By: Ana Portnoy Brimmer
The Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) was starting to fill up. As salsa music blasted through the speakers, people hurried to grab good seats, greeted and hugged familiar faces, smiled at unknown ones, and snapped pictures of the ongoing scene.
It was March 4 at 10:30 a.m. and Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, was about to begin the opening keynote address at the “V Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas Sobre Sexualidades Queer” (V Symposium: The Other Side?: Perspectives on Queer Sexualities). Rivera Lassén’s address was titled “¿Del otro la’o del Derecho o el Derecho del otro la’o?” (The other side of the Law or the Law seen from the other side?).
Doctor Lissette Rolón, UPRM professor and coordinator of the colloquium, explained that the goal of the colloquium is to “educate and raise awareness to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination.” This fifth edition focused on the relationship between queer and racial issues.
“The theme of this year’s colloquium addresses diverse sexualities that do not relate to the heteronormative ones, and it has a specific focus on race,” explained Christie E. Torres, UPRM student and member of the coordinating committee of the colloquium.
Around 70 people attended Rivera Lassén’s keynote address. After a long and honorary introduction by Rolón, the keynote speaker began her lecture, which revolved around issues regarding legislation, homophobia, and feminism in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Transgender Intersex Queer (LGBTTIQ) community.
Rivera Lassén related LGBTTIQ issues to the struggle for human rights and talked about their evolution across various points in history. Political and legislative struggles of the LGBTTIQ community were discussed openly. She defended and advocated for the rights, acknowledgement, respect, and recognition the LGBTTIQ community deserves.
Throughout her lecture, Rivera Lassén, who is also a published writer, shared a series of allegories she’d written.
One of Ana Irma’s final powerful statements before ending the keynote address was: “One cannot fall into the trap of the law. Laws are changed by people; laws do not change people.”
At the end of her address, a question and discussion session followed. Attendees asked about and discussed the progress the LGBTTIQ community had seen regarding laws and rights, the semantically wrong usage of the term homophobia (since, according to one of the participants, people feel more hatred than actual fear towards this sexual orientation), among other topics.
After an hour and a half of discussions, arguments, and insight, the keynote address came to an end.