As Rafael M. Mérida explains in his essay ‘Transbarcelonas’ (2016), Barcelona was the spearhead of the LGBTQ+ movement in general during the end of Franco’s dictatorship, to the point that it was in one of the hottest spots of our city – La Rambla, no less – where the first big Pride demonstration in Spain took place. It was 1977, Franco had just died, and people of all origins and identities took to the streets: those were the years when, with a lack of proper names for many of these identities, people were more L, more G, more B, more T and more Q than ever. You could say they were more free, depending on how you look at it. What’s important is that on June 26, 1977, eight years after the Stonewall riots, Barcelona’s queer community was out in the streets.
Sadly, and as also happened with the legacy of Stonewall, we too often forget who the pioneers of these acts really were. In the case of Stonewall, I’m talking about Marsha P. Johnson, a Black, HIV-positive trans woman. Can anybody still be thinking that the situation in Barcelona was any different? I say no.
In her book ‘Under the Sign of the Dragon’ (2004), the poet, feminist thinker and lesbian activist Maria-Mercè Marçal states that oppressed communities need to look at life differently, with a bit of a squint: with one eye, they have to look through the past to see that which has been ignored, repressed or directly denied, and with the other eye they need to look at the present in order to be able to embark on a road to the future. To take their voices back and rewrite history books. To say in their own way what they want to normalise.
You might argue that there aren’t enough Black members of the LGBTQ+ community in Barcelona for the collective imagination, but I would answer that that’s just not true, that they’ve been sidelined by other dominant voices. It’s time to reach into our wallets and empty the shelves at bookshops such as La Caníbal, Prole or La Carbonera of their critical thinking, feminist and ‘decolonialist’ titles and fill our shelves at home with them. It’s time to hear the voices coming out of the ACATHI Foundation, which looks after LGBTQ+ refugees from all around the world. It’s time to give our support to Shoga, the African queer cinema fest that the Barcelona LGBTI Centre is putting on this month. It’s time to get out of the closet as a culture that too many times has promoted itself as a festival of diversity as it was actually giving voice to a uniform and homogeneous mass of white, cis and straight people. Only this way, with that different way of looking at life that Maria-Mercè Marçal discussed, can we bring about justice.
It doesn’t matter who they are, who they desire, how they love, how they identify: Black lives matter.
And their history does, too.
RECOMMENDED: Pride Worldwide 2020