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LGBTQ Rights

Madrid orders bus with anti-transgender message off streets

City Hall says campaign by ultraconservative group breaks rules on advertising and is incitement to hate

Acting on the orders of Madrid City Hall, the Spanish capital’s municipal police immobilized a bus late Tuesday chartered by a right-wing Catholic group plastered with the message: “Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Don’t let them fool you. If you’re born a man, you’re a man. If you’re a woman, you will continue to be so.”

Hazte Oir
The bus of the Hazte Oír group in Madrid.

The anti-abortion group Hazte Oír (“Make Yourself Heard”) had intended for the distinct orange vehicle to drive around the capital throughout this week and then head off to other Spanish cities, but following widespread criticism and protests from political parties, labor unions and civic organizations when it first appeared on Monday, Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena ordered municipal police to locate the vehicle and immobilize it.

Madrid City Hall spokeswoman Rita Maestre said the bus “did not meet rules on mobility and advertising.”

Hazte Oír was approved by the Spanish Interior Ministry in 2013 as a not-for-profit association

“Madrid is an inclusive and welcoming city. There is no place for transphobia on our streets,” added Maestre, after registering her “deep” rejection of “any discriminatory practice, such as a bus that tells children how they must be.”

Javier Barbero, responsible for Security, said the police had taken what he called “the bus of shame” off the roads. Madrid City Hall said that the bus broke rules that “prohibit [advertising] on any type of vehicle or trailer, stationary or in movement, except those used for public transport.” He added that the municipal authorities wanted the bus “out of the city as soon as possible.”

Cristina Cifuentes, the Popular Party head of the regional government of Madrid, described the bus as “unacceptable,” adding: “Some messages can incite behavior and a lack of respect to people based on their sexual orientation that are incompatible with an advanced society.”

Ricardo Blázquez, the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which represents the diocese of the Catholic Church in Spain, has also criticized the bus, calling for “respect” for children.

“This is a campaign of hate based on intolerance,” said Ángeles Álvarez, the opposition Socialist Party’s (PSOE) Equality spokeswoman, in the Spanish Congress on Tuesday, adding that her party had called on the State Attorney’s office to ban it. The regional governments of Catalonia and Madrid have also called for the bus to be banned.

Madrid is an inclusive city. There is no place for transphobia on our streets

Rita Maestre, Madrid City Hall

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has joined the chorus of criticism, saying on Twitter: “There is no place in Barcelona for buses that are LGBT-phobic,” adding that the vehicle would be prevented from entering the city, which it is scheduled to do on Friday, and that Hazte Oír would be fined €3,000 if it tried to do so.

The regional government of Valencia has also issued a statement saying it will take action to prevent the bus from traveling on the roads there.

In January, the transgender support group Chrysallis launched an awareness campaign in northern Spain using the slogan: “There are girls with penises and boys with vulvas.” Hazte Oír responded with an online petition to have the campaign pulled, which failed.

Hazte Oír was set up in 2001 by lawyer Ignacio Arsuaga and has campaigned noisily against abortion rights, as well as attacking LGBT groups and women’s associations, using terms such as “the gay inquisition” and “the dictatorship of gender.” The organization says it has almost 7,000 members and revenue of €2.6 million from supporters.

A Madrid court has ruled that Hazte Oír has close links to El Yunque, a far-right group in Mexico that has organized demonstrations against gay rights there. Hazte Oír was approved by the Spanish Interior Ministry in 2013 as a not-for-profit association.

Hazte Oír said in a statement that its bus “wasn’t against anybody,” adding: “The bus doesn’t aim to discriminate or offend anybody, but simply to recognize a biological fact that we all studied at school,” said Arsuaga.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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