The Right To Have Rights: Inclusion And Not Mere Tolerance

By: Grecia Santaella Méndez

     On March 4, 2014, a group of around 100 people gathered in the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez to hear Ana Irma Rivera Lassén’s masterly conference about juridical procedures in Puerto Rico, regarding the LGBTT community.

     The audience included a wide range of people, from students and professors, to administrators, human rights activists and others who sat quietly to listen to the attorney’s keynote address.

     Rivera Lassén’s presence in the Mayagüez campus was one of the events in the fifth edition of the “Del Otro La’o Colloquium: Perspectives about Queer Sexuality”, which took place from March 4through March 6, 2014. The colloquium’s purpose is to educate and enlighten the college community about non heteronormative sexualities, relationships and struggles.


Ana Irma Rivera Lassén as she delivers her keynote address to the UPRM community.

     With a conference that extended for an hour, Ana Irma Rivera Lassén communicated the stance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community (LGBTT, by its acronym) before the juridical system in Puerto Rico.

     Rivera Lassén, current President of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, emphasized that struggles for human rights should not exclude unconventional sexual orientations and non-heterosexual couples. The lawyer and internationally recognized writer stressed the importance of “the right to have rights” and how “civil rights originate only when they can and should be born.”

     The human rights activist also denounced the meddling and discrimination of public politics towards the often-tabooed LGBTT community. Fellow law colleague Ivelisse Méndez Pérez, who also attended Ana Irma Rivera Lassén’s speech, showed interest and acceptance for the orator’s legal and juridical points of views, regarding the implementation of fair civil rights that won’t allow marginalization of the LGBTT community. Méndez Pérez expressed the importance of Ana Irma Rivera’s keynote address for the UPRM community. “She made us understand that in order for equality and justice to reign in PR, we must practice inclusivity towards the LGBTT community, instead of just preaching tolerance towards their lifestyle.

     According to a Mayagüez de Fiesta article published on September 14, 2012, Rivera Lassén has dedicated her life to social justice, to battle discrimination because of sex, race, sexual orientation, genre identity, national origin, political affiliations, economic position, religious ideals, and different physical and sensory capacities and so on.

     Ana Irma Rivera Lassén is the first African American and openly gay person to be the head of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico. She is also the third woman to take this position in over the 172 years of the foundation of this entity. Rivera Lassén is also a renowned feminist, human rights activist, editor and columnist.


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