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Daring to Love: A History of Lesbian Intimacy in Buenos Aires, 1966–1988

  • Author(s): Lande, Shoshanna
  • Advisor(s): Tinsman, Heidi
  • et al.
Abstract

The following research focuses on lesbian intimacy in Argentina between 1966–1988, with particular focus on the dictatorship of 1976–1983. I argue that queer women during this era used constructions of lesbian eroticism, pleasure, and friendship as ways to counter authoritarianism by claiming that the equality and equity experienced in intimate moments was evidence of lesbian moral authority and democracy. Moments of intimacy serve as access points to understanding lesbian contestations to Argentina’s gender hierarchy, the military’s authoritarianism, and Argentina’s definition of democracy. Looking at lesbianism through multiple lenses of intimacy has revealed a fragmented, isolated community that, over the course of two decades, worked to claim their collective existence, making lesbianism possible and visible.

Lesbian intimacy in Argentina occurred in multiple spaces, both private and public. By the end of the 1960s when the first gay liberation group in Argentina, Nuestro Mundo, was founded, lesbians in Buenos Aires remained atomized and isolated, lacking the kind of public social organization that other groups had. At the same time, Argentine society was tumultuous, see-sawing between democracy and dictatorship. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the government, whether democratic or authoritarian, was particularly ruthless toward leftist groups throughout the nation. This is especially true for the regime that took power between 1976 and 1983. It was responsible for completely disrupting the public and private lives of its citizens through a program of censorship, terror, violence, kidnapping, and torture, ultimately disappearing and murdering 30,000 Argentinians. As a result, moments of intimacy—including conversations between friends and lovers, as well as consuming cultural productions like political writings, poems, drawings, literature, and songs—provided lesbians with the experiences and discourse to situate themselves as sexual minorities and citizens in Argentina.

My research contributes to the growing scholarship that utilizes a methodology of intimacy. Lauren Berlant’s concept of the intimate public—composed of strangers who share common historical experiences based on seemingly fixed identities, such as race, gender, or sexuality—challenges us rethink how collective political and social consciousness can be generated during moments of privacy and intimacy. Analyzing lesbian history in Argentina through the lens of intimacy is an apt way to approach this historical moment, because lesbians were working to construct a collective identity that bypassed the categories of nation and family. As a result, my findings about lesbian intimacy change what we know about Argentinian lesbian history. While the existing historiography focuses on lesbian participation in the feminist and gay liberation movements, focusing on intimacy expands the ways that we view lesbians as political actors. Given their lack of self-representation within the activist community, moments of intimacy illustrate how lesbians understood themselves as political actors.

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