Lessons from South America in LGBT+ advocacy

Published: 12 Sep 2017

Lessons from South America in LGBT+ advocacy

The UK’s LGBT+ movement should represent its politics open-endedly, creating maximum room for every conceivable identity and recognising the connectedness of the political struggles of different minority groups, according to a report by Jo O’Connell, a Researcher from Brighton who spent ten weeks in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay at the end of 2016, researching South America’s LGBT+ movements. Jo’s travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award.

Jo (pictured above, centre) used his time overseas to explore how LGBT+ movements in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay differ from the UK’s, and to learn from their successes. He met with grassroots activists, candidates for political office, sex workers, drag performers, healthcare professionals and lawyers. He immersed himself in LGBT+ life in the places he visited, attending rallies, fundraisers, cultural festivals and protests, as well as spending a few days in Paraguay to take part in a Pride parade.

Highlights from Jo’s trip included interviews with Brazilian film director Daniel Ribeiro, activist and “whore Councilwoman” Indianara Siqueira, the internationally renowned Ovejas Negras of Uruguay, and the central figures in Argentina’s marriage equality fight, Maria Rachid and Claudia Castrosin.

Jo found that groups he visited explicitly include a diverse range of political causes into their own campaigning, such as advocating directly for the reform of drug, abortion and sex work laws, so that their politics has maximum impact on real LGBT+ lives. Jo was also struck by how South American campaigners give a higher priority to the most marginalised groups, when compared with their UK counterparts; for example, he observed a huge contrast between the kind of advocacy and public policy implemented in Sao Paulo, where vulnerable trans women are given absolute priority by the movement, and the work of high profile LGBT+ rights organisations in the UK, some of whom have only recently included trans people into their remit at all.

“Despite legal advances and increasing public tolerance, not all members of the broad LGBT+ umbrella in the UK feel represented or fought for. As a country, we like to think of ourselves as pretty progressive. Perhaps we even assume that LGBT+ politics simply deteriorates outside the “safe zone” of the “developed world”. This isn’t the case. Actually, we have a lot to learn about LGBT+ politics from the rest of the world” -Jo O’Connell

Since returning to the UK, Jo has been reaching out to UK LGBT+ organisations, sharing his findings and seeking to work with them in considering how their practices might be developed in line with his findings. He is aiming to make small yet substantive improvements in how organisations prioritise, represent, and serve sex and gender minorities more effectively and more inclusively. He is drafting articles for publication in the LGBT+ press, and later in the year will be giving a TEDx talk.

Read Jo’s report here

Notes to editors

The term LGBT+ is used as Jo wishes to draw explicit attention to the fact the LGBT+ community is not simply comprised of four neat categories of people but rather spectra of people. It is particularly relevant given the kinds of inclusive politics Jo observed in South America.

Contact: oconnellj6@gmail.com

Phone: 07534 249 606

Visit Interviewee Indianara Siqueira’s Facebook page and read a Vice news article about her

Sao Paulo’s prefecture LGBT+ Centres (in Portuguese)