The current state of Mexico in regard to LGBTQ+ rights is overall heading in a positive direction. On April 27th, 2022, Jalisco became the 27th state to legalize same-sex marriage. But that isn’t all they did- they also took it one step further by updating their civil code to include all gender identities when defining marriage as “the union of two people freely and in a community with respect, mutual help and equal rights and obligations”. The updated laws also ensure the recognition of transgender people’s identities and the sanctioning conversion therapies. Jalisco has been dubbed Mexico’s Gayest State since the 1980s when the city of Guadalajara began hosting a pride parade in the 80s, and it continues to set an example for the rest of the country to follow, but it is also important to recognize that many activists in the past 50 years have fought for these rights and succeeded. These massive strides may also be due to the recent democratization of the country and the changes that came with it.
The LGBTQ+ movement in Mexico can be traced back to the 70s, when activist and actress Nancy Cardenas became the first person to discuss her sexuality on television. Inspired by the movements in Europe and the U.S., she played an integral part in forming the Homosexual Liberation Front (Frente de Liberación Homosexual), and organizing the country’s first pride march in 1979. They were met with considerable pushback, but knew that it was crucial to continue with dignity in hopes of changing the discourse of hate against the community. This signifies the importance of youth-led movements when pushing governments to ensure human rights for all while upholding democracy. The Homosexual Liberation Front itself was founded by students from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the UNAM after a young man was unjustly fired on suspicion of being gay in Mexico City.
Without the acknowledgement of youth engagement in politics, tragic backsliding can occur. For example, the U.S. state of Florida just recently passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans teachers in primary schools from discussing anything relating to gender identity or sexual orientation. This has largely been seen as a step backwards in the fight LGBTQ+ rights everywhere. At this point, critics argue that Mexico has stronger rights and protection for LGBTQ+ rights than the U.S. does. In fact, Mexico has offered constitutional protection against discrimination based on sexual identity since 2003, while the U.S. does not. It is especially notable that Jalisco is establishing more rights for the LGBTQ+ community while the U.S. seems to be moving backwards. There are many reasons for this, and the answer may lie in the recent democratization in Mexico, which has allowed small parties to have a greater influence in the electoral system as opposed to the U.S.’ two-party system. In Mexico, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party and the Social Democratic Party played an integral part in pushing for LGBTQ+ rights. Furthermore, this shift has allowed for more importance placed on human rights, making it possible to have these conversations in the first place.
The History of Mexico and the fight for LGBTQ+ has been somewhat turbulent, but continues to move forward. After the designation of the first LGBTQ+ movement emerged in the 1970s, several actors followed in their footsteps. In 1982, Max Mejía, Pedro Preciado, and Claudia Hinojosa historically became the nation’s first openly gay candidates to run for Congress. In 1991, Mexico became the first country outside of Europe to host a meeting for the International Lesbian and Gay Association. In 1997, Patria Jiménez became the first openly gay person to actually win a position in congress. Since then, Mexico has seen an expansion of LGBTQ+ rights in some way or another almost every single year, despite common belief on the contrary. Equaldex reports on LGBTQ+ rights have found that 76% of Mexico’s population is supportive of same sex marriage, which is four points above the U.S. This might be due to youth movements for LGBTQ+ rights in Mexico being more empowered due to the openness of political dissent in the country. Overall, it is crucial to acknowledge that with the expansion of democracy, it is important to uphold protections on human rights and prioritize social movements in the political sphere. In a comparative analysis of the U.S. and Mexico, it is apparent that Mexico is continuing to move forward in this regard.
*Photo by Bhargava Marripati, “Untitled” (Unsplash), Creative Commons Zero license