December 13, 2002
Buenos Aires Legalizes Same-Sex Unions
by Craig Fagan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Gay rights activists hailed a new law Friday extending certain civil rights to same-sex couples in Buenos Aires, the first Latin American city to adopt such a measure. Under the law, same-sex couples will receive health insurance and pension rights given to married spouses. The law recognizes the civil union of same-sex couples but does not term the union a marriage. “For us, the law is the state’s recognition of our right to be a couple and will allow us to access social benefits that we were excluded from,” said Marcelo Sunthein, an Argentine gay rights activist.
The legislation was passed by the Buenos Aires city legislature early Friday after a lengthy debate interrupted by chants of “Get to work!” by gay rights supporters. It was approved despite opposition from Argentina’s Catholic Church, which argued city legislators had no authority in defining civil unions.
The new law is the first of its kind in this predominantly Roman Catholic and conservative country. Gay and lesbian groups described the legislation as the most far-reaching in Latin America despite their disappointment that it does not give gay couples rights to adopt children. Similar measures have been recently adopted in several European countries like France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, where same-sex couples have been granted legal status.
April 9, 2003
Gay ex-priest-turned-model pens life story
Buenos Aires – He says he just wants to do his part for Argentina to become a more open country. So the ex-Catholic priest-turned-model has stripped off for a gay magazine and now has a life story in the works. “I didn’t want to do what so many priests who lead a double life do,” Andres Geoni, 31 – who made a bit of a splash with his photo layout in “Imperio G” magazine – told local media. Geoni, who hails from the western province of Mendoza, was ordained in 2000 after eight years of studies, and became catechisis director in his home province.
He said he left the priesthood in mid-2001 shortly after having his first homosexual relationship. Though he tried to be “a good priest,” as he said, he ended up leaving his order, and now is penning a memoir Lucifer: Angel or Devil, he says “to do my small part so that this society becomes more open.” “If I had found this path before starting my religious life, I think I would have lost my values,” he said, adding: “Now I know I am not just gay; I’m a person who wants to contribute to society and help build a better world.”
March 18, 2003
Argentina: Gay rights landmark-New laws endorse same-sex relationships
by Andrés Gaudín
Gay couples in the Buenos Aires city area and Río Negro province will make history at the beginning of April when civil unions between people of the same sex are legally recognized in both regions, marking a first for Latin America. The new laws grant gay couples rights that were previously exclusive to married couples. The laws whipped up a storm in this predominantly Catholic country when they were approved last December, inciting intense public debate amongst conservative sectors, the gay community and progressive groups. Both laws will entitle members of civil union couples to many rights already enjoyed by husbands and wives.
They will be able to share social security services, claim leave when a partner is sick, and enter into agreements – such as buying a house – as if they were married. However, the so-called “Civil Union” laws do not permit same sex marriages or child adoption. Nor do they establish inheritance rights unless a prior agreement has been formalized. These three aspects were not considered because they are included in the national Civil Code. “We have taken a great step towards becoming a tolerant society, based on the dignity of all people, without distinctions. This is of the most importance because we can only achieve true democracy with the effective application of human and civil rights across the board,” said Buenos Aires congressman Héctor Costanzo.
From Río Negro, congresswoman and gay rights campaigner Regina Kluz said, “This is important, most of all because now we can talk about homosexuality without prejudices, permitting open debate about an issue which, until now, had been swept under the carpet.” It is not known how many couples could benefit from the new laws. “There are no official or unofficial statistics on the number of homosexuals in Argentina,” said César Cigliutti, president of the Community of Argentinean Homosexuals (CHA). “But, as we continue to break down the wall of prejudices, it is becoming clear that we are many more than previously imagined.” Other beneficiaries of the new laws will include unmarried heterosexual couples. Women in such relationships with children will no longer be classified as single-mothers, a label that commonly leads to labor discrimination in the private sector.
In Río Negro, where the Catholic Church has supported indigenous communities, workers and marginalized people since the dictatorship era (1976-83), there was no interference in the procedure and the law went unopposed. In Buenos Aires, however, the Catholic hierarchy and conservative lay groups were less cooperative. Bishop Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, said the new regulation “goes against natural law.” Citing Pope John Paul II, he said that civil union couples are “caricatures of families that have neither a future themselves nor the ability to create a future society.”
Both laws are based on a proposal drafted and edited by Judge Graciela Medina, an expert on family rights, and the CHA. “We didn’t use any existing laws as models,” said Medina. “Here, the oppressive weight of the Catholic Church meant a law of this type had to be drafted from scratch. The Legislature has made a brave move by sanctioning the first such law in all of Latin America,” she said. Three other provinces are considering the introduction of their own civil union laws. In the Buenos Aires province the Socialist Party is spearheading the campaign, while in Jujuy it is led by The Ones and The Others, a gay rights group. In Córdoba, leftist politicians have drafted a proposal. A similar proposal was presented to Congress several years ago but conservative and traditionalist lobbying groups successfully opposed it.
Congresswoman Laura Mussa, who made the original proposal, doesn’t hold out much hope for it being processed in the near future, “even less so in an electoral year when no one wants to upset the Catholic Church,” she said. If the provinces of Buenos Aires, Jujuy and Córdoba approve the proposals, 59 percent of Argentineans will be living where civil unions are legal. A benchmark has been set for the rest of Latin America where, in countries such as Brazil (LP, Oct. 11, 2001) and Ecuador (LP, Oct. 18, 2001), anti-gay discrimination and violence is common.
July 13, 2003
Buenos Aires softens legal opposition against homosexual couples: Correspondents Report
Reporter: Brian Byrnes
Hamish Robertson: Argentina is joining a growing list of countries where governments are softening their stance towards homosexual couples acquiring legal status for their relationships, despite opposition from religious organisations, especially the Catholic Church. From tomorrow, gay partners in the capital, Buenos Aires, will gather to participate in the first civil unions ever performed in Latin America.
Brian Byrnes compiled this report in Buenos Aires
Brian Byrnes: The vote came at the end of a marathon 18-hour session of the Buenos Aires city legislator last December. With a 29 to 10 vote, lawmakers approved the Bill, making Buenos Aires the first city in all south America to offer civil unions between homosexual couples. (Sound of Amelia Corenberg speaking) Amelia Corenberg and her partner, Maria Loda Olivier, were at City Hall the morning the law passed. She says she never thought the day would come were offered many of the same rights as other Argentine couples.
Amelia Corenberg: (Translated) It was really intense for me, because I was there with my partner, happy and in love. On top of that, to now have the possibility to decide if we want to complete a civil union, it’s everything, or almost everything, a person could dream for.
Brian Byrnes: The new law applies to both gay and straight couples who have been together for at least two years and live in the city of Buenos Aires. The partnerships offer health and insurance benefits and hospital visitation rights, but do not allow same-sex couples to receive inheritance or adopt children. City Legislator, Rocky Belomo (phonetic), is the Co-Author of the Bill. (Sound of Rocky Belomo speaking) “This law is important because it is a recognition that the Legislator of Buenos Aires city has established this law for many people,” Belomo says. “And this shows an effort to convert the prejudices that exist here and in another way to recognise the most indispensable rights for everyone.” Of course, everyone does not support this change, least of all the Catholic Church, of which approximately 80 per cent of all Argentines are members.
Alberto Bocheti: Well, for us it was really something very sad, and we don’t agree with this law.
Brian Byrnes: Father Alberto Bocheti (phonetic) is a Professor of Bio-ethics at the Catholic University in Buenos Aires. He says the Argentine Catholic Church does not turn its back on homosexuals but strongly opposes this new law and is concerned that many gay Argentines will equate their civil union with the holy sacrament of matrimony.
Alberto Bochet: They say, well, this not really a marriage or something, only civil union, but this looks like real wedding, you know. And in fact, we are sure that in few days when we have the first official civil unions we will see the rice, and you know, dressing up and all this stuff. It’s something that is not going really with the Argentinean culture.
Brian Byrnes: A culture that is considered by some to be the most progressive in the region. In neighbouring Brazil, some municipalities extend gay couples equal rights, but stop short of offering official civil unions. Across the Andes in Chile, a civil unions bill has been introduced by lawmakers but is not expected to gain approval. Gay activist, Marcelo Suntheim, secretary of the Argentina Homosexual Community, and his partner will be among the first to complete a civil union in Buenos Aires. He thinks the landmark decision is something that other countries throughout Latin America will soon look to emulate. (Sound of Marcello Suintime speaking) “Latin America is a very Catholic continent, and now that the civil union law has been approved in Argentina a barrier has fallen,” Suintime says. It’s really important because it’s not happening in the Northern Hemisphere, between the most socially advanced countries. But here in Latin America, gay activists like Suintime say they will keep fighting for equal rights throughout all of Argentina. The Catholic Church says it will continue to oppose any efforts to legalise same-sex unions nationwide.
For Correspondents’ Report, this is Brian Byrnes in Buenos Aires.
