By Andresa Paiva (MPA), Alice Nied (MPA) and Mário Manzi (CPT)
For the MST website
Via Campesina Brazil held last Saturday (07/24), the first stage of the Seminar on Sexual and Gender Diversity with the theme “LGBTI La Via Campesina: Coloring territories and sowing pride and resistance!”. With the presence of Via Campesina movements such as the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the MST, the Rural Youth Pastoral (PJR), the Movement of Peasant Women (MMC), the National Coordination of Articulation of Black Rural Communities Quilombolas (CONAQ), the Movement for Popular Mining Sovereignty (MAM), the Movement of Small Farmers (MPA), The Movement of Traditional Fisher People of Brazil (MPP), The Pastoral Comission for the Land (CPT), and representatives of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC) and the European Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC), the seminar also had among its invited organizations the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG) and the Tibira Indigenous Collective.
The process of organizing LGBTI people in Via Campesina Brazil began in 2016, but in 2020 the Via Brazil LGBTI collective was consolidated, with the objective of creating an organizational space on sexual and gender diversity, to connect LGBTI people from the countryside, waters and forests at national and international level. The collective’s organization has already materialized several actions, such as the elaboration of the brochure “Sexual and gender diversity in the Via Campesina: breaking the silence about the existence of LGBTI people in the countryside”.
At the opening of the seminar, Noeli Taborda, member of the MMC, stressed that we live in a capitalist, patriarchal, racist and LGTBphobic society, which discriminates and destroys people, natural resources and life.
Paula Gioia, from the International Organizing Committee of Via Campesina, highlighted the importance of this space to advance the sexual diversity agenda within the movements and the rural world.
The objective of the first day of the seminar was to deepen the debate on the political situation, sexual and gender diversity and class struggles in the countryside, as well as the challenges and sexual and gender diversity in the international movement of La Via Campesina.
Anderson Amaro, from the MPA, who contributed to the table with the theme “Analysis of the political situation and challenges in this pandemic period”, recalls the importance of Via Campesina in the struggle for food sovereignty, taking into account the 25 years of action in this regard. Amaro highlights Covid-19 as a result of the way in which the capitalist mode relates to nature. Regarding the national conjuncture, Anderson exposed the challenges of social movements to face Bolsonarism as a phenomenon that goes beyond the figure of Bolsonaro. Among them is the work of popular organization, which has as an important stage of struggle the elections of 2022, to ensure democratic institutionality.
Anderson also highlights the scenarios of possible democratic ruptures, which could culminate in an openly dictatorial and fascist government.
Field and diversity
Amaro’s intervention was followed by the panel “Sexual and gender diversity and class struggles in the countryside, waters and forests”, in which Thaís Paz, of the MST, presented some structural challenges that go beyond the dynamics of the current situation. Paz questioned what would be the relationship between sexual and gender diversity within capitalism and whether these issues can be considered a constitutive element of the class struggle.
To this end, she took up Marx’s idea, in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, that “men make their own history; however, they do not make it of their own free will, for it is not they who choose the circumstances in which it is made, but these have been transmitted to them as they are”. Thus, according to her, the starting point is the understanding of a deeper theoretical debate, which organizations are already engaged in, and it is necessary to reaffirm that “when we speak of diversity, as in any other social relationship, [diversity] cannot be isolated from the determinations of society”.
For Paz, the relationships that structure society do not manifest themselves in a clear and transparent way, following the logic that “it has always been this way”. Her discourse demonstrated that the determination of heterosexuality and cisgender as the only possible expression of sexuality and gender identity is not natural, but is the result of a model of power and domination, which we call patriarchy.
“Compulsory heterosexuality and cisgenderism are determined by patriarchy. In contemporary capitalism, patriarchy and racism structure the set of social relations. Capitalism appropriates this, male domination over women, which is repeated in homophobia. This domination predates the construction of capitalism, but patriarchy has been appropriated by capitalism.”
Thaís also recalls that there is no way to separate the processes of exploitation and that it is also necessary to observe capitalist social relations in the concreteness of reality. Likewise, she recalls that Brazil suffered 300 years of slavery and has its own characteristics, such as, for example, the understanding of race, which is different between countries like Brazil and the United States. “We have to think about the concreteness of each social formation. We cannot import some debates, which in our reality are out of place, a classic example is the debate about queers. The Queer Movement in the United States has an impact in the United States, but in Brazil it was not built in the same way. We have to think about some issues from its construction”.
