Igualdad-y-no-discriminación-2006-–-2016

The newly adopted Same Sex Marriage Act in Spain became, without any doubt, a crucial and strong support to the LGTB rights. However, there were still many social areas in which LGBT equality and non-discrimination were still far from being reached. Moreover, the social change movement was very strong in Barcelona, a city that was considered the driving force behind the change, and in other big cities, while in the remaining parts of the country, more time was still required for these processes of integration and normalization in the gay community to settle.

The new LGBT organizations created during the last decade, between 2006 and 2016, focused on these social and the geographical areas. This is the case of GAYLESPOL (Asociación de Policías Gays y Lesbianas, in Spanish), the Gay and Lesbian Police Organization, which was founded in 2006 with the aim of increasing the visibility of sexual diversity in police squads and fighting hate and discrimination.

As for the business field, ACEGAL (Asociación Catalana de Empresas para Gays y Lesbianas, in Spanish), the Catalan Organization of businesses for Gays and Lesbians, was created in 2007. The progressive normalization of the LGTB reality and the subsequent development of a commercial and business sector aimed at the gay community served as catalysts for entrepreneurs of this sector to join forces. One of the most relevant achievements of ACEGAL, was the creation and organization of PRIDE Barcelona, thus promoting the city as an LGTB tourist destination.

Geographically speaking, the effect that started in Barcelona began to expand and reached other Catalan cities. Since the beginning of the LGTBI movement in Spain, Barcelona has been the epicentre of the creation of many associations and initiatives whose purpose is to achieve LGTB equality and non-discrimination. During the last decade, new organizations were set up in other locations as well. This is the case of Som Com Som, which means “we are the way we are” in Spanish, an organization founded in Sabadell that supports Sexual Freedom in Vallés, a vast and very industrialized region located in Barcelona’s metropolitan area. The same year, Tal Com Som, “as we are” in Spanish, was set up in Vic, a historical Catalan city located at 70 km from Barcelona, with a clear purpose: the become the meeting point of the LGTB collective in the centre of Catalonia.

This process of LGBT Movement Decentralization led all the organizations that were not based in Barcelona to join forces in order to increase the visibility of the collective in all the territory. As a result of this collaboration, the first conference called Catalonia without Closets (Jornadas Cataluña Sin Armarios) was organized in 2010, while Vic hosted the second one in 2014.

Unfortunately, even though several new organizations were created, some of the existing ones eventually disappeared. The onset of a long crisis and the decision of numerous governments to deal with it via severe cuts drastically reduced the government’s social services budget, thereby hampering the slow process towards equality and non-discrimination. This led to the disappearance of the 900 Rosa in 2013, a telephonic service which had assisted and supported the gay community in everything related to HIV. Even the Coordinadora Gai Lesbiana, the Catalan organisation which led the movement for LGBT equality and non-discrimination for many years, disappeared that same year.

At the institutional level, 2007 was marked by the creation of the first LGBT National Board (Consejo Nacional de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales, Transgénero e Intersexuales de Catalunya), which was described as “a place where citizens could participate in matters related to LGBTI rights and duties and an advisory body for the Catalan organizations”. It was very similar to the LGBT Board the city of Barcelona had created earlier. In fact, the latter had been carrying out its duties for a long time, and that’s why Barcelona’s Council Plan for the LGBT Community was adopted in 2010 thanks to a long participation process with organizations in this field; this plan proposed up to 228 actions in favour of equality and non-discrimination.

Another greatest goal for the LGTB movement was reached in 2014. The Catalonian Parliament finally approved the Act against Homophobia, which was a pioneering law in Spain, since it established a penalty system intended to protect LGTBI equality and non-discrimination.

Moreover, there were other significant steps towards progress on the part of the Catalonian government that were not only related to law, but that also carried a symbolic value. In 2008, Jordi Petit, an iconic activist who was the general coordinator of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and one of the promoters of the now non-existent Coordinadora Gay Lesbiana, was awarded the St Geoerge’s Cross (Creu de Sant Jordi), one of the highest civil distinctions granted by the Catalan Government. Some years later, Santi Vila, the first councillor of the Catalan Government, declared publicly that he was gay.

Perhaps one of the most important achievements for the gay community during the last decade was its integration in the business world and its normalization as an economic agent. ACEGAL and numerous LGBT companies had long been working to turn Barcelona and Catalonia into LGTBI tourist destinations, an action that is now beginning to bear its fruits and whose economic impact is currently on the rise.

2008 was, without any doubt, a key year in terms of achieving such targets. On the one hand, Barcelona hosted the Eurogames, an event that could be considered as the LGBT equivalent to the Olympics, whose purpose was to demand equality and non-discrimination in the world of sports. Also in 2008, ACEGAL created and organized the first PRIDE Barcelona, the Mediterranean Gay Pride, an essential celebration in the process of turning the city into an LGTBI tourist destination that has grown more successful every year and that will celebrate its 10th edition in 2017. Barcelona’s Circuit Festival celebrated its first edition back in 2008 as well, and nowadays it is considered one of the biggest gay festivals of its kind worldwide.

There certainly has been a spectacular progress towards LGBTI equality and non-discrimination in Spain in the last 40 years. The LGBTI community that was once prosecuted, and even imprisoned, has now become an integral part of the Spanish society. As for Barcelona, the Catalan city has turned into an important economic asset and an active driver of the tourism industry.