It has been a shock, a trigger, a collective catharsis. The investigation into the fatal beating that ended the life of Samuel Luiz in A Coruña has not yet finished, but the crime has already broken the silence in the LGTBI community about the daily violence that still lives in the face of the generalized idea that it is thing of the past. In a kind of ‘MeToo’ of LGTBIphobia there are many testimonies that these days come to light. Stories that speak of insults, looks, attacks, hiding the ‘pen’, untangling hands, changing the sidewalk or being alert, and that have echoes in those first “fag” or “tomboy” of childhood, when they learned , without knowing what it meant, that to be like that, as they were, was a punishment.
A third of LGBT people in Spain do not go to some places out of fear and half of those who have a partner avoid shaking hands in public
Maribel Torregoresa (63), Ana Murillo (44), Abraham Mesa (33) and Ander Prol (28) hardly think of anything else these days. Samuel’s case has stirred and moved the group. After the case and before the accumulation of homophobic attacks in recent weeks, the street shares that sense of alertness, but it is not new. The four accumulate experiences that somehow condition their way of being in public space. Maribel, a trans woman, was attacked five years ago in Madrid shouting “you’re a fagot”; The same insult, repeated several times, was thrown at Abraham when he walked alone dressed in a pink coat; Ana continues to be “panicked” by groups of boys in the street “because of a woman and because of a dumpster” and Ander was attacked with a stone in his town.
“Homophobia is real, you are seeing that there are aggressions and you think it could happen to you,” says Abraham. He says that in recent years he has “exacerbated” his ‘pen’; from time to time she goes out with painted nails, puts on makeup or dresses in a skirt. That is why the glances are “quite constant”, that there are people who turn around or point at him as he passes. “I have also been empowering myself at the same time, but it is true that your vulnerability increases. If I leave my neighborhood I take care to put on certain clothes. My pen is my way of allowing myself to be and exist, I give free rein to something that I have hidden for a long time, but it is penalized because it is outside the norm, “he believes.
Ander also explains something similar. Modifying the way of being on the street or in certain spaces is not something alien to most LGTBI people. It depends, of course, on the context and the place where it is, points out this young man from Ermua (Bizkaia). “It is not the same when I am with my friends in my reference bar than when I am not. I consider my town a safe environment in general, but the same if suddenly I am alone, it is night and I have to go through the middle of a group of Guys, the body changes. You straighten up, stick out your chest, gesture less or try to walk in a way that feels more masculine. ” It is very common for this concealment to occur in unknown places, which are beyond control.
The young man has counted in the blog 1 in 10 the assault he suffered when he was 18 years old. I was on the train talking to two acquaintances, when a boy entered the car with a stone in his hands. With intimidating phrases he said: “Don’t worry, this stone is not for you, it is for another fagot, because you are a fagot, right? Do you like to eat cocks? Do you like to be fucked in the ass?” Ander was “frozen, not knowing what to do” until his stop came and the girls tugged at his arm to get them down. Before the train left the station, the stone shot out “and it was for this fag,” he says, followed by spitting. “For me this was much more painful than the stone, it has a very large component of humiliation.”
The tip of the iceberg
Ander did not denounce, he did not want “in any way” for his parents to find out “about the suffering it could cause them.” Yes, Maribel did, who in 2016 attended to some boys who asked her for tobacco in Madrid’s Plaza de Lavapiés and when she opened her bag, after insulting her, they gave her several blows that left her unconscious. According to a recent survey by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), only 16% of the victims in Spain of some physical or sexual attack on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity report it. Among the causes, distrust in institutions, shame or fear of exposing who they are if they have not yet come out of the closet in their environment.
However, as with sexist violence, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have their most brutal expression in physical attacks, but there are other daily violence and discrimination that sustains them. Ana Murillo, co-founder of Mary Read, a new transfeminist LGTBQ + bookstore that has just opened its doors in Madrid, refers to a fear “very internalized since adolescence” and that still sprouts when she approaches a public bathroom or changing room: “I continue entering as I did then, looking at the ground, trying to adopt behaviors that do not make me suspicious of anything, because they have also told me there: ‘you are a gentleman, you cannot be here’. Looks and whispers have let me know that I am not welcome “.
A part of what the interviewees relate resonates in the testimonies of women about the fear of attacks, looks, comments or touching, something that has also come to light in recent years. About the LGTBI collective, Ana has thought a lot these days “about how internally we have that at any moment we can be subjected to violence”, which means that “we live in a constant state of alert”, she explains. It occurs, in his opinion, in almost any environment, also in workplaces, educational centers or family environments. “The body and mind are always on alert, in case you have to respond, if you have to shut up, run …”. It has happened to her being alone, but also with another girl. And that is something that many LGTBI people fear: according to the FRA survey, half of those who have a partner avoid shaking hands in public at some point out of fear.
One of the first things Maribel names are looks. “It has a great impact on self-esteem, on not feeling safe and calm on the street, so that sometimes it becomes an enemy to you,” she says. And it differentiates the intention of those looks depending “on the degree of passing of the person “- it is named like this when a person is trans, but it is not noticeable -. Maribel explains that for some trans women before whom nobody considers that they are” these looks have more to do with machismo “, but “In my case, I am very visible, no; They don’t look at me with desire, they look at me with disgust. In general, not only men, but also women who express rejection with their gestures. ”
The insult as “discipline”
If something has also rumbled these days among LGTBI people, it has been the insults with which Samuel Luiz’s friends assure that he was attacked. “Stop filming us if you don’t want me to kill you, fag”, they have said they told him. The 24-year-old only had time to say “queer of what.” It is an insult that has marked the lives of many gay or bisexual boys. And also the one of “bollera” or “tomboy” the one of many girls. “The first time they insulted me by calling me, I was a kid. You already realize that you’re in danger. Then others have arrived: lesbian motherfucker, what disgusting you are, what you need is a good cock … insults are used as discipline, “says Ana.
Because at that moment, the one of the first insults, almost nobody has considered what it is. They are not called because of what sex they are attracted to, but because of what they are. With Abraham they got into school because they were always with girls from a very young age, and as they grew older, the “fag” became general. “We did not know what it meant the first time they told us, but you know that there is something wrong, that you may have run in a way that is not typical of a man, you gesture too much with your hands … Years later you You realize that all this is what you self-censor, you hide who you really are because the closet is not just ‘I like boys and I tell my friends and family about it’. The closet is daily, “reflects Ander, who has lost the count of the times they have been called, especially in festive settings.
All, however, are reluctant to remain in fear or concealment. They know well what it is to refuse to be. The price of visibility is not low, but that of hiding is very high. Maribel explains it: “When I go out into the street I put on and expose my body, I swallow the fears and insecurity and the small signs of daily hatred because deep down there is some pride inside for being visible. Not doing it would end with my being “. The woman is reluctant to even call what she feels “fear.” He prefers, he says, to qualify it as “fear” or “caution”; because considering it fear “would lock me up at home.” Abraham agrees, trying to “flee from fear” and transform it into “mobilization”, something he believes “became palpable” in the wave of protests over Samuel’s crime.
The mobilizations have served to unite thousands of people against LGTBIphobia, at a time when an anti-rights offensive is taking place globally, but also greater visibility of the LGTBI collective than ever. To move forward, all the voices consulted agree on the same thing: pedagogy in educational centers and that the LGTBI community unite. “We are not going to go back to the closets, we are not going to shut up or hide,” Ana ditch.