“We are not a different story, we are part of the same line, written with other colours, with other calligraphies.”
Liza Garcia Reyes was born just south of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá. She became part of Colombia’s LGBT movement when she experienced her sexual orientation as a factor of violence and exclusion in her life. She was part of the LGBT delegation in November 2016 to the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The delegation’s goal was to guarantee the inclusion of violences lived by homosexual, bisexual and trans women and men during armed conflict in Colombia in the peace agreement. She is the first Cundinamarca (local government) Secretary for Women and Gender Equity, a post that she achieved through a meritocratic process.
What does it means to you to be an activist?
Being an activist means having a personal motivation to transform unequal and inequitable situations. For me, activism is working to ensure that women and girls can live in freedom, happiness and fullness of their rights. Activism implies working for the full recognition of humanity and citizenship of people who live non-hegemonic sexual orientations and gender identities.
When did you realize that you were an activist?
The first moment that I said “I am an activist” was in 2003. My partner and I suffered violence due to prejudice in the workplace and community because of our sexual orientation and I thought: if I work on other issues related to human rights, why I am not working on this?
What are the challenge of being an individual activist?
It can’t be said that an activist is alone. Activism needs a strong connection with what happens in society. As an individual activist, it’s necessary to be close to the social reality that you are talking about. But it’s important to listen to others to expand your personal reading of a situation.
What are the possibilities and challenges of being a lesbian feminist activist?
We need to build a bridge between the larger women’s rights movement and the LGBT rights movement so non-heterosexual and non-cisgender women can be recognized as part of the feminist movement, without being “the other”. Part of my work as an activist has to be influencing that bridge and to strengthen that exchange. The biggest challenges are to overcome the lesbo-, bi- and transphobia in the women’s movement and activate the possibility of working for the elimination of patriarchy, heterosexism and cisexual privilege. The challenge is to show that lesbians, bisexuals and trans women are not a different story: we are part of the same line written with others colours, with other calligraphies.
What are the challenges you seen in Colombia’s peace building context?
The biggest challenge is to heal the wounds of hatred — heal and then build joint agendas for change. We are not responsible for the hatred that broke out in the country, we are the victims of those who promoted it. We are victims of the institutional violence that came from the invisibility and omission of our existence, that have affected our humanity and our status as a citizens.
What does it mean for you as an activist to be the Secretary for Women and Gender Equity in Cundinamarca’s government? Where is the limit?
I believe that being an activist working in the government has a more restrictive place. Being in the framework of the State implies assuming places that can guarantee a good management for the benefit of women. However, it is also an enabling space in which a number of actions can be mobilized to improve the conditions of all women. It is difficult to think of a limit, I am still an activist, however I have to be guided by public policy.