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The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America

A Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights

Edited by Javier Corrales and Mario Pecheny

Publication Year: 2010

The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America presents the first English-language reader on LGBT politics in Latin America. Representing a range of contemporary works by scholars, activists, analysts, and politicians, the chapters address LGBT issues in nations from Cuba to Argentina. In their many findings, two main themes emerge: the struggle for LGBT rights has made significant inroads in the first decade of the twenty-first century (though not in every domain or every region); and the advances made were slow in coming compared to other social movements. The articles uncover the many obstacles that LGBT activists face in establishing new laws and breaking down societal barriers. They identify perhaps the greatest roadblock in Latin American culture as an omnipresent system of “heteronormativity,” wherein heterosexuality, patriarchalism, gender hierarchies, and economic structures are deeply rooted in nearly every level of society. Along these lines, the texts explore specific impediments, including family dependence, lack of public spaces, job opportunities, religious dictums, personal security, the complicated relationship between leftist political parties and LGBT movements in the region, and the ever-present “closets,” which keep LGBT issues out of the public eye. The volume also looks to the future of LGBT activism in Latin America in areas such as globalization, changing demographics, the role of NGOs, and the rise of economic levels and education across societies, which may aid in a greater awareness of LGBT politics and issues. As the editors posit, to be democratic in the truest sense of the word, nations must recognize and address all segments of their populations.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pitt Latin American Series

Front Cover

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xiv

Gender equality was barely conceivable thirty years ago in Latin America, but the region has since made remarkable improvements in women’s rights. Every country in the region has ratified CEDAW, the United Nations’ Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Every country has passed domestic violence legislation. Twelve Latin...

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pp. xv

We are grateful to Amherst College and the University of Buenos Aires for their financial support. Ronald (Alex) Clark provided invaluable help in the early stages of the project. Seguin Strohmeier, Lucy Zhou, Sarah Harper, and Brittany Berckes provided long hours of research, as well as administrative and copyediting assistance. We want...

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Introduction: The Comparative Politics of Sexuality in Latin America

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pp. 1-30

Political scientists who study Latin America have not been sufficiently attentive to the genesis of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics and tribulations in the region. Few studies on LGBT issues in Latin America have been published in political science journals in the United States. This is not the case in sociology, anthropology,...

PART 1. Nation-Building and Heteronormativity

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pp. 31

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Male Same-Sex Sexuality and the Argentine State, 1880–1930

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pp. 33-43

Previous studies of sex between men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries claim that repression is the key to understanding the relationship between the state and sexuality during this period in Argentina. [. . .] In fact, repression is frequently the central focus of scholarly work on all forms of sexual expression south of the Rio Grande. Intolerance...

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Cuban CondemNation of Queer Bodies

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pp. 44-59

In spite of the universality of themodern concept of nationhood and the obsession of nationalist discourses with claiming a natural essence, the construct of any nation is a historical artifact, discontinuous and adaptable, whose ideology is neither reactionary nor progressive in and of itself. This is why diverse forms of nationality have, in modern history...

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pp. 60-65

The population of Mexico, the country of 1,923,040 square kilometers immediately south of the United States, recently exceeded 100 million (with an estimated annual rate of increase of 1.5 percent). Thirty percent of the population is entirely or predominantly indígeno (Amerindian), sixty percent mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Spanish descent), nine...

PART 2. Sexuality-Based Political Struggles

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pp. 67

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More Love and More Desire: The Building of a Brazilian Movement

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pp. 69-85

The year 1978 was a magical time in Brazil. After more than a decade of harsh military rule, the generals’ demise seemed imminent.1 Hundreds of thousands of metalworkers, silent for a decade, laid down their tools and struck against the government’s regressive wage policies. Students filled the main streets of the states’ capitals, chanting, “Down with...