July 14, 2003
Wary of past abuses, Argentine capital approves gay rights. Starting Friday, gay couples in Buenos Aires can form civil unions.
by Brian Byrnes, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Buenos Aires – Emilia Korenberg and Maria Laura Olivier sit together on an oversized sofa, holding hands and smiling as they recall the day seven months ago when they say they finally felt accepted by their own society. “I never thought that day would arrive,” says Ms. Korenberg. That day happened last December, when after a grueling 18-hour debate, city lawmakers in Argentina’s capital voted 29-10 to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, becoming the first city in Latin America to officially recognize such partnerships.
The law goes into effect Friday, and Korenberg and Ms. Olivier plan on completing a civil union sometime soon. That Buenos Aires, in the heart of this Catholic country, would adopt such a policy may be surprising, especially because of the culture of machismo that still reigns here. But this cosmopolitan capital has long prided itself on its European-style sophistication and status as a cultural beacon of the region. Some experts say this open-mindedness is a natural development for a country trying to redeem itself following years of authoritarian rule and severe civil rights abuses. After seven years of a brutal military regime, democracy was restored in 1983, and the following year, gay Argentines began to speak out publicly and demand equal treatment for the first time. During that same era, more and more citizens began to reflect on the horror of what had passed during the “Dirty War” – when an estimated 30,000 people “disappeared” – and began to rethink their attitudes.
“After the dictatorship ended in 1983 … people became aware of the importance of being respectful about human rights and being tolerant toward different ideas, ideologies, sexual orientation, and ethnic and racial differences,” Beatriz Gurevich, a sociologist in Buenos Aires.
Resistance from church
Still, not everyone here is in favor of Civil Unions Law No. 1004. A poll conducted on an Argentine website shows 44 percent oppose the new legislation, and some institutions, most notably the Catholic Church, have denounced it as well. “We are opposed to this kind of law,” says the Rev. Alberto Bochatey, a professor of Bioethics at Catholic University in Buenos Aires.
“It doesn’t mean that we are opposed to … homosexual people at all as persons, as human beings, but we don’t agree with this kind of legislation.” Father Bochatey says Argentina’s Catholic Church offers solutions and assistance to gay couples who have demanded more say in their partners’ medical and financial decisions, but that having an established law guaranteeing these rights is causing many gay Catholics to equate civil unions with the holy sacrament of matrimony. “For us a marriage is a male and female forever,” he says.
Even though some 80 percent of Argentina is still Catholic, the church’s power has dwindled significantly, causing it to make some quiet concessions, says Ms. Gurevich. She says this shift is in large part do to the church’s much-criticized alliance with the military during the bloody 1976-1983 regime. “[The church’s] relationship with the government was quite visible, and since then … there’s been a reconsideration of its positions,” she says. “Not publicly expressed, but there is a difference.”
Requirements of couples
The civil-unions law applies to “couples formed by two people regardless of their sex or sexual choice.”
“The city of Buenos Aires has established this law for many people, and this signifies an effort to change existing prejudices and … recognize for everyone their most indispensable rights,” says Roque Bellomo, a city legislator and a coauthor of the bill. Although the law’s wording opens the door for heterosexual couples, they are not expected to seek the official partnership as often as homosexuals.
All couples must meet certain requirements that include living together for at least two years within the city limits. The law extends health and insurance benefits as well as hospital visitation rights to the couples, but does not allow them to adopt children or establish rights of inheritance. “Maybe in two or three years we can have legislation that gives us all of our rights: adoption, inheritance, pension,” says Marcelo Suntheim, secretary of the Argentina Homosexual Community, a local nonprofit organization that lobbied to get the civil-unions law passed here. Mr. Suntheim also hopes to pass a civil-unions law nationwide, however observers say that outside the city there is more resistance to such laws.
Prospects for Latin America
Though Buenos Aires is the first city in Latin America to offer these rights, other neighboring countries have addressed the issue. In Brazil, some cities extend certain benefits to gay couples but stop short of providing an official document that establishes a partnership. In Chile, a similar civil-unions law has been introduced in the capital, Santiago, but is unlikely to be endorsed as divorce is still illegal there.
Korenberg and Olivier say they are proud to live in a city where gay rights are finally being recognized. They are thrilled to have a chance to live together as a family, but they say that they will continue to fight so that others in Argentina and Latin America will have the same rights. “This is an era of change,” says Korenberg. “Ten years ago this could never have happened here.”
July 18, 2003
Argentine Gays Legalize Union, 1st in Latin America
by Hilary Burke
Buenos Aires – Glasses clinked and confetti flew on Friday as two Argentines became the first gay couple in Latin America to take advantage of a new law legalizing same-sex civil unions. “Every gay, lesbian, transvestite and transsexual in Argentina has always fantasized about this moment,” said Marcelo Suntheim, 35, as he was jostled by journalists, well-wishers and curious onlookers outside the city’s civil registry.
“Because of all the people who fought for this who are not here to see it, this is a very emotional moment,” said Marcelo’s partner Cesar Cigliutti, 45, referring to fellow gay activists who died of AIDS. Theirs was the first ceremony since the Buenos Aires legislature granted legal status last year to gay couples in a city of 3 million people that is known as one of the most progressive in this deeply Roman Catholic continent.
The law has been hailed as a first in Latin America. Couples can now share insurance coverage and qualify as family members during hospital visits, but their union is not the same as marriage. They cannot adopt children, inherit each other’s wealth or get spousal pension benefits. Several Limitations Nor will the law cover people who live outside the capital or allow access to federal benefits in this nation of 36 million people.
The Argentine capital joined a handful of places, including some U.S. states and several European nations, that recognize legal status for gay unions. Before year’s end, the nonprofit group Argentine Homosexual Community will push for a national measure granting same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexuals who marry, said Cigliutti, the group’s president. City Hall officials expect about 150 gay couples to seal their civil unions in coming months, a spokeswoman said.
Though the law was approved last year it did not go into effect until this week. Buenos Aires – known as the Paris of Latin America with its boulevards, cafes and vibrant cultural scene – has long seen itself as a beacon of European enlightenment in the continent. While in much of Latin America a macho culture dominates and gays are scorned, in Buenos Aires there are gay activist groups, bars and parades. In neighboring Chile, for example, even divorce – let alone gay civil unions – is illegal. Cigliutti, who was sprinkled with rainbow-colored gay pride confetti, celebrated with a glass of sparkling cider, saying: “Our society has really demonstrated maturity in recognizing our rights.”
Additional reporting by Alistair Scrutton
July 19, 2003
Using New Law, Buenos Aires Men Celebrate Civil Union
by Jon Jeter, Washington Post Foreign Service
Buenos Aires – They said they wanted a simple, unfussy ceremony. No tuxedos or ballrooms, just the couple huddled at City Hall, with a few friends and relatives showering them with confetti and toasting them with champagne. The civil union yesterday of Cesar Ciglutti and Marcelo Suntheim was the first legally recognized same-sex union in Latin America, conferring almost the same rights and privileges afforded to married heterosexual couples. Under the law, the two men can jointly apply for loans, health and life insurance, visit each other in the hospital or assume the responsibilities of the primary caregiver in case of illness. “It says we are a couple,” said Ciglutti, who is president of the Homosexual Community of Argentina, an advocacy group. “It says we are two human beings involved in a loving relationship.
This law frees gay men and women to be citizens.” The municipal law is the first of its kind in a country whose social mores are deeply influenced by the values of the Roman Catholic Church. Abortion remains illegal here, and during elections earlier this year none of the five leading presidential candidates uttered a word on the topic. But passage of the civil union law in Buenos Aires last year led lawmakers in other Latin American countries – Chile, Mexico and Brazil – to introduce similar proposals, though none has been approved.
Gay rights activists here first began pushing for the legislation two years ago, focusing first on Buenos Aires, which is known as one of South America’s most urbane and sophisticated cities. “We didn’t pursue those laws that go to the heart of forming a family like adoption,” said Pedro Anibal Paradiso Sottile, legal director for the Homosexual Community of Argentina. “Those are national laws and we only sought to change the local law as it pertained to the rights of couples. We really think that helped to diminish the argument that the legislation represented a threat to the sanctity of the family.” The new law, which took effect this week, applies to both gay and heterosexual couples who are at least 21 years old, have been together for at least two years and live in Buenos Aires.
For Ciglutti, 45, and Suntheim, 35, the civil union statute has both symbolic and practical value. The two have lived together for five years, and following their registry as a couple this week, they can jointly apply for a loan for renovations on their 100-year-old colonial-style brick home. Ciglutti also can extend his health insurance benefits to Suntheim, who is currently unemployed. “This is not about anything other than living as a committed couple,” Suntheim said. “Nothing more than what a heterosexual couple can do.
Once the state recognizes us, legitimizes us, it makes it a lot easier for gays and lesbians to come out to their families, to their friends, to their communities and live without fear, to live free. This is a huge barrier that we have crossed in Latin America.” Gay rights activists say they intend to press for changes to national laws on adoption and inheritance. Church officials insist they will oppose any such revisions.
March 31, 2004
Buenos Aires–Argentina’s ‘gay-friendly’ gateway
In the midst of a general tourism boom, Buenos Aires is fast becoming the continent’s hottest gay destination
by Alexa Stanard
Buenos Aires – Two tango dancers move awkwardly across the floor, laughing as they try to avoid stepping on one another’s toes. As tango classics waft out of the sound system and a disco ball casts its refracted light, the pair are like any other learning a new dance — except they’re both men.
