Interview by Robyn Ochs
Noelia Mellado Pozas leads the Bisexual Policy Group of FELGTB, Spain’s national LGBTI organization.
RO: Noelia please tell us a bit about yourself.
NMP: My name is Noelia Mellado Pozas. I was born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and I’m 26 years old. I studied Hispanic Philology at the University of the Balearic Islands but I left that field after discovering that I was happiest helping others directly. I then completed higher vocational training in Social Integration. I like my work because I can sow social awareness and even save lives, and that, always, is worth it.
I’m a proponent of a bisexual feminist activism that takes into account non-binary and/or trans people and brings together the plurisexual orientations included under the bisexual umbrella.
RO: Palma de Mallorca, where you were born and raised, is an island off the east coast of mainland Spain. What was it like growing up there? How does life there compare to major cities such as Madrid or Barcelona?
NMP: I was very happy on the island. But I would prefer to live in Andalusia or Madrid. Mallorca has good weather, better views, and you can get anywhere in no time at all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have many LGBTQ places like the ones found in big cities and it’s difficult to find meeting points for the collective. Insularity also poses a challenge to LGBTQ organizations that have to move between islands to develop their work.
RO: How did you come to identify as bi?
NMP: I’m an atypical bisexual woman because my open-minded family supports me and my friends and partners. I have suffered internalized biphobia, though, because I was convinced that because I was bisexual I would suffer discrimination at the same level as my friends. I have experienced violent or discriminatory situations, but they have been very scarce.
When I was 16, I liked a girl and wanted to tell my parents that I was bisexual, but I didn’t know how. My mother began to say that I dated girls a lot. I panicked and said, “Well, maybe, no, yes,” and my mother smiled.
One day soon after that, I came home feeling brave and, instead of saying I was bisexual, I said, “Mom, Dad… I’m going to call my girlfriend.” I ran to my room fearing something would happen. I let some time go by, but seeing that nothing was happening, I went back to my parents. My father asked, “Are you happy?” I said “Yes,” and he added, “If you’re happy, I’m happy too.” My mother said, “Daughter, I knew that you are bisexual. You’ve never been in a closet; you’ve always been out of it. When you were little you saw a boy and said to me: ‘Look, Mom, what a beautiful boy. I’m going to marry him,’ and then you later saw a girl and said to me, ‘Look, Mom, what a beautiful girl. I’m going to marry her.’”
RO: What, if any, is your religious background, and what impact did it have on your coming out? Did it make it harder or easier? In what ways?
NMP: For me, religion hasn’t been relevant to my coming out of the closet. I think it’s been easier to make myself visible because I don’t feel conditioned. I believe in humanity and that good people exist.
RO: What words are used to describe lesbian, gay, bi, or non-heterosexual people in Spain? Which terms are most common among people with non-binary sexualities? Are these words equivalent to their English counterparts, or do they have a different meaning?
NMP: The most common words are: lesbian, gay, and bisexual. In plurisexual orientations the most common popular terms are: bisexual (bi), pansexual, demisexual, and biromantic. Pansexuality is often confused with bisexuality and it is difficult for people to understand that pansexuality is part of the bisexual umbrella. Some pansexual people believe that they are made invisible and that bisexuality is binary. Although this is changing very slowly, in FELGTB’s Bisexual Policy Group we have people who consider themselves pansexual and see themselves reflected within the bisexual umbrella.
The word that is the most different is gay. In some English-speaking areas, homosexual men and women identify themselves as gay. But in Spain it is common for a homosexual woman to identify herself as lesbian and a homosexual man to identify himself as gay.
RO: Tell us about your journey to becoming a bi+ activist.
NMP: My LGBT activism began in 2014, and since 2016 I have held various managerial positions en la Asociación LGTB de las Islas Baleares Ben Amics, one of the many LGBTI entities that make up the Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales (FELGTB).
I started my activism by going to meetings to meet LGBT people, going out for coffee and volunteering at information tables.
I remember one day in the office of Ben Amics I saw a flag. Someone told me it was the bisexual flag, and I promised to take it whenever possible to any events I might attend.
RO: You currently lead the Bisexual Policy Group of FELGTB, Spain’s national LGBTI organization. What exactly does the Bisexual Policy Group do? What kinds of activities do you organize? Do you have events open to the community?
NMP: The Coordinator’s responsibilities are to communicate with the Spanish LGBT associations that are part of FELGTB, to promote and give visibility to the B, to offer resources to those groups that do not have bisexual activists, to form the associations that need it in this matter, and to coordinate our own activities. I also convene regular Skype meetings with bisexual activists to draft the collective’s mission statement.
The group consists of approximately 20 people from different groups in Spain from places such as Castellón, Mallorca, Madrid, Salamanca, Zaragoza and Canarias. Soon, we will be more!
We organize conferences, book presentations, concentrations, and bi film series. Most of our activities are open to the public.
September 23 will mark the end of a campaign, in which Robyn Ochs participated, commemorating International Bisexual Visibility Day through short videos of bisexual people commenting on their own experiences (positive ones or experiences of biphobia) posted on social networks. The videos use the hashtag #DiadelaVisibilidadBisexual.
RO: How did you come to get involved with this group? And how did you come to be a leader of this group?
NMP: In 2016, the year Pride in Spain was dedicated to bisexuality, I joined the Bisexual Policies Group. In April 2018, the VIII FELGTB Congress was held in which, among other things, the new board of directors and the coordinators of the different internal groups were selected. The FELGTB Bisexual Policy Group met and decided that I would be their coordinator (a position I hold for three years) taking over from my friend and teacher, Carlos Castaño. You might be pleased to know that FELGTB uses your expansive definition of bisexuality!
RO: I’ve met Carlos. He is a good person and an effective activist! In your experience, are bi+ folks well-integrated into Spain’s sexual minority community? And more specifically, is FELGTB welcoming of bi+ people? Have you seen changes over time?
NMP: In my opinion, bi+ people should have more visibility. But it is true that with time there has been a positive evolution and more bi+ people are raising their voices and getting involved in FELGTB’s Bisexual Policy Group.
RO: As an activist, what is an accomplishment of which you are particularly proud?
NMP: I’m very proud to have lived through and played some part in important legal changes such as the approval of the autonomous LGBT law of the Balearic Islands and the Law of Marriage Equality in Spain. I’m proud to have been one of the few bisexual presidents of Ben Amics and to be Coordinator of the Bisexual Policy Group, which represents diverse bisexual activists, including trans and non-binary bisexual people. In everything that I do, I am proud to work alongside a vibrant team of bisexual activists, including trans and non-binary bisexual people, and I am especially proud to have worked with the eternal Pedro Zerolo. I look forward to the day when, finally, our efforts lead to national LGTB protections in Spain.
RO: Are you in contact with bi activists in other countries? Do you see a value in transnational activism?
NMP: Yes! Transnational activism is very valuable because contact with people of different nationalities makes it possible to update discourses in all countries and to reflect on the future challenges facing bisexuality in the world and even to exchange experiences that generate alliances between activists and, in turn, encourage creation and originality when inventing activities to combat stereotypes associated with the “B.”
RO: I’m inspired by your enthusiasm! What motivates you to be a bi+ leader?
NMP: I’m motivated by my eternal gratitude to all those people who dedicated their lives to fight for the rights I now have. My way of expressing this gratitude for everything is to dedicate my own life to the collective. I am motivated by adversities. As long as even one person in the collective continues to suffer for being bi+, I will fight hatred and injustice, and work to create love and hope for a better world.
RO: Noelia, thank you so much for your time, and for the important work you do.
Robyn Ochs is editor of BWQ and the 42-country collection Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World.