LGBTI+ movement

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By RENAN QUINALHA*

Author introduction to newly released book

This book systematizes years of study and elaborations around the theme of sexual and gender diversity. I had been thinking for a long time about sharing reflections and academic references in a more accessible language, without sacrificing the depth of the discussions, with the aim of reaching a wider audience interested in the LGBTI+ universe and history.[I] This work, therefore, is aimed both at people who already have some knowledge on the subject and who wish to go deeper and at those who are taking their first steps in the universe of gender and sexuality studies.

The book is divided into three main parts, which unfold into five chapters. In the first part, which has a single chapter, I develop an introduction to the main conceptual issues in the field of gender and sexuality. Obviously, without any intention of exhausting extremely complex issues such as the essentialist and constructionist matrices or even the sex-gender system, I seek to present an explanatory panorama of the concepts that will then serve as a starting point for interpreting the strategies and agendas of mobilizations LGBTI+ in the world and, particularly, in our country.

Then, in the second part, which contains three chapters with a more historiographical approach, I analyze the emergence of the LGBTI+ movement. Despite all the possible debates around the individual and collective experiences of resistance that could be taken as the starting point of an organized activism, I begin with a specific chapter on Germany as the epicenter of proto-activism at the end of the XNUMXth century in the context of the affirmation of a homosexual identity.

In the third chapter of the book, I examine the emergence of activism in the United States after World War II, highlighting the pioneering spirit of homophile groups in the 1950s and, more especially, the collectives that emerged from the Stonewall Rebellion in 28 June 1969. Without rejecting the importance and influence of this singular historical event, I question the interpretations that consider it as the “founding myth” of LGBTI+ activism, inserting it in the broader framework of North American cultural and political conditions of the decade from 1960.

After tracing this story from an international approach, with a Western perspective, I then move on to the discussion of the Brazilian LGBTI+ movement in the fourth chapter. Taking the concept of “cycles” instead of “waves”, I seek to historicize the development of the main flags, subjects and organizations of organized activism in Brazil, with special attention to the Rio-São Paulo axis because of the approach adopted, always leaving a series of references for those who want to delve deeper into each topic examined.

Finally, in the fifth chapter that makes up the third and final part, I mobilize all the conceptual, historical and LGBTI+ memory references presented throughout the book for a more opinionated analysis of the challenges posed to the struggles for sexual and gender freedom today in our country. Particularly, I believe that this is the most interesting block of the work and that it has relative autonomy from the rest of the writings, as it involves more authorial reflections and a reading of the conjuncture that, humbly, intend to contribute to the formulation of strategies and demands for the LGBTI+ movement.

This book, in short, intends to share theoretical and historiographical reflections, but, above all, it is presented as an invitation to political action and the fight for equality, diversity and democracy. In times of authoritarianism and moral conservatism, there is nothing like history to teach and inspire us in the resistance of the present. I would like to thank Ricardo Musse, a professor in my graduation in Social Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP) and, today, a friend for inviting me to publish in Coleção Ensaios, as well as for reading and for the comments that enriched the text.

It should be noted that much of the content in this book is based on a course on the history of the LGBTI+ movement that has had numerous face-to-face and virtual editions, with more than a thousand students from all over the country (and even people living abroad) since 2017. course meant much more than a space for theoretical training. Through these meetings, it was possible to witness the blossoming of friendships, the birth of relationships, publishing projects and activism, in short, the creation of a powerful community of reflections, affections and action.

Therefore, I would like to thank the institutions that hosted it from the beginning: SESC's Research and Training Center (CPF) in the first edition, Espaço Revista CULT in several other editions, and Márcio Costa, my partner, who helped me organize other editions. so many virtual editions. I dedicate this book to all the people who were with me in those moments of exchange. Many of the elaborations here arose from provocations and questions raised by you. I learned more than I taught, and this work is proof of that.

 

How many and which LGBTI+ stories?

Writing a history of LGBTI+ people is a challenge from several perspectives. Despite the existence of homoerotic experiences and questions about gender roles since ancient times, there are many difficulties for this record. First, because of the challenge of grouping events and characters into categories formulated only in modern times. Imposing a formulation to different moments and territories always carries the risk of anachronism and colonialism in the forms of knowledge.

Secondly, because there is the challenge of drawing up an inventory of significant events that, buried by stigma and violence, ended up being made invisible or erased from hegemonic narratives (Souto Maior; Quinalha, 2022; Pedro; Veras, 2014). For no other reason, it has been said that LGBTI+ history is a “negative inventory”[ii] composed of absences, gaps and silencing. In this line, the task of an archeology becomes even more necessary to, in a counter reading of the past, bring out traces and fragments that were marginalized (Sedgwick, 2016).

Furthermore, there is no single possible story. LGBTI+ stories can only be written in the plural. Among the various writing possibilities, the first choice is at what time and place to start this story. There are always several starting points. My choice here is not to take as a starting point the set of individual acts of rebellion, disobedience and agency that were not reflected in a more perennial collective organization.