It’s Wednesday night in Buenos Aires, and the country’s only gay milonga is in full swing. Goddess, a local gay club, began offering the milonga — a tango dance party — five months ago, around the time that organizers Roxana Gargano and Augusto Balizano began to notice an influx of gay tourists into Buenos Aires. It’s the latest offering in a city that is fast becoming the hottest gay destination in South America.
Buenos Aires is in the midst of a tourism boom. The Argentine peso lost two-thirds of its value shortly after the country’s 2001 economic collapse. Though bad for Argentines, that drop has been good for tourists, who are now flooding what was once the most expensive city in South America. ” Buenos Aires is New York or London at one-quarter of the price,” said Ray de la Pena, who visited the city from Hawaii three times in 2003.
Indeed, more than 6.5 million tourists visited Buenos Aires in the first 11 months of 2003, a 38-per-cent increase over the same period in 2002, according to figures compiled by the Secretary of Economic Development. In November, the most recent month for which figures are available, tourists spent more than $300-million in the city. No figures exist on how many of those tourists are gay, but several signs point to a significant growth in their numbers.
In May, Carlos Melia opened Pride Travel, the first and only agency in Buenos Aires dedicated exclusively to gay travel. Seven months later, he has six employees, and Melia said the agency was immediately profitable. It puts out The Ronda, a gay guide to Buenos Aires, and is expanding to become an information centre for local gays and lesbians.
Other travel agencies are adding gay-oriented offshoots. And five months ago, Friendly Apartments opened its doors, renting upscale city apartments to gay travellers. The agency currently maintains 15 apartments and will be adding 11, said Matias Pico, the agency’s co-ordinator.
Buenos Aires, a city of three million, is often called the Paris of South America for its café culture, French-style architecture and sophistication of its residents, most of whom are descendants of Spanish and Italian immigrants.
Juan Carlos Campillo, of Mexico City, visited Buenos Aires in July and found the city measured up to its cosmopolitan reputation. ” I chose Buenos Aires because many people had told me how beautiful the city was, that the people were friendly and cultured,” he said. “My friends were right — it was like being in Europe.”
The city boasts a lively gay scene. Buenos Aires is famed for its nightlife, with dozens of bars and discos open every night and portenos — as the multinational denizens of Buenos Aires are known — dancing until the sun comes up. Numerous gay bars and dance clubs have opened recently, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to party like the locals.
There are also gay-only bed and breakfasts, gay-run restaurants, a nearby gay-only beach, and shops and hotels that advertise as “gay-friendly.”
Gay travel is a major business worldwide. In 2002, it generated about $80-billion in receipts in North America alone, according to Robert Wilson, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
That Buenos Aires is viewed as one of the most progressive cities in South Americafuels its appeal to the gay community. Though there is no exact information on the number of gays and lesbians living in Buenos Aires, the community is one of the most open and vibrant in the region. The Argentina Homosexual Community, the country’s first gay-rights organization, was created in 1984. And in 2002 the city became the first in Latin America to pass a civil union law, giving gays and lesbians most of the rights enjoyed by married couples. Wilson said of the law that there is “no doubt whatsoever that it contributes to a sense of the city as progressive.”
Some neighbourhoods, like fashionable Palermo and Recoleta, are known for being safe and accepting places for gays and lesbians. Though gay visitors may need to be circumspect in some parts of the city, a live-and-let-live attitude generally prevails.
” If you want to walk with your partner holding hands, no one will say anything,” Melia said The city’s sophistication, riverside location and proximity to Chile and Brazil combine to make Buenos Aires “one of the major gay destinations in the world,” Wilson said.
Traditionally, gay tourists have had few South American destination options. The heavily Catholic region tends to be conservative and inhospitable to gays and lesbians. It also has few large, cosmopolitan cities. Santiago prohibits any physical affection between members of the same sex in public. Rio de Janeiro, traditionally the major South American gay destination, is falling out of favour as its crime rate spirals.
As they look for a new destination, Buenos Aires’s rich cultural life, progressive attitude and bargain prices are appealing, Melia said.
Pico said the city’s thriving culture, fascinating history and sumptuous dining will lure him back again.
” I loved the friendliness of the people, the food,” he said. “I’m dying to return.”
If you go:
Pride Travel: Paraguay 523, 2nd floor, Ste. E; phone: 54 (11) 5218 6556; http://www.pride-travel.com.
WHEN TO GO
Spring in North America is fall in Argentina, a good time of year to visit, both in terms of weather and prices.
WHERE TO STAY
Friendly Apartments: Paraguay 1446, 9th floor, Ste. A;
http://www.friendlyapartments.com; phone: 54 (11) 4816 9032.
THINGS TO DO
Goddess: Av. Cordoba 4185; phone: 54 (11) 4861 2961. A milonga known as La Marshall is held here Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (classes begin at 8:30 p.m.). It costs about $3 ($4 with the class). For more information, call 54 (15) 5406 9784.
Bleu Cards puts out a map called Gay Map Buenos Aires; visit http://www.bleucards.com.ar for more information or pick up a copy at Pride Travel. The Ronda, another pocket guide, can also be picked up at Pride Travel.
June 27, 2004
Last tango for machismo as gay tourists flock to Argentina
by Uki Goni in Buenos Aires
The couples glide across the floor, their faces close together, in an intimate embrace. Then one dancer’s legs part for the other to fill that void with a quick flick of the foot, a leg action known as the sacada in the language of the tango, a dance that traditionally requires precision movements if the dominant male and compliant female partners are not to trip over.
With its stereotypical sex roles, the tango symbolised a macho philosophy that until now permeated every layer of life in Argentina: But something has changed in the past few months. At Besos Brujos (Bewitched Kisses), a new pink-walled tango salon in Buenos Aires, it is hard to tell who is leading whom as the couples twirl in the dim light. They are all same-sex couples on the dance floor – this is gay tango. ‘The tango had always been catalogued as a male-led dance,’ says 37-year-old Martin Alda soro, one of the club owners. ‘We instead have adopted an open-mind policy. Here gay men and women can dance without drawing uncomfortable stares.’
The gay nights are illustrative of the tourism boom gripping Argentina’s capital. Previously better known for its macho men, high testosterone generals, thick slices of red beef and beautiful women, Buenos Aires has suddenly become the gay mecca of South America, rivalling Rio de Janeiro as the traditional destination for gay tourists from the United States and Europe. At the Pride Travel gay tourist agency, sales manager Hernan Sankovic says gay tourism has grown 80 per cent in Argentina in the last year. Sankovic says the city’s cosmopolitan feel and European lifestyle are reassuring for visitors. ‘Buenos Aires is a good combination of familiar and exotic,’ he said.
The favourable exchange rate, after an economic crisis two and a half years ago caused Argentina’s currency to plummet from one to nearly three pesos to the dollar, certainly helps. The Howard Johnson hotel on exclusive Florida Street has been the first international chain to publicly adopt a gay-friendly policy. ‘We provide information and guidance for our guests regarding gay activities,’ says Daniel Ponce, who is the Howard Johnson gay representative in Argentina.
A city which up to not so many years ago held gays up to ridicule and openly discriminated against them now boasts gay restaurants and hair salons, and even gay marriage agencies. The turning point came when gay couples were granted marriage-like status by Buenos Aires city hall a year ago. The new law grants gays and lesbians the right to joint health insurance, family leave and decision-making for partners in case of illness, although it does not permit them to adopt children or inherit property.
An added attraction for all visitors is the legendary good looks of Argentinians. Small wonder that the sex tourism industry for both heterosexuals and gays is booming, fuelled by demand from an increasing number of tourists and an economic depression that has induced many young people to work in escort agencies. ‘It’s fairly common to see gay American tourists of between 40 and 50 years of age in the company of 20-year-old escorts,’ said one industry source. ‘The number of escort agencies is growing, and many students from the interior of the country are financing their studies in Buenos Aires this way.’
The partying can prove exhausting. ‘It takes me a whole week to recover from Buenos Aires when I get back home,’ says Ash Burton, a 38-year-old businessman from Los Angeles. The competitive edge of the exchange rate may be short-lived, however, as businesses catering to tourists have started raising their prices. Even escorts are ‘dollarising’ their fees.
Tango instructor Martín Garces charges $15 an hour. ‘In the beginning, the tango was danced only among men, because women were not permitted to dance it,’ he said. ‘Then, once the tango became popular, men stopped dancing it with each other. But now I can teach my gay students to learn both roles, both the male and female steps. What often happens is that gay couples will switch roles, taking turns as to who will lead.’
Carlos Debat, a female impersonator, said: ‘The tango is sexual, physical and sensual, but I don’t think it is strictly macho-oriented, it is actually the woman who is the cherry on the cake.’ ‘I used to hate the tango,’ said 20-year-old Ariana Zeno, a student from California: ‘I come from a feminist background and I thought the tango was just men throwing women around. But now I realise how intimate it is.’
