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social sciences

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As part of the Pride Day celebrations on June 28, 1986, lesbians held a "kiss in" at the Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. Despite the anti-discrimination legislation of 1979, the Madrid police used a law of 1868 concerning "public scandals" to arrest Arantxa and Esther, who had kissed one another on the mouth in front of the headquarters of the national guard on the Puerta del Sol. They were held for two days before being charged, and they were taunted and beaten while in jail. On the first day of their trial (delayed until January 23, 1987), lesbians organized demonstrations in cities throughout Spain. Positive media coverage of the protests helped to develop general public awareness of the prejudice to which lesbians were subject in Spain.

During the 1980s, few in the Madrid gay community paid much attention to the announcement of the first AIDS cases in Spain. In part, this may be due to the circumstance that AIDS was not initially conceptualized as a "gay disease" in Spain. Furthermore, considering the long history of oppression of homosexuality, it is perhaps not surprising that many Spanish gay activists insisted that accounts of AIDS had been devised by homophobic media to quash the community's new sexual freedom.

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As a consequence, however, by 1994 Spain had a higher rate of HIV infection by percentage of the population than any other country in the world, and in many Madrid neighborhoods the disease had reached epidemic proportions. In the early 1990s, glbtq groups began to promote the message of "safe sex," but the disease has continued to develop at an alarming rate in Madrid and elsewhere in the country.

Several visual artists have devised innovative projects to develop awareness of the many problems created by the plague in Madrid. For example, as part of his Carrying Project (1992), artist Pepe Espaliú (1955-93) was passed from one couple to another through the streets of Madrid in a literal enactment of support and compassion for an AIDS patient. This event culminated with his arrival at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which simultaneously held an exhibition of his AIDS related work.

By the early 1990s, in order to deal with pressing issues such as AIDS more effectively, most of the activist groups had abandoned both sweeping revolutionary proposals and disputes with one another. In 1992, Federación Estatal de Gais y Lesbianas (National Federation of Gays and Lesbians), was established by Colectivo de Gais y Lesbianas de Madrid (COGAM) and other groups to work together for the legalization of same-sex marriage, which was identified as a priority.

In 1992, the public headquarters established by COGAM in central Madrid received national media attention as leaders of this group met there with national legislators to create a consensus supporting an anti-discrimination bill (approved October 15, 1992). National media attention on the attempts of Ayuntamiento (city government) to shut down the COGAM offices energized support for the glbtq political movement, both among the general population and among gays and lesbians who had not previously been politically active.

In 1996, the Fundación Triángulo (Triangle Foundation), established that year by gay and lesbian activists formerly involved in COGAM and other organizations, sponsored the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Madrid. Politically, the Fundación Triángulo focused upon gay and lesbian family issues (marriage, adoption, etc.) and worked very closely with established political parties on these matters. The recent involvement of many gay madrileños with family issues is reflected in the popularity of Miguel Albaladejo's film Cachorro (Bear Cub, 2004) about an extended family of gay men who welcome a young boy into their household in Chueca.

With the full legalization of same-sex marriage on June 30, 2005, gay men and lesbians achieved the one of the most important goals that they had established in the early 1990s. Some Spanish gay theorists have criticized the integration of their community into the mainstream--arguing that distinctive positive qualities of glbtq life will be lost. However, it seems clear that the majority of gay men and lesbians in Madrid fully support the effort to achieve equality within the existing social structures.

Many also recognize that additional issues still need to be addressed, including full rights for transsexuals, who have been overlooked in many glbtq agendas and who currently are not protected against discrimination in Spain.

It is likely that glbtq life in Madrid will continue to evolve rapidly in the coming years. The current situation marks a dramatic reversal of the systematic persecution that homosexuals endured in Madrid from the sixteenth century until 1975. Yet, in such diverse sources as official court records, the writings of Zayas and Caro, the songs of Álvaro Retana, and Albaladejo's Bear Cub, we can find many indications of the strength, resilience, and even the humor of the queer community in Madrid.

Richard G. Mann

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social sciences >> Overview:  Aversion Therapy

A form of behavior modification that employs unpleasant and sometimes painful stimuli, aversion therapy was one of the more popular treatments for homosexuality and cross-dressing in the 1950s and 1960s.

arts >> Overview:  Castrati

Male singers who were castrated before they reached puberty, castrati reached the height of their popularity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; although not necessarily homosexual, they occupy a "queer space" in cultural history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Cross-Dressing

Cross-dressers have often been misunderstood and maligned, especially in societies with rigid gender roles.

social sciences >> Overview:  Inquisition

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the Inquisitions of Aragon and Portugal prosecuted almost 1500 trials for sodomy of various kinds.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sodomy

First used to refer only to anal intercourse, sodomy was progressively defined by the Church Fathers, and many later lawmakers, to include all sexual acts that could not result in procreation.

social sciences >> Overview:  Spain

From a particularly strong application of sodomy laws in the early modern period to a liberalization of sexual mores since the 1980s, Spanish society has displayed an ambivalent and complex relationship to sexual minorities.

literature >> Overview:  Spanish Literature

Treating homosexuality in Spanish literature is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon, occurring most frequently in the post-Franco decades.

arts >> Almodóvar, Pedro

Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's gay and transsexual themed films present absurd situations framed by the trappings of everyday life.

arts >> Coward, Sir Noël

Accomplished playwright, actor, composer, and lyricist, Sir Noël Coward was also a singer and cabaret performer; he dominated the British stage between the world wars, then reoriented his career in the direction of America.

literature >> García Lorca, Federico

The works of García Lorca, internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century, are filled with thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes.

arts >> Iglesia, Eloy de la

Eloy de la Iglesia was among the first Spanish directors to make films with homosexual themes, but his work has only recently become the subject of serious film scholarship.

literature >> Montesquiou-Fezensac, Count Robert de

Count Robert de Montesquiou was a writer during France's Belle Epoque, but he is best remembered as a dandy and an aesthete, who inspired the literary creations of others.

social sciences >> Napoleonic Code

Although the Napoleonic Code is sometimes said to have decriminalized homosexuality in France, that distinction belongs to the French Revolution.


Aliaga, Juan Vicente, and José Miguel G. Cortés. Identidad y diferencia, sobre la cultura gay en España. Barcelona: Egales, 1997.

Berco, Cristian. "Uncovering the Unmentionable Vice: Male Homosexuality, Race, and Class in Golden Age Spain." Ph.D. diss., Univeristy of Arizona, 2002.

Buxán Bran, Xosé M., ed. Conciencia de un singular deseo, estudios lesbianos y gays en el estado español. Barcelona: Laertes, 1997.

Gamella, Juan F. "The Spread of Intravenous Drug Use and AIDS in a Neighborhood in Spain." Medical Anthropology Quarterly 8.2 (June 1994): 131-60.

Heise, Ursula K. "Transvestism and the Stage Controversy in Spain and England, 1580-1680." Theatre Journal 44.3 (October 1992): 357-74.

Maroto Camino, Mercedes. "María de Zayas and Ana Caro: the Space of Women's Solidarity in Golden Age Spain." Hispanic Review 67.1 (Winter 1999): 1-16.

McGeary, Thomas. "Farinelli in Madrid: Opera, Politics, and the War of Jenkins' Ear." The Musical Quarterly 82.2 (Summer, 1998): 383-421.

Mira, Alberto. De Sodoma a Chueca: Una historia cultural de la homosexualidad en España en el siglo XX. Barcelona: Egales, 2004.

Seidman, Michael. "Individualisms in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War." The Journal of Modern History 68.1 (March 1996): 63-83.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Madrid  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated December 6, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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