I have to be honest, it felt really cool to march in the LGBT Pride parade in Peru the day after the Supreme Court announced the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in favor of marriage equality. There was a sense of pride as I passed a newsstand with several front page spreads featuring with IGUALDAD in bold print over a rainbow print of Obama. Plus, it did feel good acknowledging the congratulations from each person I met in the parade.
Even so, the parade contextualized the Supreme Court decision. Specifically, it showed just how small of a drop we’d made in the overall Civil Rights bucket. A fact many friends have not been shy to point out in the aftermath of the victory. In addition to providing context, the Peruvian LGBTQIA+ community displayed a hopeful, fiery pride, rooted in the struggle.
Peruvian LGBTQIA+ did not have some great accomplishment to celebrate. The lone push for Civil Unions got shot down earlier this year following stunningly uninformed debate in the Congressional committee hearing. Peru’s LGBTQIA+ community has little going for it beyond apathetical support and far more working against it.
That apathy extends to media coverage. Consider the news spread I mentioned seeing on my way to the march. Ignoring the pseudo cult of personality (and how misplaced that is), the Obama print represented the greatest media coverage of the LGBTQIA+ movement. The Peruvian Pride Parade received spotty coverage in the newspapers without a single front page story in the popular daily papers and tabloids, which the majority of Peruvians read. When I watch the news, coverage of LGBTQIA+ issues is saved for late at night when children are likely asleep and viewership has diminished.
That gaping lack of coverage stretches well beyond ignoring a Pride parade. Neither of the more civil union-focused protests that I marched in received highly viewed coverage either. Nor did a stark Annual Report on the Human Rights of LGBT People in Peru.
A report stating that four LGBT youth committed suicide. There were 13 registered homicides and the same number of invasions of personal security between 2014 and 2015 by the police, family members, friends or strangers. Admittedly, that was a drop from the previous year overall, though the violence against transfolk increased. The few positives in the report included a push by the state against general discrimination and to start keeping better track of these incidents. Take a moment to consider the mood after the message, “Well the deaths are down from last year and now we’re going to start recording better.” Then remember that it is off the majority population’s radar.
LGBT Peruvians did not shy away from that reality at Pride. One marcher put on makeup to appear beaten and carried a sign asserting that “The state is our worst aggressor.”
In some ways, the movement within Peru feels very much like the U.S. gay rights movement. LGBTQIA+ Peruvians are fighting for recognition and attention. Affirming discotecas sponsor floats full of beautiful people dancing to upbeat pop music. Transwomen dress “fabulous,” though it’s unclear if that’s a choice or a sense of obligation. Gay marriage seems to be prioritized because it is a tangible way the state can change their policies and offer fuller personhood. Many focus on the equality of homosexual love with heterosexual love.
Peruvian Pride had a very distinct character to that in the United States. Recently, I saw an article asking when straight suburban teens took over U.S. Pride celebrations. Without evaluating that the legitimacy of that critique, it would have no traction in Peru. Peruvian Pride is not a commercial affair, but one of struggle.
I did not see any businesses seeking to profit off of the event or sell their wares. Several businesses and celebrities have expressed their support, but few attended to sell rainbow products.
Without businesses there, the messages were less obscured. A group of trans Peruvians held banners for a Gender Identity Law, which would allow Peruvians to change their identification cards to reflect their gender identity. Considering the roots of Pride in the actions of a Latina transwoman, Sylvia Rivera, it was powerful to see these Peruvian trans folks marching proudly and openly.
Peruvian Pride’s character is deeply rooted in the struggle. As one sign I saw put it, “Proud to be the shame of my country.”