Culture

This Mexican City Has Grown Into A Major LGBTQ Destination But It Wasn’t Always That Way

The year 1492 was a momentous year for Spanish and Latin American history. Not only is it the year that Christopher Columbus invaded Indigenous lands in the ‘New World’ but it’s also the year that the Spanish drove out Muslims and Jews from Spain.

It also happened to be a big year for homosexuality.

At the time, two Spanish monarchs were believed to have been homosexuals, and that Isabela’s own succession to the thrown had been contested by her notoriously homosexual half brother, Enrique IV, had raised the issue of homosexuality to the forefront of royal and public consciousness.

So when all of this Spanish colonial history converged on present-day Mexico, there were a wide degree of views.

Credit: museonacionalantropologia / Instagram

After the Spanish conquest in 1519, the Spanish Inquisition was established and the Catholic Church dictated most rules regarding society and living, including capital punishment for homosexuals.

Much like the Catholic Spaniards, the Aztecs punished homosexual relationships with death. They placed great importance on masculine ‘macho’ identity and warriors and soldiers were often idolized for their machismo.

While the Mayans, Toltecs and other Indigenous groups accepted third genders and same-sex partnerships as part of their communities. It’s said that they even hosted giant orgies that allowed same-sex relations.

It wasn’t until the intellectual influence of the French Revolution and a brief occupation by the French Empire that same-sex activities were decriminalized.

But the values of strong Catholic influence would take another hundred years to give way to a real LGBT movement. During the 1970s, a new generation of politicians and intellectuals began discussing their sexual preferences openly and promoting the adoption of equality laws that ensured that LGBT Mexicans and foreigners living in the country received the same rights as their heterosexual peers.

Jump forward 500 years, and in many ways, modern Mexico is pretty tolerant of its LGBTQ community – or at least its capital, Mexico City.

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Today, the bustling capital of 20 million people appears to be a LGBTQ sanctuary, with openly-gay couples kissing and holding hands in all parts of the city. The city hosted Latin America’s first Gay Pride Parade in 1979 and it remains one of the world’s largest. And the city has a thriving, internationally popular queer nightlife scene.

The city even has its own LGBTQ district in the Zona Rosa – or Pink Zone. This giant gayborhood is packed full of LGBTQ-oriented shops, support groups, health centers, bars, cafes, and clubs. And it happens to be located in the city’s most popular areas along Paseo Reforma.

Public sentiment is shifting as well. CONAPRED (National Council to Prevent Discrimination) found in 2005 that 70% of Mexican citizens rejected the idea of same-sex marriage. Nowadays, numbers have reversed, and 68% of the population doesn’t see why same-sex couples couldn’t be married.  

Some of Mexico’s greatest icons were members of the LGBTQ community.

Credit: fridakahlo / Instagram

One of the first LGBT activists was Nancy Cárdenas. Cárdenas, writer, actress, and theater director, inspired by the LGBT movements in Europe and the United States, began to direct gatherings of LGBT writers. In 1973 she was the first Mexican to openly discuss her homosexuality on Mexican television and she founded Mexico’s first LGBTQ organization in 1974, the Homosexual Liberation Front (FLH).

Frida Khalo was openly bisexual and had relationships with women while being in the media and married to Diego Rivera. Today, she’s an international icon for not only the LGBTQ community but also Mexicanidad and Chicanos.

Although Juan Gabriel never spoke to the media about his sexuality, many Mexicans consider him an LGBTQ icon who kept his personal life to himself.

But today’s polished image as a gay mecca didn’t come without sacrifice.

Perhaps one of the most famous stories of anti-gay sentiment in Mexico came in 1901 on a raid of a gay bar in central Mexico City. The event today is now called El Baile de Los 41 – or the Dance of the 41. This raid predated the Stonewall Inn uprising by 68 years!

Police illegally raided a private home and arrested (officially) 41 men, 19 of whom were dressed in drag. Rumor has it that though that there was a 42nd man dressed in drag, who happened to be the son-in-law of President Porfirio Diaz.