29 November 2004
Argentines march for Pride
Some 10,000 people marched in Buenos Aires’ 13th gay-pride parade Nov. 20. “It was much more fun than I would have ever thought,” said first-timer Mariano Lago, 27. “We carried the big big big pride flag for a while, then went to dance along this truck all over Avenida de Mayo.” The parade’s theme was “All of society for the right to diversity — civil unions for the whole country.” Two hundred antigays protested in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
“We have nothing against them and we didn’t come to attack them, but we’re not going to let them take the Catholic Church,” one of the protesters told the daily newspaper Clarín. During last year’s parade the cathedral was spray-painted with graffiti reading “Church = dictatorship”, “Rapist priests” and “Nazi priests.” The vandals chanted, “Here is the repression of the Holy Inquisition.” To date, civil unions have been enacted only in Buenos Aires and in Río Negro province.
What’s New: Buenos Aires (Gay travel story)
by Michael Luongo
The first time I met Gabriel Miremont, the gay curator of the Museo Evita, he told me a mysterious story of a late-night ironing one of Evita Peron’s dresses for a display. “There was suddenly this sweet smell, but I thought I was imagining it,” he said. Each time he worked with her clothes it surrounded him, as if the ghost of Evita, as if the ghost of Evita herself were haunting him. He mentioned it to her surviving sister, thinking she would assume he was crazy.
A few days later she returned with an old bottle of Evita’s perfume. It’s now in the museum’s collection, no longer a mystery, its secrets unlocked after lying dormant for half a century. But as it was with the scent of Evita’s clothes, waiting for the right moment to be noticed, so it is with much of Argentina’s history, from it secret gay past to the rhythms of the immigrants who lifted her to the brink of global economic supremacy at the beginning of the last century.
In December 2002 gays and lesbians in Buenos Aires won some of the best civil union laws in all of South America, due to the work of Comunidad Homosexual Argentina and its president, Cesar Cigliutti. Gays and lesbians have helped spur a tourism revival, but gay men in particular have always been a part of Argentina’s cultural icons. Gay hairdressers and designers gave Evita style that powerful straight men noticed, propelling her to fame.
This secret gay history of the country extends into the tango-a dance born of the immigrant slums, where homosexuality seemed tolerated as one more expression of difference. It was always there, just below the surface, waiting like a ghost, casting its spell, unseen. My father tells me that when he was very young, in the ’20s and ’30s, there was much talk of Argentina. It was a country of immigrants and the vast exports they created, a likely competitor to the United States, itself only becoming a world player. My grandfather had planned to immigrate here from Italy but took a boat to America instead. I often wonder whether I would have ever been born if my preexistence had gone through this completely different scenario. Yet, whether I was to be born in Argentina or not, my soul found its way here. The immigrants my grandfather might have been a part of shaped Argentina. The wealth their blood and sweat created turned Buenos Aires into an industrial giant and a living work of art.
For the oligarchs, the city grafted a skin of Parisian architecture over the bones and hearts of men and women who labored in this new city, now a metropolis of 12 million that was once nothing more than a lonely Spanish outpost on the fertile pampas. While tourists today must come to Buenos Aires to revel in the beauty created for the wealthy, it is the hard life of the underclass that became the foundation of Argentina’s cultural gift to the world, the tangos that seduce foreigners to her shores. It was a sensual diversion of the downtrodden, much akin to how jazz gave African-Americans a moment’s respite in the same period.
To understand tango, the lifeblood of Buenos Aires, one must visit two neighborhoods, old underbellies of the city before she fought to compete with the best of Europe and North America. The old port of La Boca lies along the bay like Rio de la Plata. La Boca is Spanish for mouth, and like the real orifice, it was how Argentina communicated with the world, swallowing millions of immigrants into itself, and then speaking back of her riches i~ product and soul. Buenos Aires residents call themselves Portefios, forever associating themselves with this area.
Today, La Boca is an overrated tourist trap, but the colorful old houses once crammed with immigrants remain. One must think back to the turn of the last century, imagining the noise of carts and horses, the smell of Italian cooking drifting with the sounds of Caruso through the windows. In the midst of all this, representing the odd coexistence of saints and sinners as can only be in a Catholic nation, there were dozens of brothels. Men, sweaty and frustrated from the factories, paid in hot anticipation with pesos as dirty as the pleasures in the rooms above them.
To while away their time, they held one another, pressed against each other’s stubbly olive flesh, sensually, violently stroking each other. This was the tango, a dance so obscene that a woman, even in a brothel, could never dance it. Any modern tango performance worth seeing will show this aspect of its roots, but it throws American audiences off.
The first time I saw men dancing together was at the dinner show at G.llerandi, near San Telmo, another area associated with tango. The quaintly decayed district is the heart of tango’s recent revival, a comforting nod to the past since the 2001 peso crisis. Numerous venues have sprung up, including gay ones. Just off Plaza Dorrego, the heart of San Telmo, is a building with a rainbow flag, El Lugar Gay (the Gay Place) a hotel with sporadic gay tango lessons.
That early mix of violence, sensuality, and a hidden gay sensibility was not solely associated with tango. Argentina’s greatest literary figure, Jorge Luis Borges, alluded to it in his short stories of the city in the ’20s and ’30s. In “Hombre de la Esquina Rosada,” or the “Man on the Pink Corner,” Borges mentions dapper gangsters known as compadritos who kill at the slightest provocation but who adorn themselves with feminine touches like boutonnieres, high-heeled boots, and polished style. Under this anything-goes mentality, Marcelo Suntheim, Cigliutti’s lover and the CHA secretary, told me that “in this context, it is possible” that a gay subculture existed in Buenos Aires. Federico Garcia Lorca, the gay Spanish writer murdered during that country’s civil war, sought temporary refuge in Buenos Aires during this artistic, chaotic period. He lived at Avenida de Mayo’s Castelar Hotel where a plaque commemorates his immersion into Buenos Aires’s literary scene.
This same era produced Argentina’s greatest tango singer, Carlos Gardel. Possibly gay, he lived as a bachelor with his mother until his death in a plane crash in 1935. “To this day,” Cigliutti told me, “there are men in Spain who claim to have been his lover.” You don’t need to know Spanish to appreciate Gardel, but it helps to understand how his lyrics reflect the longing of the Argentine psyche. His signature “Mi Buenos Aires Qyerido” is a forlorn love letter to the city, in which he wonders when he will return to see her, like a lover who has become a part of his soul.
Now the immortal Gardel will never leave his beloved city. His image smiles from street corners everywhere, an awkwardly handsome man in a fedora, the eternal voice of Argentina. The tumultuous mid 1930s were also when the 15-year-old Eva Duarte came to Buenos Aires to seek her fortune. Miremont is certain she threw herself into a dark world where gay men, artists, tango singers, actors, and actresses drank and danced their troubles away in a city fighting against their star-struck dreams.
Miremont thinks Evita connected with gay men because of her social class: “Both have the same problem, they stay beside the society, marginal.” However, the period when Evita was an actress and model and would have had the most gay friends is not well recorded. She herself destroyed information. “My past is for my own,” Miremont told me, paraphrasing one of her quotes. Evita’s gay friends helped propel her to fame. Hairdresser Julio Alcaraz took her under his wing when she was an unknown. He created her famous bun hairstyle, and he stayed until the end, doing her 1952 deathbed coiffure. Her favorite designer was not Dior, as Broadway suggests, but instead Paco Llamandreu, openly gay and maligned for that and his sharp temper. They met in the late 1930s, and as Evita wasted away from cancer, he designed new outfits to brighten her spirits and postpone the inevitable. Within a few years of Evitas death the Peron regime crumbled, ushering in nearly three decades of military rule.
This was detrimental to many aspects of Argentine culture, not just gays and lesbians. Still, homosexuals found ways to organize. Nuevo Mundo, South Americas first known gay rights group, formed on November 1, 1967, a date marked by Argentina’s gay pride parade year after year. This was followed in 1970 by Frente de Liberacion Homosexual. Manuel Puig, the gay author of Kiss of the Spider Woman, was its most famous member. Homosexuals were persecuted to be sure, but Argentina’s oldest gay club, Contramano, opened in 1984 in the waning days of the military regime after the ill-fated Falkland Islands War, known here as the Islas Malvinas. Machine gun-toting soldiers sometimes walked among the patrons, letting them know who was boss.
Spider Woman detailed this oppressive era when the military kidnapped and murdered tens of thousands of people. To seek justice for their missing children, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo march every Thursday in front of the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. Here, in the shadows of Evita’s famous balcony, is also where today’s gay rights events take place, continuing what Cigliutti calls “a political, cultural tradition,” forever linking Argentina’s past injustices with hope for a better future.
This is the Buenos Aires I have fallen in love with, full of inconsistencies, bedeviled by its tragic circumstances. At the end of one of my many trips I told a friend how pained I was to leave. He said that whenever foreigners live in Buenos Aires, once their work is done they suffer a sadness they cannot describe, one they have never felt before. I understood completely. After my first trip, heading to the airport with the city slipping into a blur behind me, I began to sob uncontrollably, the only time in my life I’d ever done that. I wondered if I’d ever see the city again, yet somehow I knew I would.
My love for Buenos Aires only grows stronger each time I leave. It haunts me, lies under the surface of me, a scent I can never escape, one that burns deep within the fabric of my soul.
