Last Saturday, during Carlos Monsiváis’ wake at Museo de la Ciudad de México, a group of young people unfolded a gay flag and put it on the writer’s coffin. Someone tried to take it away, but the group insisted and placed it right between Mexico and UNAM flags. So far, only one journalist has talked explicitly about Monsiváis’ sexuality and his links with the Mexican LGBT community.
A similar episode (link in Spanish) took place again during the wake in Bellas Artes. This time, it was the Mexican journalist Jenaro Villamil who put the rainbow flag on the casket despite the negative reaction of Consuelo Sáizar, president of the National Council for Culture and Arts (Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes).
A third episode of awkwardness was described by Andrés Duque, when musician and LGBT activist Horacio Franco not only played the flute right next to the casket, but also confirmed the rumors about Monsiváis’ sexuality in an interview with a LGBT website.
Carlos Monsiváis was one of the most influential intellectuals and writers in Mexico. He was a prolific author who also learned how to use radio and TV in order to disseminate his opinions about the PRI, the Catholic church and the conservative groups that dominate the Mexican government under the PAN’s rule.
Above all, Monsi, as many of his fans called him, was considered the undisputed chronicler of Mexico City, where passers by could recognize him on the street—a privilege that very few intellectuals have, given the separation between academia and so-called popular culture in Mexico. Monsiváis was born and brought up within a Presbyterian family in San Simon Ticumac, a poor neighborhood of Mexico City, a fact that other intellectuals of his same generation with well-to-do backgrounds despised, making Monsiváis something like an outcast within the Mexican intelligentsia.
As an activist, Monsiváis was part of the 1968 movement that ended in the massacre in Tlatelolco, he supported the Zapatista movement in 1994, and labeled the elections of 2006 that took away the presidency from López Obrador a “fraud”.
As any other controversial character, Monsiváis had his flaws: His colleagues and close friends considered him a misogynist, and despite his close links with the feminist and LGBT movements, he never came out of the closet publicly. Like Juan Gabriel, one of the many pop icons that fascinated Monsiváis, he kind of choose to follow the principle of lo que se ve no se pregunta, while defending LGBT rights in Mexico and pointing out the homophobia and double standards with which the Catholic church attacked the LGBT community and, more recently, same-sex marriage in Mexico City.
It is kind of ironic that Monsiváis was outed during his wake, posing questions about the right to live (and die?) in the closet and the power of visibility for the LGBT community. But if you think about it, the gay flag made it to Bellas Artes, the most prestigious place where someone can have her or his wake in Mexico. To give some idea of how important is this, Frida Kahlo‘s wake was in that building. The fact that the LGBT community claimed a place in this ceremony speaks to a new generation that wants to publicly acknowledge the not-so-short history of Mexico’s LGBT community. It talks about the importance of sexuality when it comes to define an identity that, like in Monsiváis’ case, was shaped by being Mexican, attending the UNAM, and being a gay man.
We’ll never know how Monsiváis would feel about this forced outing, but it is certainly sad to read “Monsiváis never married and had no children” as if that could define his personal life (and happiness) at all.
If Monsiváis’ death means the end of an era, let’s hope for a new generation that embraces all the different aspects that shape human beings, including sexuality, and the joy that comes along with it when it is accepted as part of life.