"What you are is a lesbian through and through." Empar Pineda (Hernani, 1944) remembers these words more than half a century after they were told to her by her college classmate who helped her put a name to what she felt and overwhelmed her so much. "She was a liberation," says this historical feminist activist with a slow voice and a whole life behind her dedicated to defending human rights. She was then just over 18 years old and had just moved to Madrid to study Romance Philology. Shortly after, she would end up becoming one of the few visible faces of the LGTBI collective in a black and white Spain that repressed diversity.
It would probably be faster to list what Empar Pineda has not done in the world of political activism than to detail the mobilizations in which he was involved and the organizations in which he participated. A communist militant since his first year of university, he fought against the Franco dictatorship in hiding. She came across the feminist movement at an effervescent moment and was behind the struggles for abortion rights, sexual freedom and women's autonomy. Always from a feminism that she claims is open and inclusive and that she has never stopped defending.
Forceful and direct, she came to claim in public things as disruptive at the time as the right of women to pleasure or the end of heterosexuality "as a norm". She did so in the magazine Interviú in 1985, in which she was interviewed with the headline "I'm a lesbian because yes". It was the answer to the eternal question, to the most common reaction of those who did not repudiate those who embodied diverse sexual orientations, but did look at them strangely. "We were tired of being asked, why are you a lesbian? They were looking for a reason related to the fact that we had not had satisfactory sexual relations with men, they did not give us validity," she says.
She treasures a few anecdotes from that time that she tells funny, like when her aunt was unconcerned when she saw Amparito, that's how they knew her in her hometown, in Interviú. "My mother told me that she had gone embarrassed to the kiosk to compare it after everyone told her that she came out of it, but when she opened it she said 'girl, how calm, I thought she had come out on tits'" . At that time, there were many programs and debates in which he sat down in front of those who still associated homosexuality with a disease, something that at that time, although about to change its position, the World Health Organization still declared.
-Would you be concerned if one of your children had a homosexual friend?
-I would ask myself the opposite. And no one would care if he had straight friends?
This is how Empar responded to the question from the presenter Francisco Caparrós on the TVE program 'Y tú qué opinion', which in May 1987 dealt with the taboo of homosexuality. So she, as a member of the Collective of Lesbian Feminists, was accompanied by Jordi Petit, another historic Catalan activist for LGTBI rights. After the broadcast of the program, she remembers the conversation that two women from Hernani had in the bakery. "They were commenting among themselves. 'Of course I saw it,' one said. 'How can I not recognize her, if she is Amparito, the butcher's daughter? Hey, and by the way, what happened to her? Did she get married?' ", he says between laughs.
"A whole hour talking about homosexuality and lesbianism and they still asked about it... It was a deeply heterocentric society," explains Empar. The activist avoids complaining about what it meant to face these types of questions and talk about the subject with those who considered them depraved. Her goal, she says, was "to be pedagogical" and her greatest concern, "that the message be understood", which was none other than to try to show that lesbianism "was something as proper, normal and natural as heterosexuality" and the latter "an obligatory norm". "This macho society does not accept that women have sexual joy and satisfaction if there is no man involved," she came to say in Interviú.
The fight against the stereotypes that associated vice and corruption to the LGTBI community or the denunciation of the harassment suffered by gay or lesbian teachers "for thinking that they perverted their students" were some of the issues that the group fought for, says Empar, and that are too reminiscent of the prejudices that are fueled by the ultra sectors today. Apart from this, with an eye on today, there are two things that he considers urgent: on the one hand, that diversity education "enter the classroom", and on the other, "that it stop rejecting asylum requests from LGTBI people who they have had to leave their countries because they were persecuted. It is a crime for which we are responsible."
Countless demonstrations, LGTBI kisses, Prides, banners, proclamations or pamphlets and clandestine meetings fill the activist life of Empar, which began in the midst of the Franco dictatorship. "We were fighting for a different and democratic society", which at first, in the university years, crystallized in the creation of the so-called Committees of Nationalities with colleagues from Catalonia, Galicia or Euskadi and in the Federation of Communists (FCO) . "We were concerned about the oppression of the culture, traditions and languages of the different nations of the State, but we were fighting against the dictatorship in all its aspects," he clarifies.
FCO ended up drifting into the Communist Movement in 1968 by uniting with a splinter of ETA called ETA Berri and many other communist political groups throughout Spain. The clandestine meeting, scheduled in Burgos, halfway between Madrid and Euskadi, in which they intended to formalize the merger, ended with the arrest of the group by Franco's Social Political Brigade and for a few days "the hell goes, the hell comes "In the dungeons. "They even accused us of having planned to blow up the Burgos cathedral, with what I liked," the activist recalls with a laugh.
The landing in feminism was "a before and after" and came hand in hand with her transfer to Barcelona for the needs of the party. Franco had just died and the city then hosted the celebration of the first Jornades Catalanes de la Dona, in which Empar participated "very actively". At that time there was a lot of ground to gain and the 4,000 women who attended demonstrated it and turned those days into a declaration of intent: "It was not difficult to find objectives because we came from the Franco regime, in which the consideration of women was of non-recognition and submission, our destiny was to be dedicated to the home and, in the field of sexuality, motherhood and giving pleasure to men".
Upon her return to Madrid, Empar co-founded the Collective of Lesbian Feminists and the Commission for the Right to Abortion, the two organizations to which she dedicated the most time and effort. She remembers as one of the most transformative mobilizations the state campaign for the so-called "Basauri 11", who in 1979 were going to be tried for having an abortion when doing so was still a crime. A wave of feminist solidarity managed to put on the table of public debate the issue of the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, until then silenced, and it is considered a trigger for the 1985 law approved by the Government of Felipe González to partially decriminalize it in three cases.
It was something "totally insufficient" and "cowardice" in the eyes of the feminist movement, which showed its discontent by calling a demonstration with lit candles from the Madrid neighborhood of Argüelles to La Moncloa. The same year, she opened its doors in Madrid, the Isadora abortion clinic, one of the pioneers, at which Empar went to work and for which she became a spokesperson. There she had to face the ultra-Catholic harassment that called them "murderers" and painted insults on the facade of the center and that reached its peak in 2007, when the clinic was the victim of a set-up at the expense of a complaint by an anti-rights group that it was finally shelved two years later.
A defender of a feminism that has run into conflicting positions within the movement itself, Empar is a firm believer in "calm and thoughtful debate" in the face of bloody division. And she demands memory: "In the national feminist conferences that were held in the early 1980s there was already a table on transsexuality. It was a reality unknown to many, but since then it has been part of our feminist baggage and has been one more element of our fight. It seems unbelievable that now we find ourselves with the humiliation they are suffering at the hands of a part of feminism", she laments.
But despite everything, despite the darkness and the repression, Empar embodies a hopeful message. Neither Franco's grays nor the homophobia and machismo that initially led her to hide until her university classmate from battles pronounced the word lesbian for her. "Since then I lived my enchanted lesbianism of life," she says. She already said it in Interviú, between denunciation and denunciation, 37 years ago: "Lesbians who have come to satisfactorily assume our sexuality are enormously happy people. Despite the difficulties."