Even after five years of living together in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, something as simple as holding hands or sharing a kiss in public is unthinkable for Dayanny Marcelo and Mayela Villalobos.
There is an ever-present fear of being rejected or attacked in Guerrero, a state where same-sex relationships are not widely accepted and one of five in Mexico where same-sex marriage is still not allowed.
But this week they traveled the 235 miles (380 kilometers) to Mexico’s capital, where the city government hosted a mass wedding for same-sex couples as part of celebrations of LGBT Pride Month.
Under a tent set up in the plaza of the capital’s civil registry, along with about 100 other same-sex couples, Villalobos and Marcelo sealed their union Friday with a kiss while the wedding march played in the background.
Their ability to wed is considered one of the LGBT community’s greatest recent achievements in Mexico. It is now possible in 27 of Mexico’s 32 states and has been twice upheld by the Supreme Court.
Mexico, Brazil and Argentina top Latin America in the number of same-sex marriages.
Mariaurora Mota, a leader of the Mexican LGBTTTI+ Coalition, said the movement still is working to guarantee in all of Mexico the right to change one’s identity, have access to health care and social security and to let transsexual minors change their gender on their birth certificates.
Walking around Mexico City a day before their wedding, Marcelo and Villalobos confessed to feeling strange holding hands in the city streets. Displays of affection between same-sex couples in the capital are commonplace, but it was difficult to shed their inhibititions.
“I feel nervous,” said Villalobos, a 30-year-old computer science major, as Marcelo held her hand.
Villalobos grew up in the northern state of Coahuila in a conservative Christian community. She always felt an “internal struggle,” because she knew she had a different sexual orientation, but feared her family would reject her. “I always cried because I wanted to be normal,” she said.
She came out to her mother when she was 23. She thought that moving to Acapulco in 2017 with a young niece would give her more freedom.
Villalobos met Marcelo, a native of the beach town, there. Marcelo, a 29-year-old shop employee, said her acceptance of her sexual orientation was not as traumatic as Villalobos’, but she still did not come out as pansexual until she was 24. She said she had been aided by the Mexico City organization Cuenta Conmigo, — Count on Me — which provides educational and psychological support.
Walking around the capital this week with massive rainbow flags hanging from public buildings and smaller ones flapping in front of many businesses, Villalobos could not help but compare it to her native state and her present home in Guerrero.
“In the same country the people are very open and in another (place) … the people are close-minded, with messages of hate toward the community,” she said.
Elihú Rendón, a 28-year-old administrative employee for a ride-sharing application, and Javier Vega Candia, a 26-year-old theater teacher, grew up in Mexico City and coming out for them was not so complicated.
“We’re in a city where they’re opening all of the rights and possibilities to us, including doing this communal LGBT wedding,” said Vega Candia as he held out Rendon’s hand to show off a ring he had given him shortly before they moved in together.
When they walk through the city’s streets they don’t hesitate to express affection, sometimes hugging and dancing in a crosswalk while traffic was stopped.
“I’m happy to have been born in this city thinking that we have these rights and not in another country where we could be killed,” Vega Candia said.
Villalobos and Marcelo do not expect much in their daily lives to change when they return to Acapulco as a married couple. But Marcelo said that with the marriage certificate, she will try to get Villalobos included on the health insurance she receives through her employer.
“With a marriage certificate it is easier,” Marcelo said. “If something happens to me or something happens to her, we’ll have proof that we’re together.”