The southern Spanish town of San Fernando de Cadiz has introduced traffic lights depicting gay couples, a move designed “to normalize the fact that there are different kinds of couples among residents,” says Ana Lorenzo, a Socialist Party local councilor for social affairs in this city of 97,000 people.
Ten lights at pedestrian crossings showing two women or two men holding hands, with a heart in between, have been placed at high-transit locations throughout the city. The presentation of the initiative took place on Tuesday, coinciding with Valentine’s Day.
“We want to acknowledge and raise the visibility of affective-sexual diversity,” said the councilor, adding that locals have shown surprise at the move but seem to be taking it well.
“Right now I’m standing at a pedestrian crosswalk and people are taking pictures of them,” she said by telephone.
Lorenzo says she came up with the idea by investigating what other cities around the world had done to raise LGBTQ awareness, discovering that in 2015, Vienna had installed 47 traffic lights depicting gay and straight couples to illustrate the Austrian capital’s tolerant attitude in a year when it was organizing the Eurovision song competition. The previous year, bearded Austrian drag artist Conchita Würst had won the event. Despite complaints from conservative parties, the lights were not taken down.
Other cities soon followed suit: Linz and Salzburg in Austria, Munich in southern Germany, and even London, which installed some in Trafalgar Square for the June 2016 Gay Pride festival.
Lorenzo said she does not know how other political parties in the town, which sits on the Bay of Cadiz, feel about the initiative. In January 2016, they all voted in favor of the Municipal Plan against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which encompasses measures such as the pedestrian traffic crossing.
She added that the new characters come at “no cost” to the city, which had already been planning to install new lights anyway.
The move recalls earlier initiatives in Spanish cities such as Valencia, which introduced female figures on some of its traffic lights to underscore the issue of gender parity. San Fernando was initially given the same “female” lights as Valencia due to a mistake by the installation company, which quickly took them down and replaced them with same-sex couples instead.