hen I was still at school I fell in love with my teacher and other
women at my school, but that was only a sort of game. I was always
aware that I had an attitude that was very "different".
When we played "families" as a child - with a child playing
the role of "mother" or "father", I wanted to
play the father or the doctor of the family. Even tha clothes I
wore were "anti-family", since I often wore the shirts
of my brothers, and once, as my gandmother tries to force me into
wearing a frock for a party, I refused to wear this "feminine"
clothing. I said, "No! I don't want to, this is my body and
I want to wwear what I want, and if you don't want to take me to
the party, as I am, OK!" Perhaps I had a sort of premonition.
That was my choice. There were many children in the family and I
was the last one.
I wasn't a difficult child at school - in fact I think I was good.
I think that is why they let me decide for myself. My mother was
fairly liberal - but perhaps that is also not the right word - there
were so many children I think she was fed up of the struggle and
for that reason let me do what I wanted.
I think our family was middle-lower class. My experience was that
it was very difficult to find another to have a "margin"
of lesbians in my society. This was one of the attractions of this
feminist conference ! It was ........in that moment tried to look
for the ........ I didn't know who was a lesbian and who not. In
our trying to make contact. ....people in America. It was very difficult
I think. Also the way many of my friends in this pioneering group..............
Also what was difficult for me was that I liked to be a lesbian
and I like the life with a woman but, it was also a very underground
group with many women being very isolated. I recognised that this
.. the real life for a lesbian in Lima, but I like to fight against
this. I tried to do something to link with some feminist group,
with homosexuals, so that here I was not so much isolated. I was
active since I met this group. I tried to break the isolation...
I had no idea of idea of lesbianism but my first partner - she was
very scared, very underground. She didn't want me to talk about
my love, my relationship with her to anyone. These things made me
feel so uncomfortable. I thought, "If that is a lesbian life-style
probably I'm not a lesbian. I want to deal with my feelings."
I think it happened with many women - and it was more difficult
ten years ago -- It wasn't possible for me to speak out about these
things. People would reject me, my friends, my family - it was a
very secret and novel life. We had not only had no place to go --
no home --It was a very "luxurious" experience, too. It
is not only lesbian women who have no place to go. Mostly the live
with their families and only leave them when they get married. The
lack of economic independence of women, especially the young ones,
is part of the difficulty of leading an own life - especially for
lesbians. They need a space where the can be in private....
With regard to the culture, of the poverty, also it's the capital
city, - there's not enough space for anyone. ......... Also in our
the culture it is difficult for a woman to live alone. As far as
society is concerned a woman who lives alone is probably an easy
woman. That also happened to us when I was living with my partner,
also we had friends by sometimes to have a party . From then on
I met I met more lesbians ....friends of my lover and after our
relations We were suspected of being prostitutes because they went
out (home !) in the night -- or we were lesbians. Either way it
was not good for the neighbourhood. ......
Then came a crisis in our relationship and it wasn't necessary for
me to live their permanently because I got this space with my sister.
That came at the same time as the relationship with my first women
was coming to an end. I was very confused myself and....She didn't
force me, but all the time the pressure was to be in the closet
- underground. I couldn't stand and I spoke out, and I started to
cry. I spoke about my life to my sister , of my friends and they
were very supportive. ........ I was confused because I didn't know
what was the truth. So I started a sort of therapy. I also made
many changes in my life. I started to work, I started to live by
myself, I started a lesbian relationship, I left my studies, I left
my house, -- with so many different feelings I needed to deal with
myself. I got some psychological support, I..... and we started
to talk about my sexuality. Whether I had problems in relationships
with men. I said well I don't think so I have nice relationships
with men. In the university I was the only one in a group of men.
Also in such a conservative society most of the women who are in
the university are just looking for a husband you know. They are
studying but not because they really want to follow a profession
of their own. I hated this kind of woman. Very conservative, very
formal. I was looking for my own way to deal with my own femininity,
my own sexuality in such a conservative country. ..... The lesbians
and gay movement hadn't started. The feminist one was a small group
of women.......Also when I was a member of the Left Party it was
also very male and sexually very conservative. I think all of these
things made me feel very confused, and also I decided to live ...
I had only this relationship with this one woman, and I thought
probably I'm not a lesbian. I started a sort of a relationship with
men. Tried to take the "normal" route. But after two years
I started another relationship with another lesbian woman - the
second one in my life. And really I decided that this is bull-shit
this therapy that I really I am perfectly normal. This other stuff
I studied economics at a Catholic University. I was a good student,
the perfect daughter of the family. Until I started my third relationship
and started to do more with the social movement. At that time there
was a sort of dictatorship in Lima with I became a social activist.
In 1983 when I was more in contract with a feminist group. They
sent me to a feminist conference, - organised by a feminist group
in Lima - about 2 - 300 women who were together - talking about
lesbianism. They were in a small workshop because they weren't supposed
to be part of the official programme. This made me feel very confused
too. My feelings as a lesbian at that moment was seeing so many
lovely women, talking about the issues in an intensive but very
happy way, - seeing what difficulties people had. I thought Oh,
Oh, something is going on I was not happy with myself again - because
I fell in love with so many women. I started encounters with them
and this was also the beginning of my activism.
I started at the same time in '84 / 85. We didn't know each other
- what the men were doing what the women were doing. The men's organisation
two years after they began got some funds and could afford a space.
The feminist-lesbian group - which was my group. They were more
radical with regard to the economy, subsidies and everything. I
was a In Lima we had only two groups and for me it was nonsense
not to join together and to try to get the support of the feminists.
