"Historically, there have been times when the fight for equality in the United States has permeated our struggles here in Colombia. As a matter of fact, [our Pride] march was held on June 28, because we were able to pick up on the same idea, at a worldwide level, that was fought for at the Stonewall Inn in New York.
"But I think there are some things that we can differentiate between the movements [in Colombia and the U.S.] For example, for the international analysis, we can look actual example on the issue of reconciliation of the armed conflict in Colombia. This has had a super important role, and made a great impact in our perspective and how we must think of social movements for LGBT people.
"Overall, I think there is not much shared with the United States, because I believe the matter is completely different. Historically, here in Colombia, there has been so much violence and so many murders of activists, including people who have made their sexual orientation or gender identity known, those who aren’t heteronormative, that you almost acclimate to the violence, and death in many cases. And so now, our social movement is building on the idea that we are finally in a post-conflict scenario, which can also help facilitate the transformation of these realities, not only in the city, but in many contexts.
"For example, there is a broad coalition of organizations in Colombia that have been working, over the last few years, on the issue of the armed conflict. … There isn’t anything like that history in the United states. Well, obviously [the U.S.] has not had an armed conflict for 50 years, but even long before that, there have been different characteristics [here] when we think about the LGBT world.
"In the United States, for example, the issue of marriage, adoption, and the issue of gender identity, are very specific things, drawn from other models that may not necessarily be relevant here in Colombia. But I feel that’s where these particular differences are most present. For example, as you can see from our people, the big issue here is victims who are working for the rest of the people. And we can also see that the particular culture here in Colombia has been supported by these armed groups, that systematically direct violence at the LGBT sectors of society, that make people disappear. And sure we have jailed some of us, but that offers little comfort, right?
"So I think our interest is not only in marriage, adoption, and gender identity, but also in what happened with our history, particularly in Colombia, with these people who are disappearing. Look at the case of Leon Zuleta, who theoretically planned to live in Spain, and other activists [who have vanished]. For example, Lawanda Fox, a trans woman who also did a lot of work on this issue in Colombia, who was also killed, and how does that change our perspective?
"Because I feel that, although the United States may have some particular issues and things working against activists, the ways in which [our activists] are persecuted, and even killed, are completely different. When they kill us here in Colombia, the State had a lot to do with these murders, supporting these paramilitary movements under the table a bit. Other groups have validated so much violence, and the lack of attention that the state paid to violence against LGBT social sectors has allowed that violence to go unchecked until very recently. It’s like, look at what violence has been done in Colombia, especially to the LGBT community.
"Colombia is also in another geographical position, with completely different characteristics [than the U.S.], which I think gives our struggle different nuances. For example, when we think about rural issues, I think it’s very different in the United States. Rural life in the U.S. has very different features, whereas our culture has had much more to do on that issue.
"And it’s not only culture, but also, for example in Colombia, we can see it with the Catholic religion systematically denying violence that has been taking for many years, while still condemning the LGBT population. As I understand, in the United States, the Catholic faith doesn’t have the same weight that it does here in Colombia. Here in Colombia, when we’re talking about a man, or about a priest, it’s not solely in a [religious] context.
"I think that there is also cultural variation in how religion is perceived, and how people express their freedom around that. There are some very large differences to be seen — for example, the struggle that we’re now having here, and the United States is also having, about movements starting in Christian and Catholic churches, Jewish [synagogues], all that.
"But I think it’s a different matter when it comes to the power that [churches] have over the decisions of the state. Then, I think, there are a few different variations, but there are also things we have together in common, which you cannot deny.
"But I think this is a more or less as a quick overview of some of the differences — at least the ones I consider important."