A 31-year-old matador has become the first LGBT+ bullfighter in Spanish history. Mario Alcalde, who gained notoriety for his recent debut in the traditional cultural event, announced on January 20 that he was coming out as “pansexual.”
According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish language, “pansexual” refers to a person who feels attraction towards any individual or object. Pansexual people might refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are not determining factors in their romantic or sexual attraction to others.
While the concept has existed since the 1970s, pansexuality only gained wider awareness in 2010 after its flag was designed by a user on microblogging platform Tumblr.
Speaking to the Spanish outlet El Mundo last week, Alcalde said: “I fall in love with what’s inside, I don’t care about gender. I am pansexual. I identify with the LGTBI flag.”
In April of 2023, Alcalde made his debut in Las Ventas, the largest bullfighting ring in Spain. Intending to announce his new LGBT identity, Alcalde ordered some banderillas decorated with the colors of the rainbow pride flag. Banderillas are barbed spears used to injure the bull during the event.
Alcalde decided not to use the custom spears at the last second. His performance ended in a broken collarbone and a dislocated shoulder, and he spent his recovery in the hospital wrapped in a rainbow flag.
Shortly after, Alcalde flew to Nepal to spend a week at a Buddhist monastery.
“I travelled with the [bullfighting] cape. I met a Buddhist master with whom I shared ideas. When he saw me bullfighting with the cape he said the movements looked like a ritual dance,” Alcalde recounted.
While it is unclear why he traveled to Nepal to spend time at the monastery, Alcalde has suggested it was a personal journey of self-discovery.
“I was looking for myself. It changed me as a person. Things happened that only those who trust me the most know. When I arrived in Kathmandu, my intention was to leave bullfighting.”
But, renewed by his spiritual quest, Alcalde instead decided to continue his career and also seek to expand LGBT representation in bullfighting. He is now planning to establish a bullfighting club (peña) in a bar in Chueca, a famous LGBTQI+ neighborhood in Madrid.
“The truth is that all gays say they are anti-bullfighting. But, it is very nice when you confess who you are and, after getting to know you, they see the issue differently. ‘I’m a bullfighter,’ I tell them, and then they change their opinion.”
While Alcalde says he would like to make a living from bullfighting, he is currently working two other jobs to support himself – one as a baggage claim attendant at the Madrid airport, and another with his father in his family’s business.
On his pansexuality, Alcalde says that he is unsure how the bullrings will react to his announcement, but doesn’t feel that he will be rejected as a performer.
“I don’t care what other people think. That’s why I work at the airport. To have more security in my independence,” he says.
Although legal in most of the country, many cities throughout Spain along with the Canary Islands have banned the traditional practice. According to a 2016 survey, only 19% of Spanish citizens supported the continuation of bullfighting.
As a result, Alcalde has been labeled a “woke bull killer” by some Spanish commentators on social media.