Tijuana’s first gay rights march drew surprised stares and occasional applause in 1995 when a crowd of about 100 people held signs and waved multi-colored banners while marching down Avenida Revolucion. I know because I was there, covering the event for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
More than a quarter century later, a very different scene is expected to play out on June 25, as thousands of Tijuana residents prepare to attend the city’s 27th Marcha de Orgullo, or gay pride parade.
The movement is stronger, broader and more visible than in those early days. The march comes on the heels of some hard-won victories in recent months by members of Baja California’s LGBTQ+ community.
- Last August, with support from Baja California’s legislature and three of the state’s five municipalities — Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali — the state constitution was formally changed to allow same-sex couples for the first time to marry without a court order.
- In October, as Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero launched her three-year term, she appointed the city’s first transgender public official to head the new Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
- In January, Baja California’s legislature passed a law that allows transgender adults to legally change their name and gender.
- In April, the Baja California legislature voted 20-4 to prohibit “conversion therapies” that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. A modified version was approved in May after Baja California Gov. Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda sent it back with revisions.
This month’s Marcha de Orgullo is expected to draw some 25,000 people — 10,000 participants and 15,000 spectators, said Lorenzo Herrera, a longtime gay rights activist and parade organizer. Herrera is also director of Fondo de Asistencia Para el SIDA, a LGBTQ+ community center that offers counseling, health services and legal assistance.
“Thousands will be out in the street on June 25 to celebrate that they are alive, that they can marry, that they can change their sexual identity,” Herrera said. “We have a lot to celebrate, but there’s still much to be done.”
One source of contention is the wording of the recently passed conversion therapies ban. Eduardo Arredondo, executive director of LGBCT, a group of young Baja California activists, said the final language falls short of the original proposal he championed as a member of the Baja California legislature’s Youth Parliament.
Ávila’s revisions weakened the original wording that would have punished anyone financing conversion therapies, he said. The governor’s version also opens the door to allowing conversion therapy with the subject’s consent — a provision Arredondo said that could lead people, especially minors, to be pressured and manipulated into joining.
“There’s still resistance, especially from conservative groups, that have led to laws being watered down,” Arredondo told me last week.
Baja California’s Human Rights Commission has also been calling for some changes. Miguel Mora Marrufo, the commission’s president, said that the transgender identity reforms passed by the legislature in January did not go far enough, as they only allow those over age 18 to submit petitions.
“We must guarantee that transgender children also have the right to change their gender identity,” Mora said.
Last March, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional reforms in the state of Puebla that said only those 18 years of age and older could petition to change gender identity.The Baja California Human Rights Commission is asking the court to issue a similar order in Baja California’s case.
The reforms “were a great step forward, and we must recognize that they were carried out in a progressive manner,” Mora said. “Since there is a precedent already…we think that the Baja California legislature will soon be ordered to eliminate the (age) requirement,” he said.
Also of Note
- Medical tourism: Surgeons from University of California San Diego announced a new collaboration with a weight loss surgery clinic in Tijuana. They say the partnership is aimed at improving the quality of care in a specialty that draws large numbers of U.S. patients for treatment south of the border. The UCSD doctors said that for now, the relationship is an academic one, and they will not have any oversight role. (Union-Tribune)
- Water: Tijuana residents are seeing a rise in water-shutoffs as the city’s main water source — the Colorado River — is under strain following years of drought. Avila urged city residents to “be very responsible” in their water use and said the government is working on a “rationing program.” (Voice of San Diego)
- Deportee advocate returns to the U.S.: Yolanda Varona, a U.S. deportee who ran a support group for deported mothers in Tijuana, was allowed to re-enter the United States last week for the first time in more than a decade after she was granted parole by the U.S. government. (Union-Tribune, Border Report)
- Monitoring individuals facing deportation: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) government has rapidly expanded the use of a smartphone technology to keep track of hundreds of thousands of individuals facing deportation across the country, including some 5,000 in San Diego and Imperial counties. (inewsource)
- Border Wait Times: A binational forum organized last week by the South County Economic Development Council brought together business, academic and government leaders from San Diego and Baja California to Southwestern College in Chula Vista to explore ways to build a stronger region. Among the issues discussed were the lengthy border wait times that stifle the region’s economic potential. (KPBS)
- Migrant opera: A 45-minute opera entitled “Stay in Mexico” premiered late last month, featuring two dozen performers recruited from Tijuana migrant shelters and six Tijuana-based professional dancers. Creator and artistic director Yuriria Fanjul focused the piece on the experiences of U.S. asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico. (Union-Tribune, Univision, Telemundo)
- Beer festival: Some 60 breweries from Baja California and San Diego are joining forces for the First International Beer Festival, to be staged Saturday and Sunday (June 11 and 12) from noon to 10 p.m. in the parking lot of the Caliente Stadium in Tijuana. The event showcases independent craft brewers, and will include food and music. For tickets and other information, see the event’s website. (Border Report, Coast News, Channel 8)