The Dance of the 41 was such a huge scandal that to this day the number 41 remains taboo. No division, regiment, or battalion of the army is given the number 41. From 40 they progress directly to 42. No payroll has a number 41. Municipal records show no houses with the number 41. No hotel or hospital has a Room 41. Nobody celebrates their 41st birthday, going straight from 40 to 42. No vehicle is assigned a number plate with 41, and no police officer will accept a badge with that number.

At one point, police shut down every single gay bar in the city.

During World War II, Mexico City had a thriving gay nightlife scene with 10-15 gay bars operating around the city. Relative freedom from harassment continued until 1959 when Mayor Ernesto Uruchurtu closed every gay bar following a grisly triple murder.

Motivated by pressure to “clean up vice” and by the lucrativeness of bribes from queer people threatened with arrests, Mexico City’s policemen had a reputation for zeal in persecution of homosexuals.

Even today, the LGBTQ community of Mexico City faces problems that non-queer people can’t even imagine.

Credit: @soyhomosensual / Twitter

Translation: Mexico is one of the countries with the most murders caused by homophobia. There have been 381 members of the LGBT+ community killed in Mexico in just four years.

Widespread corruption and poverty make it difficult for LGBT people from impoverished families to gain access to the same benefits that a wealthy Mexican would. The great divide between rich and poor makes gay life greatly different between individuals of different social classes. While in most cases a wealthy Mexican can have a comfortable out life, poor youths from rural areas can face abandonment and violence after coming out.

Anti-discrimination laws in Mexico are weak at best and are rarely enforced, making it common for queer individuals to face discrimination and exclusion.

While violence against the trans community is the second worst in the world.

Credit: @impulsemx_ / Twitter

Mexico ranks second in homicide rates against transgender and transsexual people, with 56 murders every year. Experts agree that hate, violence, and discrimination are the main causes of such a high murder rate. Mexico is only second to Brazil, which registered 171 crimes against the trans communities, in a list of 71 countries.

Transgender women are one of the most vulnerable social groups in Mexico, next to homosexuals, and they are often subject to physical aggression due to their identity. The violence they endure ranges from death threats to physical harm, rape, sexual harassment, and murder.

Still, in a country where the Catholic Church maintains a strong influence over culture, Mexico City has fostered a welcoming place for the country’s LGBTQ community.

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More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

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More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

Trans rights are under siege in over half of the United States this year, as 28 states have proposed one or more anti-trans bills. The bills range from banning trans children from playing on sports teams to prohibiting doctors from giving trans youth life-saving care. 

Despite winning the White House and both houses of Congress, we cannot grow complacent. Now is the time for others from the LGBTQ community and allies to stand up and protect our trans brothers and sisters.

At least 28 states have proposed anti-trans legislation that could severely harm the community.

Less than three months into the new year, Republican lawmakers have already introduced a record number of anti-trans bills across the country.

According to a report published Monday by Axios, at least 73 pieces of legislation have already been put forward in state legislatures targeting members of the transgender community. Of those proposals, 65 specifically single out trans youth, such as bills prohibiting the kinds of medical care doctors can offer trans minors and others seeking to limit the participation of trans student athletes in school sports. 

Notable examples include legislative efforts by South Dakota and Mississippi, both of which passed bills in the past week blocking trans girls from competing in school athletics in accordance with their gender identity. After being approved by their respective Houses and Senates, their governors have vowed to sign them.

These would be the first bills of their kind to become law in the U.S. after numerous attempts to pass anti-trans sports bills in previous years. In 2019, a bill targeting trans student athletes failed in the South Dakota House by just one vote.

LGBTQ+ advocates are warning that the influx of this type of legislation will harm trans and nonbinary youth.

Trans advocates and experts argue that bills like this do not protect young trans people, and recent studies support this. In February, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report which argued that banning the trans community from certain sports programs would deprive an entire group of people of the benefits of athletics, including lower risks of depression, anxiety, and drug use. Despite so many states introducing legislation targeting trans youth in sports, the report also found that the argument of an “unfair advantage” does not actually hold up to data-driven scrutiny.

