Gay Pride Day in Cuba

Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES — Havana didn’t “enjoy” or “suffer” a conga line parade which the flag of diversity could have waved side by side with that of the July 26 Movement, the Young Communist League and even banners with the faces of the Cuban Five.

There was no official Gay Pride Day march on June 28.

Yet the moment wasn’t squandered due to government immobility. Individuals and independent projects of the efflorescent Cuban civil society generated their own activities, which extended from 5:00 in the afternoon until around midnight.

The “Proyecto Arcoiris” (the “Rainbow Project,” a member of the Critical Observatory Network) held a “kiss-in” in front of the main Havana bus terminal. For at least an hour, and with the participation of 20 or so people, demonstrators engaged in timid kissing – though they promised to be more “passionate” next year.

Thanks to efforts of that same organization, the documentary Cuerpos y Fronteras:  La ruta (Bodies and Borders: The Journey), by Ecuadorian director Mary A. Vitteri, was shown and discussed at around 6:30 at the “La Madriguera” (the main facility of the state-sponsored Asociacion Hermanos Saiz youth culture organization).

Several people wore costumes as a means of delving into the idea of other genders, as well as to measure the audience’s reaction.

Elsewhere in the city, at the home of bloggers Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez, at 8 pm began the screening of a documentary about the events of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, where gays fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities.

This film is essential material for understanding the long road of resistance and political activism for the recognition of the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people.

As part of the subsequent discussion, LGBT activists Ignacio Estrada and Wendy Iriepa presented the “Citizen’s Petition,” which was presented to the National Assembly of Popular Power that same morning. It seeks the acceptance and observance of the Jakarta Agreements.

The petition calls for an investigation into all matters relating to the “Military Units to Aid Production” (UMAP), which were labor camps set up for a couple of years in the 1960s with aims that included “repairing” the sexual orientation of gays) and the indictment of those responsible for that program.

Another of the points about which the petition seeks clarification is the “state of dangerousness” currently in force in the Cuban Penal Code. In practice, this classification can make one’s sexual orientation a crime and has contributed to a climate in which there have been violent deaths of several homosexuals recently.

Finally, the appeal calls for public debate around the forced exiling of homosexual citizens in past decades.

In short, Gay Pride Day on this island was less than picturesque. The phase that best fit it was “thought provoking.”

Demands such as the legalization of gay marriage and the possibility of child adoption by gay individuals or couples still loom as battles for the future in a society still marked by a high degree of homophobia.

What the Cuban LGBT community faces firstly is the need to break with the conduct of atomized behavior and any pessimism that is capable weighing down common aims.