Gay, Positive, and Visible in Spain

Published: August 1, 2000

When you read this, the Gay Pride Events (June 26 – July 2 this year in Spain) will be over. When this is being written, we do not know how many people will be coming to Madrid for the parade. For a country like Spain, the 30,000 persons we had in 1999 were certainly a big hit. "We expect to have at least 50,000 this year. Individual persons and organizations all over Spain are coming," says Boti Garcia, Co-President of Colectivo de Lesbianas y Gays de Madrid (COGAM has two co-presidents, one man and one woman; its steering group is also strictly equal in the number of men and women). Boti is by now exhausted, although you can see her overflowing with enthusiasm as she envisions Pride 2000. There are not even seventy active volunteers among the 450 persons affiliated with COGAM at the moment, but all of them are working very hard to make sure that this gathering will be a success.

[Editor’s Note: As we went to press, the numbers had just come in. There were aproximately 90,000 participants in the Gay Pride Events in Madrid — 80,000 as estimated by the police, and 100,000 according to the organizers.]

One of the most important parts of the Gay Pride Events each year is the reading of the Vindication List. This list, or manifesto, is read at the end of the Parade in Puerta del Sol, the heart of the city, in front of the local government building. The list is read by someone different every year, either personalities (writers, journalists, actors), or, as this year, by activists. In 2000, it was read by COGAM Co-President Boti Garcia; Pedro Gonzalez, President of the National Federation of Lesbians and Gays; and Maria José, President of Transexualia, Spain’s largest transsexual organization.

One would think that the gay HIV-positive community interests would have a prominent place on the Vindication List and that that community would be very visible in the Parade and other Gay Pride Events. But, sadly, this is not the case. The list this year was about legal recognition and legislation of same-sex couples’ right to civil marriage and adoption, the establishment of antidiscrimination mechanisms, fighting against homophobic acts, measures to stop bullying in the schools, streets, and workplace, and the need for sexual education. But only a single item on the Vindication List — regarding the need to combat discrimination against HIV-positive gay men — aims to defend the interests of the gay HIV-positive community. "It is because we had to reach a consensus with the rest of the Spanish gay organizations," says Agustín, COGAM’s bookkeeper. "During the meeting where we had to write this manifesto, we were surprised that many of the delegates were so willing to distance themselves from the AIDS issue. I guess we underestimate how powerful the social stigma is."

COGAM’s former Health and Prevention Manager Luisa adds, "Gay activism was widely represented by HIV-positive gay men some years ago. These men were at the same time gay and AIDS activists. But now some of them have died, or are fed up with the gay movement. So there are younger generations leading the gay movement. And HIV is somehow, after twenty years, a taboo for them. They don’t want to hear about it in connection with gay rights. In many gay organizations there are no positive leaders, and the result is that the attention given to HIV is lower. There are no gay HIV-positive role models. I still think it is necessary that at least one person in the steering group of a gay organization is positive." But many gay organizations think it’s enough just to make a visible public gesture on World AIDS Day. Even those that do maintain prevention and support programs do not make much noise about visibility, disclosure, and change of social attitudes.

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