“This has been a significant part of my work at the ACLU for the past six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, told CNN. “There have never been this many bills targeting trans youth voted out of committee and then making it to the floor.”

There is widespread opposition to anti-trans bills, and not just from LGBTQ+ civil rights groups. More than 55 major corporations have endorsed a statement against these bills and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in general; they include Facebook, Pfizer, Microsoft, AT&T, Apple, Dell, American Airlines, and many more. Nearly 550 college athletes have signed a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association demanding that championship games be pulled from states that have anti-trans sports laws or are close to enacting them. More than 1,000 child welfare groups have taken a stand against legislation that would keep trans youth out of school sports or deny them health care.

States that enact anti-LGBTQ+ legislation often experience boycotts, as was the case with North Carolina and its anti-trans “bathroom bill” in 2016 and Indiana with its discriminatory religious freedom law in 2015. The former has now been repealed, the latter amended.

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2021 Is Set To Be The Deadliest Year Ever For The Trans Community As Yet Another Trans Woman Is Murdered

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2021 Is Set To Be The Deadliest Year Ever For The Trans Community As Yet Another Trans Woman Is Murdered

LGBTQ+ activists say that violence against the transgender community in 2021 is outpacing last year’s record number of anti-trans homicides. Few communities are facing a crisis of life and death as severe as the country’s transgender community. It’s only March and there have already been at least nine transgender victims so far this year, which is more than during the same period in 2020 which was the deadliest year on record for the community. 

The nation’s trans community is under attack.

According to the National Black Justice Coalition, at least four times more trans people have been killed this year than by the same point in 2020. By the end of last February, two trans people had been murdered in the United States. In contrast, at least eight individuals have already lost their lives in 2021, with five murders in January alone.

The National Black Justice Coalition, a national LGBTQ+ civil rights group that tracks anti-trans violence, said the above total may not even reflect the total number of trans homicides in 2021.

“We live in a society that ranks human value according to a hierarchy of bodies and identities, where disposability radiates outward as a person’s distance from the hegemonic ideal increases,” NBJC Executive Director David Johns told them., adding that these victims were “targeted because their identities place them far away from privilege and the social structures that uphold this complex, compound oppression and ultimately place them in disproportionate danger.”

2021 is set to be the deadliest year on record if the violence doesn’t end. 

Should the year continue at its current pace, advocates worry that 2021 would far surpass last year’s historic level of anti-trans homicides. Forty-four transgender people lost their lives to violence in 2020, but these early totals put the United States on track for an astounding 176 murders. That total is unlikely when no year prior to 2020 had seen more than 30 recorded trans homicides, per Human Rights Campaign data. But even if the next 10 months averaged four murders each month, 2021 would still become the deadliest year on record for anti-trans violence, counting 48 deaths.

Neither of these figures factor in deaths that are believed by local community members to be homicides but not officially declared as such, like the mysterious passing of 19-year-old Tatianna Hall in Philadelphia last year.

Whatever the end total may be, HRC’s Tori Cooper claims that the community has “already lost too many transgender people to fatal violence” this year.

The latest victim is Chyna Carrilo who was killed in Pennsylvania last month.

Chyna Carrillo, 24, a trans Latinx woman, was murdered in Wilmington, Pennsylvania in February. According to a report in the New Castle News, Carrillo was brutally beaten to death with a blunt object by Juan Carter Hernandez, 33, a military deserter recently released from prison where he was serving eight to 10 years for the murder of his wife in 2011. 

Carrillo, who was also known as Chyna Cardena had recently moved to New Wilmington from Arkansas with the hope of starting a new life. She was employed as a certified nursing assistant at The Grove at New Wilmington, a skilled nursing facility. Her murder took place in a house next to the Grove.

Friends and family have been left devastated by the news. All remember her as a warm and outgoing woman who touched their lives and will be sorely missed.

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