Many Latin American countries hold a Pride parade, an annual celebration that takes place all over the world in June and July to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex culture and pride. In most of them, the sex workers participate as part of the community, and Colombia is no different.
Colombia is in the northwest of South America and shares borders with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. This year the Pride parade had a particular importance because the current government term is coming to an end following an election in June. The outgoing government took some favourable actions for the LGBTI population, like endorsing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, issuing a decree promoting "gay friendly" commerce establishments and another simplifying the process for people to change their gender in their identification documents. In spite of this, there was governmental violence against the trans march. As a note to take into consideration, the coalition of parties that will soon come to power has represented the main opposition each time there were advances in benefits for the LGBTI community.
This year in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, the transgender community marched for the third time within the Pride parade, forming the Third Trans Pride Bogotá March, in which trans sex workers' groups and organisations participated in a very active way.
Lxs Callejerxs is an organisation which is a member of NSWP and PLAPERTS, and works for the fundamental rights of sex workers, homeless people, LGBTQI people, men who have sex with men, people living with HIV, and other populations. They were one of the organisers of the march, and Pollitolu, their executive director, shared that this was a very meaningful march for them, as it showed the transphobia that still exists:
“The carriage with which the Trans Pride March was going to join the LGBTI pride mega march in Bogotá was held by order of the district administration and then assaulted, demonstrating transphobia and structural violence on the part of government entities and authorities”, she said.
But it was not only the government that showed transphobia. The Executive Director of Lxs Callejerxs said that “Unfortunately within the LGBTI community there is explicit and implicit transphobia, the same transphobia inflicted by heteronormativity.”
“It was in very bad taste that other floats and other organisations would take alternate avenues with the objective of leading the march and arriving first at the Plaza Mayor Simón Bolívar, demonstrating lack of solidarity.”
As an act of resistance, they did not allow the march to start its journey until the problem was resolved, and the demonstration lasted between one and two hours. However, their goal was very present: “To make these problems visible, to claim our rights, to show solidarity to the trans community and to reach the main square, therefore, the march started with the trans community at the head.”
They did it without their parade float, instead holding up an inflatable trans doll.
“The Inflatable Doll of 15 metres was what really marked the march. A masterpiece made by members of the community, collaborators and two great artists, was an activist hybrid of mobilisation and art that impacted passers-by and the general audience. In conclusion, which made it different was the enormous strength of fraternal love.” Says Pollitolu.
Last but not least, Pollitolu says that the LGBTI community takes the participation of sex workers in the march “as a gesture of solidarity and reciprocity to the struggles for human rights and as a way to make visible our position in favour of the community”.
She thinks it is important that sex workers who are not part of the LGBTI population also join the march “because the LGBTI community has inspired many historically discriminated, violated and marginalised populations to make themselves visible, to revindicate and demand their rights”.