The Argentine Tango Heartbreaker: Julio Bocca
Perhaps as much of a cultural envoy as Gardel in his time, Argentina’s greatest ballet and tango star, 37-year-old Julio Bocca, spreads the gospel of Argentina’s most famous art form. In 2002, Bocca came out as bisexual, creating a media frenzy after years of speculation on his sexuality.
He and his mostly male ensemble incorporate the early man-to-man history of tango, using the legendary compadritos for inspiration. “It’s very hard for us to understand:’ he said, “just thinking of the macho man going to put makeup on his face to look pretty” before he danced or fought. Bocca says that the compadritos of the I 920s and 19305 tangoed to “simulate fighting:’ Women would then dance with the winner. Within the 1998 movie Tango, in which Bocca starred, he says the idea behind men dancing together was to “play with the idea of a man to be a man and a woman:’
While tango in the modern era celebrates this history, Bocca is unsure if during the military regimes of the 1950s to the 1 980s it occurred other than “in private spaces.” I Since the passage of the civil-unions law in Buenos Aires, Bocca feels that “the country is a little more open:’ He also welcomes the explosion of gay travel to Argentina. Bocca says he has heard 20% of all tourists to Argentina are now gay or lesbian, and he thinks he knows why: “What you have in Argentina is party time and a culture thing, a little more stuff to do than Rio.”
You can tango the gay way at La Marshall, an exciting all-night gay tango event that should not be missed. Held in the club La Salsera (Yatay 961; 011-54-114-912-9043) every Wednesday at 8:30 P.M., the event begins with two hours of gay and lesbian tango lessons, heads into a milonga, where people grab new partners, and then at midnight a tango band plays.
Another gay spot is Besos Brujos (Suipacha 842), where every Tuesday starting at 9 P.M., there is a gay tango show and lessons.
EI Lugar Gay (Defensa 1120; 0 11-54-11-4300) with tango lessons on Sunday at 7:30 P.M. Essentials: Buenos Aires
(Dial 0 II before all phone numbers)
The modern high-rise Park Tower Hotel (Avenida Leandro N. Alem 1193; 54-11-4318-9100; $250-$600) overlooks Plaza San Martin, the heart of Buenos Aires, with some rooms offering views to the Rio de la Plata. The sumptuous facilities have marble baths and butler service.
One of the most luxurious hotels in the city, the Four Seasons (Posadas 1086; 54-11-4321-1200; $300-$3,500) offers rooms in its tower or in its adjacent Louis XII–style mansion. Madonna freaks take note that the mansion’s balcony is where she practiced her Evita scenes.
Alvear Palace (Avenida Alvear 1891; 54-11-4808-21 00; $200-$2,000) is a gold-leaf and marble confection only blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, Evita’s final resting place.
Intercontinental Hotel (Moreno 809; 541/-4340-7100; $140-$250) is the only full-service hotel within walking distance of the San Telmo tango district, allowing you to kick up your heels all night and sleep in comfort after. Special club floors for added privacy,
It doesn’t get any gayer than EI Lugar Gay (Defensa I 120; 54-1 1_ 4300-4747; $25-$50), “the gay place.” It’s tucked away in an old building in San Telmo’s historical district; its lobby is sometimes a de facto gay community center. Rooms are small, some with shared bath.
On the luxury end, try Cabana las Lilas (Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo 516; 54-11-4313-1336; dinner for two with wine $60), one of Buenos Aires’s most famous restaurants. Lunchtime tends to be full of business people at this Puerto Madero-situated eatery.
Nearby and abounding in beef is the moderately priced all-you-can-eat buffet-style La Bisteca (Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo 1890; 54-11-4514-4999; $20 for lunch for two with wine). Despite its casual atmosphere, the seating and lighting make for intimate places for friends or newfound loves. And they really do mean all you can eat-from meat to the overwhelming salad bar.
Another moderate choice with a view to all of Argentina’s history is Gran Victoria (Hipolito Yrigoyen 500; 54-11-4342-3725; lunch for two is $22), overlooking the Plaza de Mayo.The staff is megafriendly.
The gayest dinner spot, though the food is nothing special, is Chueca (Soler 3283; 54-11-4963-3420; $20 for two with wine).You’re really here to check out the table manners of the eye candy you plan on dancing with later.
Grab a pastry and espresso at the historical and beautiful Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825; $6-20). While now somewhat tourist).; this was the hangout of the intellectual elite during Buenos Aires’s heyday,Argentine cinema fans will recognize it immediately as the setting for numerous films. .
The evening starts late in Buenos Aires, but a welcome relief is Titanic I (Avenida Callao 1156; 54-11-4816-1333), which opens at 7 RM., offering light meals and after-work drink specials.
The huge three-story Palacio (Gascon 1040) is one of the city’s hottest clubs, full of a new kind of descomlsodos-the shirtless hunky gay wonders of Buenos Aires. Gay nights, though, are only Fridays and Sundays, so put it on your calendar.
Amerika (Alslna 934) offers much of the same all weekend within an interesting multilevel space with hidden areas above.
Contramano (Rodriguez Pena /082) is the city’s oldest gay club, opened in the last days of the military regime. It’s a more relaxed alternative to the hyperclubs.
No self-respecting gay person would go to Buenos Aires and miss the Museo Evita (Lafinur Street 2988; Tuesday through Sunday from 2 RM. to 7:30 RM.; 54-11-4807-9433). Love her or hate her, who can resist the dresses, the shoes, the hats, and other odds and ends that testify to her hold on Argentina and the world?
February 25, 2005
Gays Kiss on TV as Argentina Ponders Same-Sex Unions
Editor’s Note: A popular dating show in Argentina marks the country’s greater acceptance of gays. But powerful forces oppose civil unions for same-sex couples.
by Vinod Sreeharsha
Buenos Aires – Redhead Andrea Politti seductively takes the stage. She kicks up her orange dress, revealing her exquisite legs to the television audience. She tenderly strokes her neck and torso. Such direct appeal to the male libido is standard on Argentine television. Politti hosts a dating show, another tradition here. But by the show’s end, something not at all typical occurs. Sergio, one of the contestants, chooses to go out on a date with Claudio. The two men kiss each other on the lips, in front of the cameras.
The dating show “12 Corazones–Especial” is the first program in the history of Argentine network television to exclusively feature gay men. Its emergence suggests growing acceptance of gays by Argentines, approximately 90 percent of whom are Catholic.
Argentina, where abortion remains illegal, has an ingrained machismo culture and a history of abuse of gays during the military dictatorship. Yet two years ago, Buenos Aires city and the Rio Negro province became two of Latin America’s first governments to pass same-sex civil union legislation. Now, Polliti says, “Argentine society is asking for television programming that reflects reality.”
” 12 Corazones-Especial” is based on a popular heterosexual dating show of the same name, minus the “special” tag. The format is identical, including the kiss. The program airs on Friday nights on Canal 13, the second most-watched Argentine network. The series, currently a summer pilot, debuted last month. The final episode will run in March. Each of the last two “12 Corazones” episodes rated among the top five programs viewed for the day. Executive Producer Anibal Fernandez says there is a “strong possibility” that the show will be renewed. ” 12 Corazones” has drawn scant criticism. Journalist Natalia Trzenko, who writes about television for the Argentine daily La Nacion, says that “the program is done with respect and care.” Fernandez adds, “We have not received a single phone call complaining.”
Such non-controversy reflects Argentine society’s growing acceptance of gay men. Gay couples walk down Buenos Aires streets holding hands. Gay milongas, tango dance halls, have sprouted up. Leaders in the Argentine gay community offer several reasons. First is economics. Fifty percent of Argentines live in poverty, a new shock for a recently prosperous country. Journalist Osvaldo Bazan, author of the book “History of Homosexuality in Argentina“, says, “We have people eating out of trash cans in the middle of the night. Nobody cares if he is gay.”
Among struggling Argentine families, Bazan adds, “if a gay son can keep his job, his earnings are more important than his being gay.” Additionally, due to Argentina’s disappearing middle class, merchants are searching for untapped niche markets. Enter gay men.
Knowing someone gay is becoming downright cool. “Some families in Argentina do not have a single gay member,” says Lucho Bordegaray, an editor with Imperio, a gay magazine. “But on the nightly telenovelas, every family has one. It seems obligatory.”
Off the small screen, Argentine gays are themselves demanding equal rights. The Buenos Aires and Rio Negro civil union legislation resulted largely from increased activism, particularly from a new generation of teenagers who have no recollection of this country’s notorious military dictatorship. When the heterosexual version of “12 Corazones” aired last year, Anibal Fernandez says he received many calls from gay men asking if they could participate.
The new “12 Corazones” generally portrays gay men as treating relationships seriously. In an episode that will air in March, several contestants eschew meeting potential mates at nightclubs (“There is too much hysteria there,” says one.) Another discusses his love of reading. Two other participants are immediately seduced by this straight-arrow. Fernandez says that in creating the program, “the intention was not to force it onto people. It was not meant to be provocative.”
Last year’s top-rated serial, “Los Roldan,” may have made a gay dating show not just palatable, but downright mundane. Los Roldan featured a transvestite as its central character, with whom a single father fell in love.
