Going South – Creating New Gathering Spaces for Feminists in all their Diversity
FRIDAY FILE – The first Feminist LesBiTransInter Encuentro (Gathering) “Going South” will take place in Asuncion, Paraguay from 2 – 4 November, 2012. The idea is to bring together all the voices, bodies and practices representing the diversity of feminisms, in a creative and revolutionary way.
AWID talked to Rosa Posa, one of the organizers, about this event.
By Gabriela De Cicco
AWID: What is the reason for organizing a Feminist LesBiTransInter Encuentro?
Rosa Posa (RP): “Going South” comes out of the last Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Encuentro (ELFLAC in spanish) that took place in Guatemala in 2010, where the discussion around being a lesbian feminist culminated in an unresolved debate about the reliance on anatomies as an entry point to the movement. The debate was focused on the possibility of having trans lesbian feminists participating in the Lesbian Feminist Encuentro. Some participants felt that lesbian feminist trans women had no place in that space, which according to them, belonged to female-born lesbian feminists, it was all about preserving a space they felt was their own. Another group believed that the space was theirs but that trans feminist compañerasalso had a place there.
A group of activists wanted to host the next Encuentro in Paraguay and open it to trans feminist lesbians, but because an agreement was not reached, a large group of participants from the ELFLAC decided to withdraw and organize a broader Encuentro on our own. What brought us together was the desire to build critical, creative, pleasure-oriented, hetero-dissident feminisms, free from gender-based violence and exclusions. This is what motivates us to encourage participation in “Going South”.
In Guatemala, the issue of the “room of our own” was strongly claimed by several participants; this is why we refer to open spaces where there is room for everybody, without borders, without walls.
AWID: What is the Encuentro’s political logic behind such a broad call?
RP: Feminism advocates for cultural change and social justice for the whole society. It is a school of thought that does not have only one political subject, i.e. there is not a core, straight feminism that belongs only to biological, white women, while the others are peripheral or add-on feminisms. Feminism is plural, there are lesbian, bisexual, transgender, flexible and non-normatively straight feminisms. All bodies are feminism’s political subjects.
Feminism has always challenged the gendered social order of the (male) oppressors and the (female) oppressed. This idea has become more complex as other elements like race, ethnicity, class, age, disability, etc. are also seen as making up and mixing up social oppression, and engage with gender.
Power is being challenged from different spaces, not only from the position of “the oppressed” but also by acknowledging what our privileged identities are. One isn’t a more authentic feminist just because one was born with ovaries.
AWID: How is this Encuentro different from other feminist or lesbian feminist encuentrosin the region?
RP: It is in the multiplicity of political subjects, sujetes politiques; in opening spaces for learning about feminisms and the plurality of feminisms. We want to contribute to reflection, dialogue and recognition of feminism’s current political subjects, as well as to create new spaces for Latin American and Caribbean feminists to interrogate themselves and act.
We also thought of giving a central place to culture, not just as a time for recreation that is experienced separately from the rest. We understand culture as a channel for debates, learning and exchanging. We don’t want the Encuentro to have moments just for discussing and others for cultural engagement, we want everything to be simultaneously about culture, debate, play, encuentro (meeting) and art.
AWID: What are the goals of the meeting?
RP: We have several goals, but broadly we wish that all of us together can dismantle the binary, hetero-normative and patriarchal system, from a global South-feminist perspective, through arts, love, pleasure, thinking, speaking out and celebrating.
More specifically, we hope LesBiTransInter organizing strategies and feminist alliances are created, and that they facilitate the opening of plural spaces for coordination, team work and exchanges. We would like to see effective political articulation between feminists and the organizations taking part in the Encuentro, in terms of political positioning and advocacy in private, daily life and public spaces at the local, national and regional levels.
We hope for an active, creative, free, loving and pleasant engagement from feminist - lesbian, tortilleras, cochonas, camioneras, fem, bisexual, bicurious, marimachas, transexual women, transgender, travesti, trans, trans men, chongos, karishinas, zapatão, lesboflexible, bigender, pansexual, trans persons, agendered, androgynous and intersex, male trans, female trans- and sympathizers, with diverse political positions, experiences and practices and the multiple identities through which feminists depart every day from hetero-normativity and gender-based violence.
AWID: As organizers, what do you expect?
RP: We would love to have 200 people from different countries and at least 50 from Paraguay. We want this to be an Encuentrowhere we really meet, where we have space for debating but also for laughing and learning. In Aireana we feel a huge responsibility, because we are the local organizers, but there are several other organizations that have also been working intensively in the Encuentro preparations like “Mujeres al Borde” from Colombia, “Desalambrando” from Buenos Aires, “Festival Anormales” from Argentina, “Ovejas Negras” from Uruguay, and compañerxs from Chile, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
We believe the plurality of participants will allow us to share the social realities of our different countries and communities. On the basis of that shared knowledge, we hope to agree on actions that will allow us to advocate for, demand and exercise all of our rights, to advance a present day LAC agenda in socio-political and economic contexts that are changing.
AWID: What has the response been? Do you have any idea where participants are coming from?
RP: More than 200 people have registered, but not everybody could get a ticket to come. Unfortunately we were not able to give travel scholarships, but several opportunities have come up in different places to support people’s participation.
Most registered participants are from Argentina; there are many from Colombia and to a lesser extent from Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
AWID: Did the coup d’état in Paraguay affect the organizing of the Encuentro in any way?
RP: Yes, it did. Several locations were already secured for some activities and we had an agreement with the Secretary of Culture that included lending us equipment. All that vanished, and we had to start from scratch and search for new venues. All of this happened in silence, without anyone from the coup-engendered government notifying us. Quite simply, the public officers with whom we had negotiated, stopped being there. It was an obstacle but not the end – never!! On the contrary, the Encuentro will be framed within the resistance to the coup.
 A chronicle of and reflection on the Guatemala Encuentrocan be found in the following article by Andrea Alvarado (in Spanish): http://www.fire.or.cr/index.php/noticias-todas/noticia-2010/250-los-desaciertos-del-viii-elflac
 Butch in Brazil.
 All the terms in italics are context-specific ways to name lesbians or trans persons in Latin America