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Con Discriminación y Represión No Hay Democracia”: The Lesbian and Gay Movement in Argentina

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pp. 86-101

Lesbian and gay activism now circles the globe, but it is vastly understudied. Not even the latest syntheses of contemporary social movement theory discuss lesbian and gay movements to any significant degree (see McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald 1996).1 Even the most important works on “social theory” tend to ignore sexuality...

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Sociability, Secrets, and Identities: Key Issues in Sexual Politics in Latin America

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pp. 102-121

In Latin America, as elsewhere, gays and lesbians have pursued political strategies to redefine their subordinate status. I will discuss the political claims of these sexual minorities, which are formulated in the name of rights as part of the struggle to include issues of sexual and intimate relationships in a broader demand for full and equal citizenship...

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Sexual Politics and Sexual Rights in Brazil: A Case Study

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pp. 122-134

Few countries have an image as connected with eroticism and sexuality as Brazil’s. The country abounds with symbols of sexual freedom, depicted in pictures of everything from Carnival and beaches to interracial relationships, transvestites, and samba. However, this representation belies the realities of Brazilian society; beneath a feigned liberalism...

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Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

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pp. 135-143

Native Americans had already been living on many of the Caribbean islands for centuries when European explorers, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492, arrived in the New World. The advent of the Europeans spelled doom for the native cultures. Conquerors massacred many people, and settlers enslaved others. Oppressive treatment...

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Identity, Revolution, and Democracy: Lesbian Movements in Central America

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pp. 144-172

In the 1970s and 1980s, revolutionary guerrilla movements fought poverty and dictatorship throughout much of the Central American isthmus. In the late 1980s, a new kind of social movement was born in the region. In the space of five years, fledgling lesbian movements surfaced in four Central American countries: Costa Rica (1987), Honduras...

PART 3. LGBT Movements’ Relations with Political Parties and Legislators

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pp. 173

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Global Communities and Hybrid Cultures: Early Gay and Lesbian Electoral Activism in Brazil and Mexico

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pp. 175-196

In 1982, gay and lesbian activists approached the electoral arena for the first time in Latin America’s two most populous countries, Brazil and Mexico. Both elections took place under authoritarian regimes during protracted transitions to formal democracy. While parallel disputes over partisan alliances had bitterly split both movements, two quite...

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Social Movements and Political Parties: Gays, Lesbians, and Travestis and the Struggle for Inclusion in Brazil

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pp. 197-211

The question of how social movements affect political institutions and, more broadly, promote social and political change has received significant scholarly attention in the recent past. The relationship between social movements, political parties, and the state is a complex one, working in multiple directions and across different dimensions simultaneously...

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The Civil Union Law in Buenos Aires: Notes on the Arguments by the Opposition

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pp. 212-219

During its 2002 legislative session, the City of Buenos Aires approved the legalization of civil unions, becoming the first city in South America to grant same- and opposite-sex couples treatment similar to that afforded to married couples,1 and conferring upon them some social benefits. [. . .] The parliamentary debate that accompanied the sanction...

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Gay Rights in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez, 1999–2009

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pp. 220-223

The decision not to go forward with the provision seems to have been made almost overnight. According to press reports, representatives of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations held a meeting with the president of the Constitutional Commission, Herman Escarrá, a well-known Opus Dei member. Escarrá was in charge...

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LGBT Rights in Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution: Victories and Setbacks

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pp. 224-229

In 2008, Ecuador approved a new constitution granting civil union rights for LGBT people.1 This constitution replaced the 1998 constitution, which was the first constitution in the Western Hemisphere to ban discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Many LGBT activists called the 2008 constitution a “major step forward.”2 Others, however...

PART 4. The State and Public Policies

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pp. 231

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Friendly Government, Cruel Society: AIDS and the Politics of Homosexual Strategic Mobilization in Brazil

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pp. 233-250

Brazil has been repeatedly noted as perhaps the best example of how a government should respond to HIV/AIDS. Since the outbreak of the epidemic in 1981, political elites have been unwaveringly committed to insuring equal access to AIDS treatment and prevention programs while working closely with civil society to insure that services are delivered...