For her, it is a mistake to think of patriarchy and racism as appendages of capitalism, since the whole of social relations is traversed by all these issues. Thus, sexual and gender diversity can be situated as a constitutive element of the class struggle, because the class struggle must derive from the organization of classes, and social relations are traversed by these diversities. In this sense, it considers it fundamental that movements and organizations articulate the debates of class and sexual and gender diversity.
“LGBT people die from LGBT-phobic violence, but they also die from hunger, from lack of land. The unification of struggles is the recognition of our existence as part of the class. The key element is why sexual freedom and overcoming gender pressures must be part of our political commitment. This is part of the revolutionary and emancipatory process,” she concludes.
Océlio Muniz, from MAB, described the seminar as historic. Muniz made a tour of the LGBTI organization process as an articulation. “The MAB is inserted in this debate from the discussions of the MST, which sets the agenda of other organizations.” For him, it is necessary, as “subjects in the ranks of struggles”, to maintain the discussion to which the seminar is dedicated, for the construction of a new society, common to all. “That society must be built now. Sexual and gender diversity permeates this debate of building a new society. A massive, popular and autonomous movement without distinction of race, gender, sex.”
He recalls that the lack of debate, which for a long time has caused the departure of members of organizations and movements for not being welcomed for being LGBTI. “It is our debt to maintain this discussion, which is part of the same debate of human emancipation, in the sense that equality is a condition for us to continue in the struggle.” He qualifies that several important steps have been taken, which have transformed the movements into welcoming spaces.
Neimar Kiga, from the Tibira Collective, began his intervention by stressing that it is necessary to problematize the spaces given to indigenous people when they are invited to speak. “We are invited to speak in the month of April” and added that the same happens for “being LGBT indigenous, only in the month of June”. He considers that it is necessary to maintain agendas throughout the year.
Kiga recalled that the collective to which he belongs was named Tibira in memory of the indigenous martyr murdered in 1614, in what would be the first case of homophobia in Brazil. Tibira, of the Tupinambá people, was tied to a cannon by the colonizers and his body was torn to pieces.
As an articulation strategy, an instagram account (@indigenaslgbtq) was created as a place of support, “to give visibility to people inside and outside the indigenous communities”. Kiga reinforces that it is necessary to be aware of oppression, of being on the margins, and that is why it is necessary to join hands and that “to talk about sexuality in the indigenous context is also to talk about colonization”.
For him it is also important to take into account ethnic plurality, since “there are more than 300 indigenous peoples. We cannot generalize about being indigenous and being LGBT”. On the affirmation process, Kiga is firm, “we are not what the Church wants us to be, and we will not go back to accepting what people wanted us to be,” he closes.
The last round table of the first day of the Seminar under the name “International Round Table: The challenges of sexual and gender diversity in the international La Via Campesina movement” was opened by Blanca Ruiz, from CLOC Nicaragua. She pointed out that the struggle is for an integral and popular Agrarian Reform. Resistance is what drives the process of articulation of LGBTI people and Ruiz is explicit, “we do not want more invisibility. We are very happy to start this process. We work very actively in the organizations, but once our sexual identity is known, people diminish us. We need to maintain our credibility as leaders, without our sexuality preventing us from being recognized as people who fight, with very clear agendas, because we are peasants, we are gay, lesbians”.
Yeva Swart, from the European Coordination of La Via Campesina (ECVC), then made a brief reference to recent activities on sexual and gender diversity in La Via Campesina Europe, recalling that this month the first book was published and the first seminar on the subject was held.
He also noted that there is sometimes a misunderstanding that the situation in Europe is more progressive. “In different regions there are anti-migrant and anti-lgbt laws. We see a lot of spread of conversion therapies and increase of transphobic discourse.” For her, there is a lapse in identity politics. “One process that has been quite important is the identification and political importance of identity, peasant identity and LGBT peasant identity. We need to identify our members to increase our network, build alliances, strengthen the work that is done and fight for food sovereignty and against the patriarchy that wants to control bodies,” she concludes.
Next Saturday (31/07) the second part of the Seminar will take place, which, among its objectives, seeks to discuss the challenges of sexual and gender diversity.
*Edited by Solange Engelmann