Antoni Ruiz entered jail in 1976. He was reported to the authorities for being homosexual. He was 17 years old when he went through three prisons in which he was tortured and sexually assaulted. Four decades later, he recalls his story from the same house from which he was forcibly removed by the criminal squad. What happened in 1976 was the start of a long battle: In 1995, he discovered that the police still had him registered as a criminal.
No we’re not so good
He could not break his file in public and symbolically until 2001, after the Justice and Interior Commission of the Congress of Deputies approved the elimination of the police files of Franco’s prisoners for sexual orientation, which became historical documents . Now, at 61, he continues to be immersed in other demands, such as obtaining compensation and access to a decent pension for those who were reprimanded for their sexual orientation and gender identity during the Franco regime.
The testimony of Antoni Ruiz is one of the 33 stories of We are not well: being born, growing up and living outside the norm in Spain (Today’s Topics), the first book by the journalist and LGTBI activist Rubén Serrano, promoter of the #MeQueer movement in our country. “I hope that the book can serve as an accompaniment to any LGTBI person who reads it, and also as listens: if you think you have never met someone like that because we are not in your daily circle, this happens,” Serrano explains by phone to eldiario. is. “The discrimination that LGTBI people suffer in Spain is historical, chronic and systematic, and little has changed because there has been legal but not social progress.”
“The intention of this book is that it does not reach only LGTBI people”, he asserts. Therefore, openly ask the reader if he has exercised any type of violence. “I would like someone who is not LGTBI to read the book and say: ‘I have done this, I have hit someone, I have insulted someone, I have thought that someone was less than me for being gay or trans’. I think We must open this melon, let it be known that we are not well because we can get married, they continue to beat us in the street. ”
An intersectional vision of the LGTBI reality
Faced with the over-representation of gay, white and cis men in the media and in the collective imagination, Serrano tries to trace a more diverse path: the LGTBI reality encompasses gay, lesbian, intersex, bisxual, trans, non-binary and queer, whose orientations and gender identities are often crossed by the fact of being migrants, women, working class, racialized or with functional diversity.
“It was not in my interest to publish this book if it was going to be white and deal with gay men living in a city,” says Serrano, aware that he also writes from his own privilege. “It was necessary to put the starting point on the table: I was a gay boy from the village, stuttering and fat, but now I am also a gay man living in Barcelona.”
For this reason, together with the testimonies of historical activists such as Antoni Ruiz or visible politicians such as Luisa Notario and Guillem Montoro, Serrano reflects the experiences of LGTBI refugees and migrants, who face double discrimination. This is the case of Teresa, who had to leave his hairdresser in Ecuador due to the violence he suffered as a trans woman and is trying to regulate his situation in Spain.
Or that of Amir, who was locked up for a year in a CETI after crossing the Strait to escape the homophobia of his family. “In Morocco he could not live with full freedom because he was homosexual, in the country where he sought refuge he could not live in full freedom because he was an immigrant,” Serrano writes about Amir, giving an account of the institutionalized xenophobia that these people often suffer.
Naming the invisible
Home, school, street, work, institutions, jail, doctor, couch. They are the eight spaces in which Serrano divides the testimonies, places that serve to draw a map of violence known to any member of the LGTBI collective. Among them, the erasure or the invisibility of those who are outside the norm. “School is a space for socialization, and I didn’t know it existed there,” laments Serrano. “I would like that in the schools and institutes we talk about Lorca being homosexual or that Virginia Woolf also liked women, we have the right to know that we exist.”
The home, the school and the street are three of the spaces where LGTBI people are most actively attacked, but institutional and medical discrimination also remains the order of the day. The WHO did not remove transsexuality from the list of mental illnesses until 2018, and the debate on gender self-determination continues to rage in the political arena. “No chair of academic feminism or far-right party has the right to silence us again,” says Serrano. “Many times they are not hate messages, but deletion messages: ‘if you exist, don’t bother me.”
Most of the data collected in the book belongs to NGOs and academic studies, almost never to government agencies. The invisibility or lack of interest towards the reality of LGTBI people also often implies the absence of official statistics. Or total ignorance, as is the case of intersex. One of the most shocking stories is that of José, who was born with a male karyotype and “ambiguous genitalia”, which is why he was assigned the female gender. At the age of seventeen months, he underwent a covert sex reassignment, turning the testicular bags into an artificial vagina that had to be dilated once a year. “It was rape,” says Clara, his mother.
At the age of 12, José, who is now 17, refused to undergo further interventions and to continue identifying as a woman. Until that moment, her mother was unaware of the word intersex, she had only followed the instructions of the doctors. “There are thousands of lives destroyed in the world simply because a doctor wanted to satisfy her desire that the genitals of a baby be as she wanted or because they kept the right to report that the baby is intersex,” says Clara in the testimony collected. in the book. “We need to change the looks on the bodies and we need to give space to more diverse bodies”, Serrano sentence.
“The book tries to recognize what we have been through and talk about it. After suffering violence, many times we are silent. We have to recognize it to nip it in the bud,” concludes the author of We are not so good. “Although it seems that there is a generational change, we have to make sure that many things do not happen again.” Veterans like Antoni Ruiz warn: “Be careful. Fight for what you think should be fought for, have fun when you have to have fun, but always vigilant. Always vigilant.”