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Sexual Rights of Gays, Lesbians, and Transgender Persons in Latin America: A Judge’s View

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pp. 251-258

The current situation concerning the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender persons (hereinafter referred to as “LGBT sexual rights”) in Latin America can be examined from various perspectives. These include analyses of the successes and failures, the limits and possibilities, and the levels of formal recognition of these rights by Latin American...

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Chile: Seizing Empowerment

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pp. 259-264

In Chile in the late 1980s, as in many other countries, approaches to homosexual empowerment sprang from differences of strategic vision. Those more interested in gay emancipation created a sexual-rights workshop and eventually formed their own organization, known as MOVILH, the Homosexual Liberation Movement, in 1991. After a period of...

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Speech of the President of the Brazilian Republic at the Opening of the First National Conference of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites, and Transsexuals

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pp. 265-269

My dear colleague PauloVannuchi, special secretary of human rights; my dear colleague José Gomes Temporão, minister of health; my dear Carlos Eduardo Gabas, interim minister of social welfare; my dear colleague Luiz Dulci, minister in chief of the secretary-general of the presidency of the republic; my dear colleague José Antônio Toffoli, general...

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Interview with Mariela Castro on the Future of Sex and Socialism in Cuba

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pp. 270-273

Mariela Castro: First of all, the death of Fidel will bring great suffering for the Cuban people, and it will be an enormous loss. But as far as I can see, the Cubans are willing to continue on the path of socialism even when our Comandante is no longer with us, even when my father and other forefathers of the revolution are not. Our...

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Out in Public: Gay and Lesbian Activism in Nicaragua

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pp. 274-279

These are a few of the many private and public responses to an increasingly vocal and visible gay and lesbian presence that I have encountered in Nicaragua since 1989. As a foreign researcher and observer of the public emergence of an LGBT community and social movement since the Sandinistas lost the 1990 elections, I had expected to find some...

PART 5. Intrasociety Relations

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pp. 281

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The Rationale of Collective Action within Sexual-Rights Movements: An Abstract Analysis of Very Concrete Experiences

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pp. 283-289

The ways in which the identity and sociability of nonheterosexual persons are structured [. . .] have implications on the political strategies of sexual minority movements. These modes of sociability—some exclusive of nonheterosexuals, others common to our contemporary market-driven world—install logics of political construction, actions and debates...

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Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas

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pp. 290-302

LGBT rights groups occasionally fall into the methodological trap of assuming that all violence directed toward members of sexual minorities is motivated by those persons’ sexual orientation. But like any other persons, LGBT individuals also fall victim to crimes that have nothing to do with their sexuality. In countries with high overall crime rates...

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Desire, TV, Panic, and Violence Surrounding the Transgendered in Argentina: The Metamorphoses of 1998

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pp. 303-311

The year that concerns us is 1998. Presidential elections are coming up, and the current administration is beginning to withdraw from institutional power, a move that it assumes will last for a strategically short period. Now autonomous, the city of Buenos Aires has just been won by an opposition which represented itself as progressive, and has designs...

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Lesbians in (Cyber)Space: The Politics of the Internet in Latin American On- and Off-line Communities

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pp. 312-333

Two women heads close together, beamat the camera,with a caption in Portuguese that reads, “Stable Union: Luciana and Kátia made their declaration with us! You do it too!”1 A magenta book cover, illustrated with one Renaissance woman gazing at another, proclaims in Spanish, “Compilation of the Third Competition of Lesbian Erotic Poetry...

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Gay Space in Havana

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pp. 334-348

For decades homosexuals have been viewed as social undesirables in revolutionary Cuba,1 and even today certain aspects of homosexual behavior can be construed as criminal.2 In the past, those who were found “guilty” of being gay were ostracized, stripped of their jobs or social positions, and at times even imprisoned or sent to forced-labor camps...

