The Spanish Gay Movement under Francoism

The Spanish Gay Movement under Francoism

Spain is one of the most progressive states in the world when it comes to civil rights for LGBTQ people but this was not always the case

Spain for almost forty years-from 1939 to 1975-was a victim of the fascist dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who imposed a severe policy of censorship, control and persecution on the Spanish population in order to stifle any slightest outbreak of resistance and struggle against his regime.

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Among the victims of his dictatorship were many political opponents and also gays, who had to hide — for decades — their identities and at the same time suffer violence, humiliation, imprisonment and even life because of their being gay.

This is 1954, when Franco’s dictatorial fascist rule passed the Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation Law, in which gays were considered on par with social delinquents such as thieves, beggars, drug addicts and prostitutes.

This Law provided for the possibility of arresting, fining, interning in labor camps or asylums, or subjecting to forced conversion therapy any citizen suspected of being gay or of having same-sex relations. Francoist police could safely search homes, premises and citizens without warrants; moreover, Francoist agents were heavy-handed and used torture and violence to extract confessions.

According to data, between 1954 and 1975, the Francoist regime arrested about 5,000 gay citizens and still others suffered abuse and discrimination.

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Despite the Francoist terror regime, many gays managed to unite and resist through the creation of networks of solidarity and support. For example, in Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia, the homophobic repression of the Franco regime was less severe, thanks to the presence of intellectuals, artists, and students. Some Spanish venues such as Chicote (bars) and Doré (cinemas) became meeting points and refuges for gay citizens.

Others, however, organized into underground groups such as the Spanish Homosexual Liberation Movement (MELH) founded in 1971 with inspiration from U.S. and French LGBTQ civil rights struggles.

It was not until the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco-in 1975-that Spain’s democratic transition opened with the handing over of the Spanish Crown to Juan Carlos I of Bourbon (designated in 1969 by the dictator himself as his successor).

The Francoist Anti-Gay Law was later abolished in 1979 with the decriminalization of homosexuality. During this period numerous LGBTQ movements and associations such as the Gay Liberation Front of Catalonia (FAGC), the Gay Collective of Madrid (COGAM) and the Homosexual Movement for Revolutionary Action (MOHAR) would emerge.

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The life of gays in Spain during Franco’s fascist dictatorship was a story of suffering, but also one of courage and hope. Gays fought for their dignity and freedom, and contributed to the democratization and modernization of the country. Today, Spain is one of the most advanced countries in terms of LGBTQ civil rights, and the memory of gays persecuted by Francoism is a reminder against all forms of oppression and intolerance.

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