Progress on the small screen notwithstanding, a more serious battle will take place in March when the Argentine National Congress likely begins debating national civil union legislation. The proposal is currently being drafted by the NGO Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA). The group’s Secretary, Marcelo Suntheim, says the current draft includes rights to hospital visitation, inheritance and adoption. The effort received a boost last November when a group of 25 prominent Argentine psychologists authored a book defending gays’ right to adopt children. The group unveiled the book at a ceremony at the Argentine Senate. Passage of national civil union legislation, however, is anything but certain. President Nestor Kirchner has not yet publicly indicated his position. His office refused to comment on the matter.
Kirchner will likely be pressured by the Catholic Church. Last year the Buenos Aires city legislature tried to pass sexual education legislation requiring all schools to discuss use of contraceptives. It cancelled the effort due to strong religious opposition. Father Ruben Revello, executive secretary of the Commission of Faith and Culture in the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, says that in enforcing Vatican policy the Church will oppose national civil union legislation. Marriage, Revello says, is between a man and woman.
That may be so, but fewer heterosexual Argentines are tying the knot these days, opting to merely shack up with their partners. Perhaps they would also like the option to enter into a civil union.
PNS contributor Vinod Sreeharsha (email@example.com) is a free-lance writer based in Buenos Aires.
June 3, 2006
IGLFA WC2007 will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Copenhagen – The International Gay and Lesbian Football (Soccer) Association (IGLFA) have officially announced in Copenhagen, Denmark the next host city for the 2007 IGLFA World Championship is Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the meeting IGLFA considered three South American cities: Lima, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires got the support from all the IGLFA Board of Directors.
This tournament will signal the first ever IGLFA World Championship in Latin America and the first recognized international gay soccer/football tournament in South America. The tournament will be held from 23 September to 29 September in Buenos Aires. The tournament will offer 11 vs. 11 for men’s and women’s teams and will likely offer 7 vs. 7 in order to allow more teams to participate.
Tomas Gomez, a native of Peru and the IGLFA President, commented, “This tournament is extremely important to us. With this outreach initiative toward Latin America we want to developed IGLFA goals and membership into South and Central America. IGLFA is hoping that this tournament will have a positive impact on the future of the gay community in Latin America. We have the support from the Buenos Aires City and gay community, and we are sure this tournament will be different with a “Latin Style”.
Bjarne Henrik Lundis, Denmark
The Argentinean Supreme Court Recognizes Transgender Group
November 22, 2006
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016,
Buenos Aires – Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Argentina ruled that official legal recognition must be given to the Association for the Struggle of the Travesti and Transsexual Identity (ALITT). The court decision overrules earlier decisions by the General Inspectorate of Justice (a division of the Argentinean Justice Department dealing with the registration of the NGOs, “Inspeccion General de Justicia” in Spanish) and the civil court, which declared that ALITT’s goals were unacceptable as “going against the common good.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling not only extends recognition to ALITT as an organization, but gives full validity to the objective of advocating on behalf of the transgender community. The Court’s ruling founded the denial of legal status to be unjustly discriminatory and a violation of the freedom of association. Mauro Cabral, Trans and Intersex Consultant for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) expressed his satisfaction with the ruling, “This is an incredible victory for travesti and transsexual communities in Argentina. The legal recognition given to ALITT constitutes a fundamental step in the struggle for travestis and transgender human rights in Argentina.”
IGLHRC worked with ALITT’s leading representative Lohana Berkins to prepare an amicus curiae brief. Ms. Berkins is a former recipient of IGLHRC’s 2003 Felipa de Souza Award. “We are very thrilled and proud of ALITT’s achievement,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s Executive Director, adding, “the legal recognition of the right to associate is a critical step of having a full voice in society.”
The new court order comes shortly after the authorities in the Argentinean province of Mendoza repealed Article 80, which mandated punishment for those who “in daily life wear clothes or attempt to pass as someone of the opposite sex.” In practice, this article criminalized travesti and transsexual gender identity. Also on June 29 of this year, Argentina witnessed the first National Travesti, Transsexual and Transgender March in its history.
Nevertheless, travestis and transsexuals continue to be two of the most vulnerable communities in Argentina, frequently exposed to police violence, a repressive provincial penal code, and education, health, labor and housing discrimination.
August 30, 2007
First Hurdle for LGBT Rights Passed Within Latin American Economic Union
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC Latin America Regional Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
On August 7, 2007, the first significant step in promoting region-wide sexual and gender rights in Latin America was taken when the human rights committee of the Southern Common Market issued a declaration to recognize and promote an end to discrimination against sexual and gender minorities by member countries. Should the entire Southern Common Market pass the resolution, it will result in sweeping changes to the rights and policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Latin America, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
The MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur, or Southern Common Market) is a regional trade and integration agreement among a number of Latin American countries. Its origins date to 1985 when the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina signed an economic cooperation pact. Current full member states are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Associated members are Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In December 2004, the Associated States Human Rights High Authorities was formed to address the integration process among these Latin American members with regard to promoting human rights in the region. “This is a truly ground breaking opportunity for achieving the promise of full human rights throughout Latin America for sexual and gender minorities,” said Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, who participated in the session. “We are confident that the governments will adopt the subcommittee’s declaration and set it on the road to a full resolution of the entire MERCOSUR.”
Over the last year, IGLHRC played an instrumental role in coordinating LGBT groups within the MERCOSUR countries to form a MERCOSUR LGBT federation to ensure that the rights of LGBT people would be integrated into trade and other agreements in the region. When the MERCOSUR met in early August in Montevideo, Uruguay, a specific session on Sexual Diversity, Identity and Gender was held. IGLHRC and the MERCOSUR LGBT federation joined a range of civil society, human rights, and government officials in presenting to the High Authorities the urgent need to adopt clear policies for eradicating sexual orientation and gender identity/expression discrimination in these countries. The declaration, reprinted below in full, calls on Latin American governments to Repeal of laws that discriminate against LGBT people Promote public awareness and education plans Increase involvement of LGBT people at all levels of public education Take action to end police harassment and persecution Adopt laws to protect same-sex couples and their families Ease name change and registration for transgender people Create government agencies to support and provide services to LGBT people Promote inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the draft of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination Convene a regional entity to monitor state compliance.
The MERCOSUR LGBT working network was created in May 2006 in Rosario, Argentina, with the goal of having an impact on the human rights policies adopted by the MERCOSUR. “If this is declaration is ultimately adopted as a resolution by the MERCOSUR, it will mark the single biggest global development for the LGBT community since the range of inter-European entities set out to abolish discrimination and the criminalization of homophobia in Europe,” said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC. Having full government support from so many Latin American countries will have a substantial global impact as these countries vote on human rights measures at the Organization of American States and United Nations,” added Ferreyra.
What Does the Document Says:
Montevideo, Uruguay, August 7th 2007
The MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities Seminary on Sexual Diversity, Identity and Gender, organized by the Uruguay Pró-Têmpore Presidency, expresses the urgent need to work for sexual orientation and gender identity / expression discrimination eradication in these countries and to recognize Sexual Diversity Rights as Human Rights.
For this we considerer that it is necessary:
– To revoke and/or to modify any kind of legislation and/or discriminatory regulation criminalizing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people, and/or restrict any exercise and enjoyment of their complete civil rights. In this sense, to revoke any kind of legislation or regulation prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or trans people from blood donation.
– To generate and/or impel cross-sectional public policies in all Governmental areas (as the “Brazil without Homophobia” and the Argentinean “National Plan against Discrimination” policies intend to do), nondiscriminatory laws, programs and actions, in the scope of education, health, work, etc., that specifically promote sexual orientation and gender identity/expression nondiscrimination, specially those allowing trans people access to those areas. In the case of enacted laws, these should be applied in ways that guarantee their operability, overturning the burden of proof. To fulfill this task it is important to establish a direct bond with civil society so that political decisions will emerge from joint work.
– To promote the inclusion of LGBT people’s Human Rights content in education (public and private, institutional and non-institutional) at all levels, including educator trainings, and to stimulate campaigns that tend to lessen prejudices based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression discrimination. To promote groups investigation of sexual diversity related issues.
– To take political decisions and actions that definitively stop security force harassment, discrimination, persecution and repression of LGBT people, especially towards trans people, in each country.
– To generate laws that guarantee the same protection and rights recognized for heterosexual family to LGBT people and their families, creating legal institutions like society of coexistence, concubinary union, civil union pacts or any comparable access to same sex marriage.
– To create laws to allow trans people to change their name and sex registration without any kind of surgical or medical requirements, and that guarantees public and free access to sex reassignment treatments and surgeries for those that wish it.
– To generate specific state institutional spaces to work on sexual orientation and identity/gender expression discrimination topics and to inform civil society about these bodies. To give those bodies the ability to receive and systematize complaints, to provide concrete answers according to each case, and, in addition, to allow them design and evaluate public policies in each place.
– To compel its political will to urge the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity expression in the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance draft text that is being discussed at the OAS.
– To urge the creation of a discriminatory practices Regional Observatory that includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression where civil society organizations interacts with the MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities and MERCOSUR parliamentarians, between others, to investigate, study, discuss and attend to those issues. To make this observatory able to produce information annually on the situation of LGBT people in the region and to be presented before national and international forums.
