Opinion and Analysis: Gender and Sexuality
Sexual Diversity Leaders on Marriage, Participation, and Homophobia in Venezuela
Sexual diversity is present in the Carabobo Command [PSUV presidential election campaign] in Caracas. Leandro Villoria, from the Diverse Sex-Gender Revolutionary Alliance, is the spokesperson for that group in the team that is coordinating the battle for the re-election of Hugo Chavez. Villoria, and Koddy Campos, residents of Nueva China street, La Vega, didn’t hesitate to state that the revolution is the way to go, nor do they waver when they ask their Bolivarian comrades to “quit the homophobia”.
Ciudad CCS: This government, supposedly authoritarian and militarist, has included homosexuals, as well as other segregated groups. How can this be explained?
Villoria: Socialism is inclusion, and not just as a discourse, but concretely. The revolution has made afro-descendents, the elderly, indigenous people, and all those who have been ignored, visible. President Chavez is the guarantee of respect for our rights because he’s the only one who has had the courage to call on us [sexually diverse groups] to make revolution. That’s why we’re clear that this is the path.
Sometimes we ask ourselves why we’re not right wing, or why we don’t support Capriles Radonski [the opposition candidate], if we know what his supposed sexual orientation is [translator’s note: there has been some speculation that Capriles is homosexual in the press and social media, especially after one incident where he was caught performing a sexual act in public with another man, charged, and tried to cover it up by targeting the policeman who caught him, came to light]. We would say that we don’t fit into his project for the country.
Campos: The sexually-diverse population is revolutionary from birth. There can’t be a homosexual, a lesbian, or a trans[gender person/transvestite] who is right wing, its biologically impossible. That, actually is, unnatural. The revolution has included us in the [new] work law as it protects paternity, and in the law against racism, and in the law of popular power.
Ciudad CCS: Is the legalising of marriage between people of the same sex being considered?
Campos: We don’t believe that that is essential right now. A homosexual person who lives in a barrio needs his/her right to study, to work, and to not be discriminated against guaranteed.
Villoria: This is a critical topic for homosexuals and heterosexuals. [But,] to put marriage in a law isn’t the solution for our struggle. What we need is to generate awareness. There are more important issues, such as the right to health, which is often vulnerable, because of discrimination.
Ciudad CCS: In the heat of the campaign, the opposition candidate is being attacked for his sexual orientation which he has been attributed (via speculation it must be said). What do you both say?
Villoria: We say that you can’t discredit the opponent with that argument. To start off with, because on this side we are many who have that orientation. Further, to focus on this is to contribute to depoliticising the analysis, so that the people forget that Capriles is a fascist, an attacker of embassies [referring to his attack on the Cuban embassy during the 2002 short lived coup], a bully of workers, and he represents the right wing, with everything that that means in terms of hunger and misery for the majority. We call on those comrades [who attack Capriles for his supposed sexual orientation] to quit the homophobia.
Campos: People aren’t homophobic because they want to be or because they were born like that. They are because they don’t have adequate information, and society plants prejudices in them. We can’t condemn these comrades for their homophobia, but rather we should wage an awareness campaign.
Ciudad CCS: The revolution has also changed all the paradigms of the Armed Forces. Are there sexually diverse members of the military?
Villoria: That’s obvious. There’s no human group that we aren’t part of, but maybe because of the male chauvinism that exists in the institution, we can’t come out, can’t express ourselves freely. We’re getting there. They are steps of stairs that we are climbing.
Campos: There are advances in the culture of the police bodies and the national guard, who before would see a homosexual and repress him. In the National Experimental University for Security there are homosexual teachers so that future police have raised awareness.
Ciudad CCS: Either way, in the military world there’s still no active participation?
Villoria: No, just under the table. There isn’t anyone saying publically that they are organising a sexual diversity movement in the armed forces.
Campos: Hopefully a general will come out and say it! Haha!
Ciudad CCS: Prejudices regarding sexual diversity often derive from the image of frivolity and scandal that some people project, how can that be combated?
Campos: Those are stereotypes created by the capitalist system to ridicule the sexually diverse community. The media uses homosexuals to make fun of something and to say that we are promiscuous, ridiculous, and we’re only good as hairdressers and congregating in bars. It’s a way of stigmatising us. It’s like saying that a woman doesn’t know how to drive. Where is that proven? Nowhere, but everyone says it and repeats it.’
Ciudad CCS: In order to build your struggles, would it help if a government figure were to declare himself homosexual, or that an institutional authority, such as a vice-minister, were created?
Villoria: The creation of an institution or a vice-minister would help us a lot because it would be a way to educate and debate permanently with the communities.
Campos: Well, if a governmental figure came out of the closet it would be all over the media, but we don’t know if it would help. Only if it brought awareness to our struggles. It’s like if we have a national assembly where 50% of it are women, but they are all male chauvinists- that won’t go anywhere. What we need, isn’t so much a homosexual in government, but rather public workers, be they homosexuals or heterosexuals, who are aware and know about the importance of this struggle.
Leandro Villoria, senior university technician in chemistry, age 24, has suffered from endogenous intolerance. In 2011 he chained himself up in a plaza in El Tigrito, Anzoategui, to protest against the mayor, Pedro Martinez (PSUV), who, according to him, harassed a Villoria family bottle shop due to his homophobia.
“And for the march for 13 April [the overturning of the 2002 coup] they prohibited homosexuals from getting on the buses. He [the mayor] said that we damage the reputation of the municipality”.
Koddy Campos, senior university technician in tax administration, 24 years old, explained that internally, the struggle has its ups and downs. For example, the women’s ministry doesn’t recognise transsexual women, people who are anatomically masculine, but who, through hormone treatment and surgical intervention, seek to have a female body.
“However, the Negra Hipolita Mission opened up a house for street transsexuals, such as those who prostitute themselves on Libertador Avenue, and are addicted to drugs. There they learn a trade that allows them to leave that activity. It’s an achievement for the revolution that almost no one knows about.”
Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com
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