Friday 18 May 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 16) Some More Spanish Firsts

Previously : 31) Julia Lemigova (b.1972) was the first national ex-beauty pageant winner to come out as lesbian, while the first reigning pageant winner to come out was 32) Patricia Rodriguez (b.1990) as Miss Spain 2014, to be followed 2 years later by Mr Spain 2016, 33) Daniel Rodriguez (b.1993), both from the Canary Islands, which also has a political lgbt first achieved by 34) Jerónimo Saavedra (b.1936).

34) Jerónimo Saavedra came out publicly in the wake of his partner’s tragic death in a road accident in 2000. He never considered himself “in the closet” as such because his sexuality had been known to many people he knew since he was in his 20s. His relationship with his partner was acknowledged in the public death notices of his partner in August 2000. At the time of the bereavement Jéronimo was approached by the author Fernando Bruquetas de Castro to write the prologue to his book “Outing in Spain: Spaniards Come Out of the Closet”. In his prologue Jéronimo acknowledged his late partner and felt that the time was right to make a declaration in print about his sexuality.

After living through the dictatorship of Gen. Franco, Jerónimo Saavedra was one of many thousands of gay men who had grown up being discriminated against and criminalised. A natural move for many who wanted political change was to join the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). Jerónimo joined the PSOE in 1972 and became General Secretary of the Canary Socialist Party in 1977.

Jerónimo’s political career contains a number of significant firsts for a member of the lgbt community in Spain. Some of them are dual or triple firsts in that one appointment contains several different firsts. Only the final two listed appointments were achieved as an out politician. All the others are retrospective, and all are elected positions. First a word of explanation about the make-up of Spanish regions. Spain is divided into a number of Autonomous Communities, each of which are subdivided into a number of provinces. Here is the list of Jerónimo’s firsts:

1977 – First lgbt member of the Spanish parliament.
1982 – First lgbt interim President of an autonomous community.
1983 – First lgbt President of an Autonomous Community.
1983 – First lgbt President of the Canary Islands Autonomous Community.
1993 – First lgbt member of the Spanish Senate.
1993 – First lgbt member of the Spanish government.
1993 – First lgbt minister in the Spanish government.
2007 – First lgbt Mayor of the capital of a province.
2007 – First lgbt Mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Jerónimo Saavedra was first elected to the Cortes, the Spanish parliament, on 15th June 1977 in the first free elections to be held in Spain since 1937. This was made possible by the death of gen. Franco in 1975. With more democratic and liberal politics becoming the standard many regions around Spain sought some form of self-government. The Canary Islands was one of them and Jerónimo threw himself into negotiations to turn them into one of the newly formulated autonomous communities.

This campaign to establish autonomy for the Canaries began during Franco’s dictatorship. In 1978 Jerónimo became Vice-President of the board formed to negotiate this autonomy with the Spanish government. The Canary Islands was granted autonomous status in August 1982 and Saavedra was appointed as the interim President of the Canary’s government until elections were held the following year. In those election Jerónimo was voted in as their first president.

In 1993 Jerónimo was voted onto the Spanish Senate. However, he relinquished the position a few days later to join the government as Minister of Public Administration. Part of his work in this ministry was to oversee the process giving autonomy to the final two regions, the African enlaces of Ceuta and Melilla. In 1999 he was re-elected to the Spanish Senate, and it was a Senator that he made his written acknowledgment of his sexuality in the book “Out in Spain”.

Since leaving national politics in 2003 Jerónimo has continued to be active in the Canary Islands. In 2007 he was elected Mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria becoming the first openly lgbt mayor of a provincial capital in Spain.

The Canary Islands provides another politician who was a significant first in Spain, and we travel back to the island of Tenerife.

Tenerife is the birthplace of actor and activist 35) Carla Antonelli (b.1959), the stage name of Carla Delgado Gómez. Like Jerónimo Saavadra she was a member of the PSOE. Carla was appointed as the Canary Islands co-ordinator of PSOE’s Federal Transsexual/GLBT Group.

In 2004 the Spanish government introduced same-sex marriage. Other lgbt rights were slow to follow. There was no law to allow transgender people to change official documents which registered their gender. Carla Antonelli was still a man in the eyes of the law. She threatened to go on hunger strike until the government had introduced a gender identity law. Within months the Gender Identity Law was passed and Carla became the first person in Spain to legally correct the gender on all official documents.

This is not the only first achieved by Carla Antonelli. She began to take a more active role in politics. In 2011 she was elected to the assembly of the Madrid Autonomous Community becoming the first transgender person in Spain to be elected to a governing legislature (note: the first transgender Spaniard to be elected to public office was Manuela Trasobares who was elected as a town councillor in 2007).

ransgender politicians have been increasing in numbers in recent years, whether in local, regional or national elections. Several transgender candidates have been unsuccessful in their campaigns to be elected. In the UK the first known transgender candidate seems to have been Alexandra MacRae who failed to be elected in 1992. But we have to cross to the other side of the world to find the first successful transgender candidate to be elected to a national parliament. Her name is 36) Georgina Beyer (b.1957).

Next time : We go Down Under to see how a politician changed a nation’s attitude to sex and get an indigenous perspective.

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