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Divergence between LGBTI Legal, Political, and Social Progress in the Caribbean and Latin America

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pp. 349-357

Recent history inmuch of Latin America and the Caribbean has beenmarked by high levels of anti-LGBTI animus, including very high levels of anti-LGBTI violence.1 Both regions have been characterized by a machista culture in which gender nonconformity has been widely suppressed, often violently. Nevertheless, there has been a growing divergence...

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The Fight and Flight of Reinaldo Arenas

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pp. 358-364

Beginning on April 20, 1980, thousands of Cuban emigrants began sailing in hundreds of small boats from Cuba, to seek greater freedom in Florida. Among them were significant numbers of what the Castro regime labeled “social misfits,” including people with criminal backgrounds and with records of mental hospitalization. The refugees’ major...

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From Invisible Subjects to Citizens: A Report on Human Rights and Lesbians in Paraguay, 2006

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pp. 365-371

Considering lesbians within the framework of women’s rights will make visible the diversity among women, who represent half of the population. Analyzing the degree of compliance with international pacts and conventions on human rights ratified by Paraguay demands a reflection on the guarantee (or lack thereof) of these same rights...

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The LGBT Organizational Density of World Cities

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pp. 372-376

This report presents the first-ever index of LGBT organizational density of world cities. The index ranks leading cities according to how many LGBT-owned or LGBT- friendly organizations exist in themost important cities in the world. The data is extracted from Spartacus: International Gay Guide 2007 (Gmünder 2007), a publication that for the...

PART 6. Diversities Within

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pp. 379

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Political Practices and Alliance Strategies of the Chilean GLBTT Movement

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pp. 381-386

[. . .] I cannot begin this essay without recalling, briefly, the thirty years that have passed since the military coup in Chile that overtook the democratic government of Salvador Allende. That September 11, 1973, democracy was repressed, leading the way to a long and painful sixteen years of bloody military dictatorship. Years have passed since the...

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“The Gay Pride March? They’re Not Talking About Me”: The Politicization of Differences in the Argentine GLTTTB Movement

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pp. 387-400

[. . .] Who are the subjects of sexual diversity that constitute the GLTTTB movement of the city of Buenos Aires?1 Differentiation among participants is based on disputes over the definitions of identity posited by this social movement (based on gender, on sexuality, on social class), and on diverse understandings of the state’s role in the perpetuation...

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The Feminism-Lesbianism Relationship in Latin America: A Necessary Link

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pp. 401-405

With apologies to my colleagues who have always tried to deny the relationship between feminism and lesbianism, I must confess a real inability to subscribe to any political concept of feminism that dispenses with this link. This is [. . .] perhaps [. . .] personal [. . .] because [. . .] the politics of feminismto which I have subscribed since the beginning...

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Transvestism and Public Space: Transvestism and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, and Transsexual Movement

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pp. 406-420

The political organization of transvestites in Argentina is relatively recent, in comparison to that of other sociosexual groups, like gays and lesbians. By the 1970s and 1980s, some gay-rights groups already had their own modes of communication on which to rely, albeit in restricted circulation, and in the 1980s a gay-rights group received...

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“Every Jack to His Trade?” Power Arrangements, Policies of Identity, and Market Segmentation within the Homosexual Movement

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pp. 421-427

There are several possible ways to understand the identity-segregated consumption market whose target public includes homosexuals in São Paulo.1 Transvestites within the LGBT movement, through a protest action directed at gaining access to a sauna that had exclusively catered to the gay male segment of this population, destabilized...

Appendix. Timeline of LGBT Political Landmarks in the Americas

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pp. 429-436

Credits for Original Publications

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pp. 437-438


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pp. 439-454

E-ISBN-13: 9780822973713
E-ISBN-10: 0822973715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960621
Print-ISBN-10: 0822960621

Page Count: 472
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pitt Latin American Series