By Mayela Sanchez
Global Press Institute
Young women accounted for the majority of participants in the sixth lesbian march in Mexico City last weekend. As many as 7,000 people attended this year’s gathering. Distinct from the festive annual gay pride march, this event enables lesbians to tackle political issues affecting them, such as violence against women.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – “There is no political liberty if there is no sexual liberty!” women chanted on Saturday at the 6ª Marcha Lésbica 2013 in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico.
Women gathered on March 16 for the biennial lesbian march under a sky full of gray clouds that at times threatened to rain. They started at the Zócalo, the main public square in the city’s historical center, then marched nearly two miles to the Monumento a la Revolución.
The Comité Organizador de la Marcha Lésbica organizes the event only every two years because of funding constraints. The march draws support from 14 other lesbian organizations from various states across the country.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 people attended the march this year, says Mariana Pérez Ocaña, general coordinator of COMAL and editor of LeSVOZ, a lesbian feminist culture magazine.
Many women marched with their partners, while some participated with their families. Several men joined as well.
But most participants were young women.
“They are the population we reach,” Pérez Ocaña says, “and they are involved, informed.”
Two of these young women were girlfriends Ana Gabriela and Estrella, both 18. They said this was the first time they had attended a lesbian march.
Although Mexico City hosts a gay pride march each year, COMAL has been hosting a separate lesbian march since 2003. It takes place during March to coincide with International Women’s Day.
The lesbian feminist movement here has distanced itself from the gay pride march, which members say doesn’t represent the issues important to them.
“It has become a carnival of naked men and transvestites without any social demand,” Pérez Ocaña says of the gay pride march.
A march solely for lesbians aims to create visibility about the issues that distinctly concern them. Pérez Ocaña says lesbians face double discrimination in society – for both their sex and their sexuality.
The political character of the march surfaced in the slogans the participants chanted, such as, “Not one more murder!”
The participants’ political demands included an end to violence against all women, the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage and abortion and increased punishment for crimes when committed on the basis of sexuality. Laws governing same-sex marriage and abortion vary by state in Mexico.
As part of the march’s denouncement of violence, organizers have expressed solidarity for the past three marches with Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a civil association comprising relatives of young women who have gone missing in Ciudad Juárez, a city in northern Mexico that has gained notoriety for incidents of feminicide.
March participants wielded purple flags, the color that represents the lesbian community. But unlike the gay pride march, there were no costumes or festive energy.
Some women called for more freedom to express themselves during the lesbian march, though. A few young women walked bare-chested, including Lucía, a 21-year old-lesbian from France who lives in Mexico.
Lucía says that French and Mexican societies still don’t accept lesbians. So she bared her breasts and torso during the march as a way of expressing her right to decide.
But COMAL members tried to remove Lucía and another woman when they advanced to the front of the march to kiss.
“It is a contradiction,” Lucía says.
She says that if the march aims to defend lesbians’ rights and freedom, then organizers in the future should not prevent participants from going shirtless or kissing in public.
(LatinaLista Editor’s Note: Watch a slideshow of the 6th Marcha Lésbica 2013)
Participants in the march declined to publish their last names for safety reasons. All subjects gave permission for the publication of their photographs.
The story was originally published by Global Press Institute. (c) Global Press Institute 2013.