It is true that LGBTI+ resistance materializes in individual existences before the emergence of organized activism and even before the very identities that today make up this acronym in permanent mutation. Since the most remote times, there are several records of people who challenged the norms of behavior in the fields of gender and sexuality. Men and women who did not conform to binarism and heteronormativity, moving across borders and, therefore, showing acts of transgression.

Despite the constant violence to which they were subjected, these people managed to fulfill their desires, build territories of sociability, circulate small publications, create more authentic ways of life and even structure networks of protection and affection among equals. Thus, the existence of people confronting the rules of the sexual and social order, more or less consciously, already embodied a rebellion not only from a subjective point of view, but also from a social and political point of view. These intimate, individual, molecular resistances have always faced norms and expectations.

Nor will I take as a starting point the various associations that populated the LGBTI+ imagination over decades and even centuries: small meetings, often clandestine, inside homes; theme parties and carnival dances; flirting in semi-public cruising territories; nightclubs hidden in the ghettos of big cities. Although marked by clearly gregarious characteristics, such initiatives, which were fundamental for the emergence of LGBTI+ identities and subcultures, proved to be a necessary, but still not sufficient, condition for the political organization that interests us more closely here. In other words, as important as it was, coexistence between equals did not produce, by itself and without articulation with other dimensions, an organized political action.

Thus, depending on the criteria and cuts used, milestones and processes are defined that are more or less significant in a given historical narrative. For this book, the focus is on a story, among the many that can be written, of organized activism, prioritizing the political-organizational dimension that is conventionally called the LGBTI+ movement. The choice is to start the analysis with the movement that, from the second half of the XNUMXth century, started to adopt a specific type of collective action. It is from the convergence of a series of factors that the emergence of an organized social movement takes place.

There are many theories in the field of political sociology that seek to explain the complex theme of social movements, each with a different conceptualization, but we emphasize here the points that seem most important to demarcate the uniqueness of the political action of homosexuals: the birth of the category " homosexual” within the field of medical-scientific discourse; the understanding of an identity increasingly fixed in the subject and with collective ballast; the various publications that formed a public sphere of contact and circulation of ideas and theories; campaigns against the pathologization and criminalization that made possible a certain politicization, with institutional transits, of homosexuality.[iii]

The notion of an “imagined community”, based on the work of Benedict Anderson (2008) on nationalism, seems to be a key with interesting potential to analyze this emergence. Despite the differences, it is a common repertoire that will allow the naming of experiences. Even without personally knowing all the other individuals like you in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity, there are a series of shared references that are discovered, learned and taught across generations, connecting individuals beyond the contingency of their experiences. The established bonds of a communion of interests (in this case, the desire and the stigma that crosses it) will allow a collective and transforming action.[iv]

This imagined community became more dense and concrete, especially in large urban centers. For no other reason, Berlin was the epicenter of the first wave of LGBTI+ mobilization that we will analyze here. The cross circulation, the expanded world and the encounters made possible in the territories of the cities are of enormous relevance for this community constitution of the LGBTI+ population. Didier Eribon even used “refugees” to designate LGBTI+ who saw “escape to the city” as the only existential way out, that is, migration to urban centers to which many people went in order to enjoy the anonymity of cities , which gave a greater margin for a double life, and the spaces – albeit ghettoized – for sociability and the fulfillment of homoerotic desires that they could and still can offer (Eribon, 2008 – especially Chapter 2).

Another interesting way to think about the uniqueness of this moment, also linked to urban development, is the more consistent formation of an LGBTI+ subculture, that is, of a particular universe of meanings and values ​​that give cohesion to a group. But in addition to creating a sense of commonality, the subculture is formed not only apart from, but also in opposition to, the hegemonic or dominant culture. LGBTI+ people need to come out against the norms that regulate the fields of gender and sexuality, while ambiguously legitimizing the existence of this norm. It is evident that there is no way to idealize a total disconnection of the sex-gender system, but the truth is that, as a result of the pressures for marginalization, the LGBTI+ subculture ends up erecting itself as a counterpoint to the more traditional references of the heterocissexist culture.

This is because LGBTI+ people are born into families and live for a long time in school and professional life in non-LGBTI+ spaces. In general, by the way, the primary spheres of socialization, inside and outside the home, are anti-LGBTI+. Unlike other vulnerable groups, in general, LGBTI+ people cannot find acceptance within their families in view of the prejudices they face in life away from home. Home, instead of refuge and security, is the place of the most intolerable violence, since it radiates from the people with whom we have a greater affective connection, at least at this stage of life.

Along these lines, on the process of LGBTI+ acculturation, David Halperin states that “gay men cannot rely on their biological families to teach them about their history or culture. They need to discover their roots through contact with society and the wider world” (Halperin, 2014, p. 7).[v] Faced with the need to affirm and constitute itself in opposition to values ​​that are so socially widespread in order to connect to a tradition of stigmatized bodies, the great challenge of the LGBTI+ community is to build itself, in an always adverse context, from fragments, pieces, shards that go being combined and organized to give a positive meaning to existences.