That was part of my work in my lesbian activism to push a bit ...
because in a society where the human rights, where the women's life
is so sad, so difficult.
What has happened in the last ten years the different social movements
and the improved situation in respect of their demands. The idea
to start a lesbian group was good. But in our economic and financial
crisis conditions a separate lesbian group it was not possible.
We needed money for our own lives and to get money for a group was
more and more difficult. To organise activities for women with very
low prices so that people can afford to come to it. It has been
very slowly growing but also with the human rights point of view
of the woman who has with a woman - most of them don't consider
themselves lesbian. -- They don't like the word. They consider that
if something wrong happens in the area of human rights -- it's bad
to be a lesbian. It's a sort of punishment which they accept. We
are trying to change this idea. But Peru is very catholic, of course.
Also in terms of human rights conditions people think that the police
are there because it is legal. (illegal??) because they don't know
- the population. And this of course includes the gay and lesbian
community. They don't feel like a citizen they don't know enough
about their rights. The police, they think, have the right to raid
a bar and try to make arrests. They let them do it. We are trying
to change this attitude so that people ask, "Hey, before you
arrest me - What's the reason? " It has begun to change in
the last few years when this organisation that I work in now was
the "male" organisation. I worked with the lesbians for
two years but then I started to work with the men because I said
if the men call themselves a mixed organisation they really should
be mixed ! I've been working with them now for 5 years. This was
the beginning of my international work. They sent me to ILGA conference
and I was getting more support and more lesbians began to join so
that now we are actually fifty/fifty among our leaders and 60/40
among the membership and services we provide.
Many years ago there were many police raids. The laws only mention
homosexuality as grounds for a divorce otherwise nothing, but the
moral criteria has much power, also HIV. The prejudices of the judges
too -When someone who looks gay comes into court they are treated
differently. Also with lesbians sometimes. Many judges have said
you should come in formal (women's) dress. In this sense people
are forced underground. ... The gays and lesbians underground are
forced to "play a role" -- the straight role, - active
and passive and so on. It is fairly open that the influence of the
gay and lesbian movement after ten years that people can be "modern"
- you can be both active and passive. We use the word "modern"
to describe the person who doesn't play these roles. Also people
are changing their ideas about homosexuality because most people
have an idea of homosexuality as being something like a transvestite
- because such people are easily visible. This is changing.
My organisation decided to go public. We appeared on TV programmes,
in magazines and newspapers. We presented a different face. Oscar
-- our president -- wears very formal clothes -- like you -- and
when people see that they have to think again. And we don't only
talk about things in terms of sexual conduct, but about human rights,
about poverty, about the health system, about women's rights, the
right to abortion. The idea of human rights is very global for us
in terms of our fight. We are very much in favour of peace in terms
of people needing to respect people, to respect their life. In a
country where in the last 10 years there were around 25,000 people
killed by a civil war - although people don't want to accept that
there was a civil war. We have criticised the excesses of both the
Shining Path and the Government ...... We talk about all of this.
In this sense we are quite popular. We have a lot of support from
different groups. They respect out intentions and opinions also
because we respect the differences between people.- We respect the
differences of homosexuality -. transsexuals, transvestites, bi-sexuals,
women. Some women are so confused that to help them we have made
our services are available to anyone. ...... We provide a space
for anyone to meet-- the only condition we make is that they respect
the others. In this sense to have a space we in a society basically
space has to be paid for ...
When we started we had only 2 or three discos. Now we have 14 in
Lima alone. They are providing money for our work. At the beginning
they were only a few - secret ones. Now they are quite open because
the idea of homosexuals... is not so scary for some people, and
the police they don't arrange raids on discos because they know
that we exist, and can organise legal action against them if necessary.
In two cases we organised an international action through ILGA -
and they received hundreds, and hundreds of letters - so now they
think about their strategy. But sometimes they change their tactics
and wait for a couple who are leaving the disco alone. Then they
......... them or if they are lesbians try to seduce them. Anyway,
the police are still nasty towards homosexuals. But also towards
other groups like sexual workers. These things still happen. We
"force" ?? the people to denounce these acts, because
the only way we can oppose them is by legal precedent.
Our is to provide information that human rights also belong to the
gay and lesbian community, they ........... to be scared, To convince
people that they need to do something end this injustice in their
life. We respect the other people. .... We feel slowly that we are
gaining support in our society. In the gay community we are gaining
more self-confidence that human rights are part of our community
also. In a general discussion in a country in which in the last
10 years 25,000 people have been killed for ........ reasons. The
sensitivity about human rights doesn't exist in the same way so
much. The value of a life is very weak. There are many cases connected
with murders related to radical parties in the last 4 years. In
1986/87 there were more than 125 deaths (of homosexuals). There
were two gays also killed in Lima with a message from Shining Path.
With 2,000 people being killed in one year people are not so sensitive
if one person is killed who was gay. .........
The people are afraid of Shining Path, but we feel to keep silent
is even worse. We need to speak out. Also in relation to the other
left-parties. We say if this is they way you deal with the different
ideologies, to be homosexual is not an ideology or reason to be
punished by anyone. They have no moral right to do such things.
In that sense we are against any way which to be human means to
lose your life. - In connection with this stupid civil war we are
against the excesses of the armed forces. We are against the methods
of the Shining Path who say they want to organise a better society.
For me that is bull-shit because it is not possible to build any
sort of society, with so much excess- in terms of killing people,
killing homosexuals, killing leaders of the social movements. We
don't have too much respect for them.
Colin de la Motte-Sherman