A shocking scene played out in one of the City of Buenos Aires’ most emblematic cafés on Monday, when a lesbian couple was escorted out of ‘La Biela’ — located in the Recoleta neighborhood — after the management allegedly took issue with the display of affection taking place between the two. In response to what many have construed as an act of discrimination, Belén Arena, one of the two women involved in the incident, has denounced the staff on social media, and organized an escrache publico — in essence, an exposure protest — that will be held this coming Monday at 8:00 PM outside the bar.
The protest is a self-proclaimed ‘tortazo’ — a word that derives from the Argentine slang used to describe a lesbian: torta. In this case a ‘tortazo’ conveys the idea of a massive gathering of lesbians, while also inferring an expression of lesbianism. A crucial element of the escrache is public embarrassment, or the shaming of a person or institution for its conduct. Besides serving to ridicule the staff of ‘La Biela,’ the protest aims to increase LGBT visibility, and in particular, to organize an enormous demonstration of lesbian affection.
The owner of the bar is claiming that a complaint came in from two customers who felt “uncomfortable” after seeing the young women “caressing each other.” Belén Arena, one of the women who was asked to leave the bar, says that she was simply comforting her girlfriend who was having a bad day by rubbing her arm and shoulder. Belén insists she “didn’t even give her [girlfriend] a kiss — which shouldn’t have been a serious issue either —but not even that. There was a straight couple close by that was kissing. No one was bothered or complained.”
Recoleta is commonly perceived to be a neighborhood with a high percentage of affluent residents, and if the number of yellow and white Vatican flags hanging on the balconies throughout the neighborhood is any indication, a conservative one as well. Nevertheless, according to the event’s page on Facebook, close to 6,000 LGBT couples have confirmed that they will meet to protest by hugging and kissing outside of the bar. The event has been further publicized by organizations such as the Argentine LGBT Federation (FALGBT), and at the time that this article was being written, the total number of people interested in attending stood at nearly 9,000 people.
In a statement to The Bubble, Esteban Paulón the vice president of the Gay Lesbian and Trans Federation of Argentina (FALGBT) said, “We, of course, condemn what happened at La Biela because it clearly expresses the discomfort that is still generated by [members of the LGBT community] simply existing and expressing themselves in public. It highlights the point that despite having marriage equality and the Gender Identity Law there continues to exist a sector of society that is bothered by our mere existence.”
The protest in the form of public hugging and kissing is set to take place Monday, September 5th at 8 PM in front of the bar where the incident took place.
The protest, as Paulón says, is “a response in line with the idea that our movement isn’t aggressive — just the opposite. It is responding to the censorship and discrimination (we are facing) with more visibility… and more love.”