It seems today that the LGBTI+ community is a natural fact of the mere existence of LGBTI+ people, but it is the result of a long and complex process of building a subjective and collectively shared identity at different levels. It is a potent force that gives meaning, self-esteem and resilience in the face of adversities that are sure to come. And the movement, which is the result of this community, will also have as its banner and main effects to strengthen these bonds and these identifications.

From whatever perspective one uses to observe the issue, the fact is that there seems to be a convergence in the sense that the formation of a community with a subculture in a certain territory was an inescapable condition to collectivize homoerotic experiences and raise them to the status of a stabilized identity. However, undertaking an LGBTI+ history without further delimitations would certainly not be a possible task within the limits of this book. The cut, therefore, is that of political organization, which presupposes a certain degree of thickening of activism, continuity over time, relevant insertion in the public debate, formulation of agendas of claims and a repertoire of actions with the objective of achieving changes. cultural and institutional.

In the light of this perspective, the choice made is to analyze different activisms from the end of the 1970th century to the present, focusing on three moments and territories: Germany at the turn of the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, the United States in the mid-XNUMXth century and the Brazil from XNUMX to the present day. The choice is somewhat arbitrary and Westernized, but it is justified for a number of reasons. The German and American experiences of activism constituted unavoidable landmarks for LGBTI+ struggles. In addition, there are more sources and records available about these two mobilization traditions, also due to the geopolitical weight of these nations. Without the prospect of drawing a line of continuity or reducing such significant differences between each case, the idea is to have an overview of these LGBTI+ activisms, with their possible similarities and differences.

In the pages that follow, without intending to exhaust such a broad theme, we adopt a panoramic view, in language accessible to a non-specialized audience, bringing one way, among many others, to tell our story or, even, to make our stories more definitive.[vi] There is, therefore, no objective here to carry out a historiographical work from primary sources. The work has less of an academic character and more of an intention to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge that is still little circulated in public debate. And the dialogue with the history of sexual and gender diversity activism is an instrument for, in the last chapter, to analyze the challenges posed to the LGBTI+ movement at the current moment. After all, as Carole Paterman (2021. p. 13) teaches, “telling stories of all kinds is the main form developed by human beings to attribute meaning to themselves and their social life”.

* Renan Quinalha is a professor of law at UNIFESP. Author, among other books, of    Transitional justice, concept outlines (Other expressions).

 

Reference


Renan Quinalha. LGBTI+ Movement: a brief history from the XNUMXth century to the present day. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, 2022, 198 pages.

The virtual launch with the participation of the author and Guilherme Terreri (Rita Von Hunty) will take place on June 10th (Friday), starting at 20 pm on the links https://www.instagram.com/renan_quinalha/

https://www.instagram.com/rita_von_hunty/

 

Notes


[I] There is a huge debate about which is the most appropriate acronym to designate sexual and gender diversity. Historically, many were the forms assumed by the “alphabet soup” to name the community: MHB (Brazilian homosexual movement), GLS (gays, lesbians and sympathizers), GLT (gays, lesbians and transvestites), GLBT (gays, lesbians, bisexual and transvestite), LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transvestite), LGBTI+ (including intersex people), LGBTQIA+ (including people queer and asexual) etc. There is no official instance for validating acronyms, it is a convention for specific uses, depending on what and to whom you want to communicate. Deep down, the acronyms are the result of disputes and negotiations around visibility regimes and understandings about identities that vary according to the historical and cultural context. Thus, for the purposes and purpose of this book, I opt for the use of the acronym LGBTI+, which has been the most consensual formulation within the scope of the organized movement in Brazil, including intersex people and with a “+” sign that expresses the indeterminate character, open and in permanent construction of this community that challenges the binary and heterocisnormative structures of our society.

[ii] “The project of a collection of archives of sexual minorities is haunted by absence. This work can therefore be read as a negative inventory: what is most important is not what is collected, but what remains to be collected; what is there draws what is missing” (IDIER, 2018, p. 6, our translation). In the original: “Le projet d'une collection d'archives des minoritaires sexuels est hanté

[iii] “An enormous amount of historical evidence confirms that what we define today as homosexual behavior has existed for at least thousands of years and we can presume that homosexual behavior has occurred since humans walked the Earth. But it was only the Industrial Revolution, at the end of the 2021th century, that created the conditions for a large number of people to live outside the nuclear family, allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual identities to be born” (WOLF, 37, p. XNUMX ).

[iv] Often, the notion of LGBTI+ community is discursively produced as uniform, cohesive and homogeneous, after all, little recognition and complexity is attributed to what is “the other” of the supposedly universal subject (white, heterosexual and cisgender man).

[v] In the original: “Unlike members of minority groups defined by race or ethnicity or religion, gay men cannot rely on their birth families to teach them about their history or their culture. They must discover their roots through contact with the larger society and the larger world".

[vi] Here it is worth remembering a warning from Chimamanda Adichie: “[...] the ability not only to tell someone else's story, but to make it your definitive story” (ADCHIE, 2019, p. 23).

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