We recognize the need to advocate the development of the required measures enunciated in this declaration in each of our countries. We commit ourselves to organize another seminary, promoting the participation of the chancelleries and authorities of each different country; to permanently incorporate sexual diversity issues at the meetings of MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities (RAADDHH), across all groups, commissions and programs; to include sexual diversity issues on each country’s periodic Human Rights reports, for instance those before the CCPR and the CERD; and to study and to consider inclusion of the Yogyakarta Principles as subject for the next meeting, with the objective being to consider States Members’ support.
11th September 2007
Gay world cup to be held in Argentina
South America has an impressive history when it comes to football, and this year it will be adding another great moment as gay teams meet for the 2007 Lesbian-Gay World Soccer Championship. Supported by the Federation of International Football(FIFA), Buenos Aires, Argentina will host gay and lesbian teams from across the globe at the event later this month. Gay and lesbian teams began to pop up almost three decades ago and the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association was formed to act as a governing body for the sport.
The goal of the organisation is to “engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world, through the medium of football (soccer).” The event will be played in Buenos Aires’ Sarmiento Park and is supported by the Argentina Soccer Association (AFA) and Argentine Homosexuality Community (CHA) along with FIFA. AFA has dedicated itself to finding volunteers and officials to help oversee the event and are determined to make it a success.
AFA vice president Julio Grondona said: “The World Championship is a sports and political event with a clear message: every player has the right to calmly express his sexual orientation without any kind of prejudice.” The opening ceremony for the championship will take place on Sunday, September 23rd at the Amerika Disco, and will kick off the week long event. In 2008 the Gay World Cup will be held in London.
21st September 2007
British teams fly the flag at gay World Cup
by Georgina Roberts
This weekend four British football clubs will head to the 2007 International Gay and Lesbian Football Association World Soccer Championship in Argentina. It is the first time Latin American country has hosted the event. British teams Stonewall FC and Village Manchester will play in the competitive league while the two London rivals, Leftfooters and London Titans, will compete in the recreational division.
Chris Basiurski, the Football Association Liaison and Campaigns Officer for the Gay Football Supporters Network and defender for Leftfooters, told PinkNews.co.uk: “We are very excited about taking part in a tournament for the first time in Argentina. We are looking forward to meeting many new people from across the world and reacquainting ourselves with old friends from previous tournaments. We know that Argentina will be fantastic hosts. As the only South American country where civil partnerships are permitted, it is fitting that the tournament be held there this year.”
The tournament at Buenos Aires’ Sarmiento Park, hosted by the Argentina Soccer Association, kicks off with a ceremony at Amerika disco on Sunday 23 September. The final takes place a week later on Saturday 29. The annual tournament, which has been running for 16 years, will be coming to London next year, hosted by the Leftfooters FC. The teams will play in Regents Park for the 2008 title. The event will be supported by the FA, following the launch of the Football For All Campaign, which aims to stamp out homophobia in the sport.
Mr Basiurski commented: “We are greatly looking forward to welcoming everyone to London next year, for what we believe will be the biggest gay sporting event ever held in the UK. It will be a chance to build on the strength of this year’s tournament to ensure that we continue to promote the participation of gay men and women in football within a safe and tolerant environment.”
27th September 2007
Trans youth to undergo surgery in Latin America
A 17-year-old transsexual boy has been granted gender reassignment surgery in Argentina. The Consulting Bioethics Committee of the Córdoba Judiciary decided that the child, known as Nati, can now go ahead with surgery and can also have the gender changed on her official documents including her birth certificate. The landmark decision to allow Nati to receive the surgery follows three years of petitioning. The case was originally dismissed in 2004 on the grounds that parental permission did not extend to granting irreversible surgery.
Nati will now focus on her surgery, which is imminent. She said: “I’m very happy that my real identity has been recognised.” Nati suffers from Harry Benjamin Syndrome, a congenital intersex condition that is believed to start during pregnancy when the brain of an unborn child develops as one gender and the body as the other. This will be the first gender reassignment surgery performed on a minor in Argentina and in Latin America. In January this year a 12-year-old Austrian child had gender reassignment treatment after persuading her parents and doctors that she was sure she was a girl.
September 29, 2007
Argentine team beats British side to win gay world cup
Buenos Aires (AFP) – Argentina’s Los Dogos captured the gay football world cup Saturday, defeating British title-holders Stonewall 1-0 in Buenos Aires in the first final held in Latin America. The two teams were among 28 squads from Europe, the Americas and Australia that participated in the 10th gay football world championship aimed at highlighting the fight against homophobia and discrimination. With their victory, Los Dogos, named after an Argentine dog breed, automatically qualified for the 2008 tournament hosted by London.
“The people supported us and I hope it’s always like this,” said Dogos coach Nestor Gammella, 51, after the final held at the Defensores de Belgrano stadium. “We beat the world champions and we are happy.” It was the first time Latin American teams played in the tournament organized by the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), with squads from Mexico, Chile and Uruguay. IGFLA president Tomas Gomez said Buenos Aires was chosen to host the cup this year for its “respect and social acceptance of the gay community.” Buenos Aires is increasingly seen as a gay-friendly city. In 2002, the city’s government approved gay and lesbian civil unions.
November 04, 2007
Travel Briefs: 5-star gay lodging in Latin America
The first five-star gay hotel in Latin America has opened in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, an increasingly popular destination on the worldwide gay tourist circuit. The hotel, near the historic San Telmo neighborhood, is the second of its kind developed by Spain’s Axel Corp., which opened a five-star gay hotel in Barcelona in 2003.
“Like any other business, we have economic objectives,” general manager Nacho Rodriguez said. But “we’re also about fighting to help the normalization and acceptance of gays in society.” The hotel’s top floor is a glass-bottomed pool that draws visitors’ gazes upward as they enter the breezy lobby. The 48-room hotel is “hetero-friendly,” company officials say, noting about a quarter of the Barcelona hotel guests are heterosexual and predicting a similar pattern in Buenos Aires.
November 18, 2007
Thousands march in gay pride parade in Argentine capital Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina (The Associated Press) – Thousands of Argentines waving rainbow flags marched in the annual Gay pride parade Saturday in Buenos Aires, where some said they still face discrimination in one of the most gay-friendly cities in Latin America. The capital became the first city in the region to pass same-sex civil union laws in 2002, and this year played host to soccer’s “gay world cup” and saw the opening of the first five-star hotel catering to homosexuals.
But activists said more needs to be done to correct discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people. Dancing atop booming sound trucks and waving from rainbow-flag-draped cars, the revellers snaked through downtown Buenos Aires past the capital’s Government House and the iconic Obelisk monument. Argentina’s first gay pride parade was held in 1992.
November 18, 2007
You say ‘Parada,’ they say ‘Marcha’
This is Gay Pride weekend here in Buenos Aires, where my partner and I are living for the rest of this year. My first reaction was to the small size of the event, since B.A. bills itself (repeatedly) as “the gay capital of South America.” I would put the numbers at tens of thousands, certainly smaller than most big city Pride events I’ve attended, and a tiny, tiny percentage of the millions who filled Avenida Paulista for the world’s largest Gay Pride, in São Paulo, Brasil, back in June.
The location yesterday was perfect, however, on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of Evita’s famous speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. From that picturesque square, the parade proceeded through the Centro to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. The event here in BsAs is called the “Marcha del Orgullo,” or Pride March, and it did have a more political feel than the “Parada de Orgulho” in São Paulo. There were political banners for the event’s theme, “Equality, Liberty, Diversity,” as well as, “The same rights with the same names,” a direct call for marriage and not simply civil union recognition for gay couples. Still, drag queens dressed in wedding gowns, gyrating to “The Wedding Song” is unlikely to change many minds on the subject.
Gay marriage is a hot topic right now in Argentina, since the election earlier this month of Cristina Kirchner, the current first lady and a former senator. A prominent Cristina backer in the Senate introduced a gay marriage bill in the weeks leading up to the election, but gay Latino blogger Blabbeando has raised a number of legitimate questions about whether that support can be attributed to the prime candidate herself. Reading his analysis, Cristina comes off a bit like her cautious and calculating counterpart running for president back home in the U.S.
It’s a mistake to judge a community by its Gay Pride, but overall I’m surprised that gay Argentinians are pushing for marriage. Moreso than in Rio or São Paulo, many gays here seem to be fairly closeted, although many would have you believe they are post-gay rather than pre-gay. Perhaps a bit of both is fair, but it speaks well of the activists here and the political scene that gays can be a political force with such a (relatively) small visible presence.
November 29, 2007
Macho Argentina warms to gay dollars and euros
by Alexei Barrionuevo
Buenos Aires: Home to the sexy tango dance and swarthy meat-eaters, this South American capital has long been thought of as a bastion of macho attitudes. But a new hotel here is adding to the city’s growing image as a bastion of gay-friendliness. The Axel Hotel, a Spanish import, has come to symbolize an increasingly aggressive effort by Buenos Aires to court gay dollars and euros. Earlier this month the city swung its doors open to the Axel, Latin America’s first luxury hotel built exclusively with gays in mind. That Buenos Aires would be chosen for such a marketing experiment is a result of a marked change in the acceptance of gays in Argentine society over the past several years. The city of three million people has come a long way from the years of military dictatorship, when being openly gay could lead to jail time. Five years ago, Argentina’s capital was the first major Latin American city to approve legalized same-sex unions, and this summer it was host to a gay football World Cup, a first in the region.
