Photo and text: Jorge Cabrera
Translated by Ann Deslandes
As she was leaving the September 15 Independence Day parade, Dulce Pamela Bizarro, a trans woman and member of the LGBTQIA+ contingent, said, “We are so happy to have participated in the parade, even though at first people insulted us and threw things at us. But we are here because we have rights.”
The LGBTQIA+ contingent of the Civic Refoundation celebrations and parade held by the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Partido Libertad y Refundación, Libre) was organized by the Kukulcán Association.
September 15, 2022 was the 201st anniversary of Honduras and other Central American nations becoming independent from the Spanish empire.
The LGBTQIA+ contingent took its place in the massive march convened by Libre. At their side, presidential advisor José Manuel Zelaya rode along in a white Jeep. The community was concerned that Zelaya was using them to “make the government look good,” in the words of trans woman and march participant Mia Antonella.
“He is not going to make a fool of us,” said Rubí Pino, another participant, adding “We will not go past the stadium because we’re worried water will be thrown on us, but we will participate.”
There was some controversy around the event. First, the Independence Day event was re-named Celebration of Civic Refoundations and second, the LGBTQIA+ community was granted official participation. The latter prompted hate speech from some religious groups, and an ambiguous speech from the government about the civil rights of this population.
In an official statement, the Association of Pastors of Tegucigalpa (La Asociación de Pastores de Tegucigalpa, APT) called on the government of President Xiomara Castro and Education Minister Daniel Esponda to disallow the participation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the traditional independence day parades.
“If the president of Honduras allows the community to participate, she will be demonstrating clear opposition to the principles and values that we have had as a [national] family for the last 100 years. We want honesty, integrity, honor, both in those who govern us and in those who will govern us now and in the future,” said Leopoldo Villacorta, vice president of the APT.
Libre’s 2021 presidential campaign was supported by LGBTQIA+ movements, with the party making several promises of future benefit to that community.
The promises included; adopting a protocol for investigation and administration of justice during criminal proceedings for cases of LGBTQIA+ victims of violence; designing and implementing a system for collecting data and figures related to cases of violence against LGBTQIA+ people; and reforming the National Registry of Persons (Registro Nacional de Personas, RNP) law, to allow name changes and have transgender people’s identity cards show their name and photograph with their correct gender identity.
In June, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognized that the state of Honduras was responsible for the death of Vicky Hernández in 2009. The state has consequently acknowledged culpability for the crime as a flagrant violation of human rights, and committed to implementing measures that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community.
Still, this month evangelical pastors were concerned about LGBTQIA+ visibility during the national celebrations. Further, according to Carlos Sebillón, president of the National Association of Private Educational Institutions of Honduras, some private schools decided not to join in the national celebrations and some parents announced that they would not take part this year due to the presence of the LGBTQIA+ community.
During the celebration of Flag Day, September 1, 2022, Education Minister Daniel Esponda told ContraCorriente that President Xiomara Castro had made her message very clear, “She has posited the need to continue fighting for our true independence.”
“The Constitution of the Republic says that all Honduran citizens are equal. All Hondurans who wish to join us at the National Stadium are invited to join us. This is a patriotic celebration, a civic celebration and we must work specifically for these principles,” he said.
For Dulce Pamela, “It would set a bad precedent if … we were not taken into account and we were not accepted in any march, when we have always been present in everything the Libre party does. As trans women with the desire to celebrate our independence, we will always participate, whether they accept [us] or not.”
On Thursday, September 8 2022, the Kukulcán Association went to the Justice Ministry to file a complaint against the APT. They accuse the ATP of promoting stigma, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQIA+ population.
Upon learning of the lawsuit filed against his association, Pastor Leopoldo Villacorta said, “We have our group of lawyers ready to defend our principles and values … We also call on the [Honduran] population. Where are they, why don’t they defend [our] values, why allow our children to [live with] a conflict of ideologies?”
Edgardo Javier Medina, director of the Kukulcán Association, noted that governments of the past, such as that of former President Juan Orlando, “did not speak out” about LGBTQIA+ rights.
“This current government is speaking out in support, but… it is delicate. We are … denouncing … these pastors to the national authorities. If there is no response at the national level, we will go to the Inter-American Commission. We put this government in [power] by fighting in the streets and [they must not] turn their backs on us,” Medina said.
During the celebration of Pride Day, on June 28th of this year, a group of organizations was invited to participate in an event at the Presidential House convened by President Castro. At that time, all the authorities who were there expressed their full support and openness to the issue of the proposed reform of the draft bill of the National Registry of Persons (RNP) to allow name changes in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Grecia O’Hara participated in the meeting at the Presidential House as a representative of the delegation of trans people from Honduras.
O’Hara said her delegation had met with the Attorney General’s Office and with the registry “approximately three and a half weeks ago, on August 2022.”
This was supposedly the last meeting with the two authorities before the legal change was put in motion, O’Hara noted, “but we have not heard anything.”
“They told us that at the end of August or beginning of September 2022 the process as such was going to start, but we are already nine days into September and we are still waiting,” she said.
O’Hara said participation in the national holiday parades should not be a major concern for the LGBTQIA+ community in relation to the current government.
“The parades are a civic activity and it is really the decision of each organization whether to go or not,” she reflected, saying it did not seem worth it “to do it just to be exposed to the danger it can generate.”
She argued that for the community, “what would really cause a total rupture with the current government” is if it did not fulfill their request to reform the RNP law, “for which we fought so hard.”
Through a last-minute video on September 13, 2022, presidential advisor Manuel Zelaya called on the grassroots of the Libre Party to march with the LGBTQIA+ community at the September 15 celebrations.
The community did not view this favourably. “I think it is a political ploy to calm us down or to make the government look good, but we will not fall for that game and hopefully we will not receive any mistreatment,” said Mia Antonella.
During the parades, Human Rights Minister Natalie Roque accompanied the different LGBTQIA+ collectives that were marching. Roque affirmed that LGBTQIA+ people have been victims of hate speech propagated by conservative sectors in Honduras. She also recalled that, according to the Constitution of the Republic and different international treaties, people must be able to “live freely regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others.”
The minister also affirmed that the Gender Identity Law – the reform of the RNP law – would become a reality in the country, following the public apology issued by President Castro for the death of Vicky Hernández.