces began to be reflected at Pride in this period, with participation rates of gay men slowly increasing later in the decade. Around this time, Pride made what was more or less a permanent move to Centro and Chueca with routes that started around Calle Pelayo and ended around Calle Fuencarral; the main march would stay in Centro and other events were organized by smaller groups or as supplemental events for those living in other districts on the periphery. Pride in Madrid began to take a more festive note as the decade progressed, especially as more events began to take place before and after the march. [18]

            1980 would be the last time that the city’s Pride march would not be authorized, with such an event not occurring against until 2020 as a result of the COVID pandemic. FAGC was finally legalized because of changes in law allowing homosexual rights group to be registered with the government but their importance was on the wane by 1980, with politically active lesbians who had joined forced with Spain’s feminists taking their place. The march was important, as it was a coming out moment for gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Chueca where many had been living on the margins, among drug users and a handful of gay bars. Despite this, the repeal of Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social in late 1978 continued to be a factor in reducing participation numbers from their height in in 1977 and 1978, with only around 600 people participating. [19]

            Sources conflict as to the route used in 1980. One source says the route was only 150 meters long and went from Plaza de Santo Domingo to Puerta del Sol. [20] Another source says route went along Paseo de Rosales. Reports said that marchers were insulted by some spectators. Whatever the route, the major political issue of the year was anger over plans by UCD to reform the Codigo Penal in ways that would not fully decriminalize homosexuality.  Unión para la Liberación de la Mujer,  Asamblea de Mujeres de Madrid, Comisión pro Derecho al aborto de Madrid, Colectivo de Madres Solteras and Centros de Mujeres de Vallecas, Zona Este and Cuatro Caminos all participated in Pride in 1980 and 1981.

            Colective de Feministas Lesbianas de Madrid (CFLM) formally arrived on the scene as a co-convener alongside FLHOC of Pride in 1981. Having changed locations for a route going along Avenida de la Albufera to Puente de Vallecas to Portazgo, organizers secured a permit to march, only the third time in history with marches going back to 1973. Pride went ahead on 25 June 1981 for two hours with around one thousand people participating and a motto of “No to the imposition of the heterosexual norm.”[21] Lesbians were marchers had their own specific slogans, including, “There is no lesbian liberation without women’s liberation.” [22] Some women marchers wore shirts that said things like, “Women, fight for your rights!”[23] with a fist in the middle the circle for the female symbol. Lesbians also made the triangle symbol representing vulva with their hands. The march was the culmination of the Fiesta de la Libertad Sexual, which was open to anyone in the community and took place at Cine Olimpia. Musical acts La Romántica Banda Local and Clavel y Jazmín performed as part of the event. [24]

            For the second year in a row, Pride was co-convened by CFLM and FLHOC with a route running along the Puente de Vallecas-Avenida de la Albufera-Portazgo axis. Around three hundred people participated on 25 June 1982, including lesbians wearing shirts featuring Venus symbol with a clenched fist. Midway through the marc, the protesters were confronted by the police around Avenida de la Albufera, 46 with the unusual request of changing the permitted route mid-march. [25]

            Groups participating in the official celebration of International Lesbian and Gay Liberation Day in 1982 included CFLM, Asamblea de mujeres, Asamblea de mujeres de universidad, Comisión pro derecho al aborto, Organización de mujeres de los Barrios de Aluche, Canillas, Carabanchel, Getafe, Leganés, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Alcobendas y Vallecas. Various activities took place from 23 to 27 June.

[1] (Osborne, 2006)

[2] (Osborne, 2006)

[3] (Cores, 2017)

[4] (Serrano, 2019)

[5] (Vázquez Fernández, 2020; Jana, 2020; Santaeulalia, 2011)

[6] (de la Cruz, 2021)

[7] (Ander, 2021)

[8] Invalid source specified.

[9] (Carrasco, 1979)

[10] Spanish: «El ambiente de la calle no está para manifestaciones.»

[11] (Carrasco, 1979)

[12] (Medialdea, 2018; Carrasco, 1979)

[13] (Villena Espinosa, 2020)

[14] (Goicoechea Gaona, Clavo Sebastián, & Álvarez Terán, 2019)

[15] (Santaeulalia, 2011)

[16] (Goicoechea Gaona, Clavo Sebastián, & Álvarez Terán, 2019)

[17] (Villena Espinosa, 2020)

[18][18] (Fernández, 2018; García J. , 2020)

[19] (Santaeulalia, 2011)

[20] (Santaeulalia, 2011)

[21] Spanish: No a la imposición de la norma heterosexual.

[22] Spanish: No hay liberación de la lesbiana sin liberación de la mujer.

[23] Spanish: Mujeres lucha por tus derechos.

[24][24] (Cores, 2017; Sainz, 2018; ValledelKas, 2017)

[25] (Sainz, 2018)

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