“There is so much more freedom these days,” said Mauricio Urbides, a 28-year-old fashion designer, who sipped red wine with two male friends at the hotel recently. “You see gays on television here, in government. Just 15 years ago it was a completely different situation.” The three friends were among a mixed crowd of gays and heterosexuals who laughed as Kyra and Sharon, two drag queens from Barcelona poked fun at the Argentine president-elect, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and sang a Marilyn Monroe-inspired “Happy Birthday” to a male guest near the hotel’s outdoor pool. In other parts of the world, such as San Francisco’s Castro district, gays have struggled recently to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification. In the Castro, America’s largest gay neighborhood, San Francisco’s most popular Halloween party was canceled last month, striking a blow to the neighborhood’s identity. But Buenos Aires has become more accepting of gays despite having no traditional neighborhood of its own. The first gay bar here opened in 1983, just as the military dictatorship was being toppled. Then in 1992, President Carlos Menem signed a decree promising legal protection for homosexuals.
Argentine social mores began loosening in the 1990s, when the pegging of the peso to the dollar gave Argentines more spending power, allowing many to travel abroad, including Urbides, who said he journeyed to Florida and Sint Maarten. “People traveled and found there were other ways of living that were completely different than what they were used to,” Urbides said. After Argentina plunged into economic chaos in late 2001, discrimination based on sexual orientation seemed like a petty concern. “When people are eating out of garbage cans it really doesn’t matter if you are gay or not,” said Osvaldo Bazán, a journalist and author of the book “History of Homosexuality in Argentina from the Conquest of America to the 21st Century.” The devalued currency made Buenos Aires a relative bargain for Western tourists, including many gays who liked the city’s European sophistication. In recent years, marketers have more aggressively sought to promote the city as a gay tourist destination. Gay tango bars and wine shops have sprouted up, and a new “friendly card” helps travelers and locals alike to get discounts at gay-friendly shops and restaurants. A “Gay Map” lists gay-friendly nightspots and more.
Travel industry experts estimate that about 20 percent of tourists that visit Buenos Aires are gay, or about 300,000 visitors a year that spend $600 million annually in the city. Even as tourism has been flourishing, so, too, has activism by locals to gain rights for gays and encourage more tolerance. In 2002, activists, including many in their early 20s with scant memories of the dictatorship, pushed successfully to legalize same-sex unions, despite some resistance from the Roman Catholic Church, of which some 90 percent of Argentines are members. Argentina’s House of Representatives is expected to vote in the next few days on a new national law to extend health benefits to gay couples, with some members of the governing Peronist Party pledging their support. Argentina’s more liberal treatment of sexual orientation on television has also stoked acceptance. Florencia De La Vega, a transsexual actress, made a splash when she played a transvestite in the 2004 soap opera “Los Roldán.” A year later, the television dating show “12 Corazones – Especial,” became the first in the county to exclusively feature gay men – who kissed on camera.
Yet even as popular culture and the same-sex law have raised acceptance, visitors still complain of homophobic treatment, said Marcelo Suntheim, secretary of the Community of Homosexuals in Argentina, an activist group. He said the group received three complaints this year from gay couples who said that hotel concierges in Buenos Aires “asked them not to kiss in the lobby because children were present.” In this way, some locals are hopeful that the new Axel Hotel will offer another place where same-sex couples can feel more comfortable. The hotel, which has billed itself as “hetero-friendly,” is the second gay-themed hotel to be built by Juan Juliá, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Barcelona, where the first Axel opened three years ago. He chose Buenos Aires after considering Rio de Janeiro; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and a host of European capitals. The Axel emphasizes both openness and a fun spirit. From the lobby area, guests look up and can see swimmers slithering about in a rooftop pool with a glass bottom. The 48 rooms feature amenities like a glass shower right next to the bed. Instead of the traditional “Do Not Disturb” sign is one that reads “Please Disturb.”
Condoms – with packages reading “Enjoy!” in both English and Spanish, are also supplied. “We provide everything for you to have fun,” said Juliá. “Be safe, but have fun.” He said he hopes the hotel becomes popular not only with tourists, but with local Argentines who will see it as a place to socialize. “The majority of the gay community is looking more and more for hetero-friendly places,” said Luciano Fus, a 29 year-old translator who watched the drag show. “But this will be another after-work spot.” Urbides said he would “definitely come back.” He smiled. “Especially if the hotel brings Madonna back to Buenos Aires, or better yet, if it brings Cher here.”
December 3, 2007
Buenos Aires Journal
In Macho Argentina, a New Beacon for Gay Tourists
by Alexei Barrionuevo
Buenos Aires — Home to the sexy tango and strapping meat-eaters, this South American capital has long been thought of as a bastion of macho attitudes. But a new hotel here is adding to the city’s growing image as a bastion of gay-friendliness. The Axel Hotel, a Spanish import that opened in November, has come to symbolize Buenos Aires’s increasingly aggressive effort to court gay dollars and euros. It is Latin America’s first luxury hotel built exclusively with gay customers in mind. That Buenos Aires would be chosen for such a marketing experiment is a result of a marked change over the past several years in the acceptance of gay men and lesbians in Argentine society. This city of three million people has come a long way from the years of military dictatorship, when being openly gay could lead to jail. Five years ago this was the first major Latin American city to legalize same-sex unions, and this summer it was host to a World Cup for gay soccer players, a first in the region.
“There is so much more freedom these days,” said Mauricio Urbides, a 28-year-old fashion designer, who sipped red wine with two male friends at the hotel recently. “You see gays on television here, in government. Just 15 years ago it was a completely different situation.” The three friends were among a mixed crowd of homosexuals and heterosexuals who laughed as Kyra and Sharon, drag queens from Barcelona, Spain, poked fun at Argentina’s president-elect, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and sang a Marilyn Monroe-inspired “Happy Birthday to You” to a male guest. In other parts of the world, like the Castro district in San Francisco, gay people have struggled recently to maintain a cultural presence in the face of gentrification. Buenos Aires has no traditional gay neighborhood, but acceptance of gay people has slowly grown. The first gay bar here opened in 1983. In 1992 President Carlos Menem signed a decree promising equal legal protection for gay men and women.
Argentine social mores began loosening in the 1990s, when the pegging of the peso to the dollar gave Argentines more spending power, allowing many to travel abroad. “People traveled and found there were other ways of living that were completely different than what they were used to,” Mr. Urbides said. After Argentina plunged into economic chaos in late 2001, discrimination based on sexual orientation seemed to many like a petty concern. “When people are eating out of garbage cans it really doesn’t matter if you are gay or not,” said Osvaldo Bazán, a journalist and the author of “History of Homosexuality in Argentina From the Conquest of America to the 21st Century.”
The devalued currency made Buenos Aires a relative bargain for Western tourists, including many who are gay and like the city’s European sophistication. In recent years marketers have more aggressively sought to promote the city as a gay tourist destination. Gay tango bars and wine shops have sprouted up, and a new “friendly card” helps travelers and local residents alike to get discounts at gay-friendly shops and restaurants. Travel industry experts estimate that about 20 percent of the tourists here are gay — 300,000 a year — and they spend $600 million here annually. Even as tourism has been flourishing, so, too, has local gay activism. It was young gay rights advocates who successfully pushed to legalize same-sex unions, despite resistance from the Roman Catholic Church. At the end of November the lower house of Congress in Uruguay, Argentina’s neighbor, legalized homosexual unions there, too. If the Senate approves the law, Uruguay would be one of only six countries with such a law. Advocates in Argentina, meanwhile, are pushing Congress to extend health benefits to gay couples.
Argentina’s more liberal treatment of sexual orientation on television has also stoked acceptance. Florencia de la Vega, who is transsexual, made a splash when she played a transvestite in the 2004 soap opera “Los Roldán.” In 2005 the dating show “12 Corazones — Especial” featured gay men who kissed on camera. Yet some visitors still complain of homophobic treatment, said Marcelo Suntheim, secretary of the Community of Homosexuals in Argentina, an activist group. He said the group received three complaints this year from gay couples who said hotel concierges in Buenos Aires “asked them not to kiss in the lobby because children were present.”
So some local residents say they hope that the Axel will offer another place where same-sex couples can feel more comfortable. The hotel, which has billed itself as “hetero-friendly,” is the second gay-themed hotel to be built by Juan Juliá, an entrepreneur from Barcelona, where the first Axel opened three years ago. The 48-room Axel promotes itself as a place for fun, complete with a glass-bottomed rooftop pool, and free condoms. “We provide everything for you to have fun,” Mr. Juliá said. “Be safe, but have fun.”
He said he hoped the hotel became popular not only with tourists, but also with local Argentines who would see it as a place to socialize. “The majority of the gay community is looking more and more for hetero-friendly places,” instead of exclusively gay places, said Luciano Fus, a 29-year-old translator who watched the drag queen show. “But this will be another after-work spot.” Mr. Urbides said he would “definitely come back.” He smiled. “Especially if the hotel brings Madonna back to Buenos Aires, or better yet, if it brings Cher here.”
Vinod Sreeharsha contributed reporting.