By Regina Cano
Uf! Life in Havana for some people is a breakneck race, and that’s why I haven’t been able to write recently. However, I’ll tell you that story another time.
But I also have a social life, and it happened that this past May 16, the “International Day against Homophobia” was celebrated in Havana for the third time and for the second time publicly.
The event is sponsored by CENESEX (the National Center for Sexual Education), directed by Mariela Castro Espin – the daughter of two noted Cuban politicians, as her last names denote – but who has a strong conviction and intention to achieve respect for homosexuality in Cuba.
The main venue was the Pabellon Cuba, an exhibition center on busy 23rd Street. It was a day marked by music, promotions aimed at protecting sexual relationships in the face of AIDS and what to do if that disease is contracted; publications on self-esteem; sexual diversity; transphobia (the fear of transvestites, transsexuals and people who’ve had sex changes); female sexuality; homophobia; and myths and beliefs about lesbians (discussed by the women’s group Oremi, from the city of Cienfuegos).
The event was auspicious for meetings between old and new friends, be they homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual.
There were those who came to socialize and enjoy the protection from the sun outside; those who came to find out what the event was about, and those who never want to miss out on anything.
Also attending were partial transsexuals, exhibiting their achievements under their cloths, and transvestites made up especially for the occasion: all of them displaying their finest attire on this warm and informal day.
Some “vogued,” made eyes or threw kisses; many enjoyed the freedom that the event generated; a few performed like models on a catwalk, anxious for piropos (flirtatious compliments) and attention; while others remained attentive, though with a certain distrust for what the future holds for them. It was a pleasure to see that everyone was welcome and that there was such diversity.
An associated activity was held at the headquarters of UNEAC (the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), where there were readings and the sale of books, magazines, posters and almanacs generally relating to the same theme.
At mid-morning in Pabellon Cuba there was also an open mike discussion in which those attending spoke out on passionate, painful and worrisome concerns about social prejudice and discrimination (in neighborhoods, the family, with the police, in legislation, etc).
There I listened to a young black woman speak about herself and her girlfriend from neighboring Pinar del Rio Province. They have been in a relationship for four years and live in her house here in Old Havana. The authorities consider the girlfriend an illegal occupant, and they’ll have to overcome many obstacles to stay together.
This is because there are specific regulations that control moving to the capital, a migration that in the great majority of cases has to do with the family economy and future prospects that individuals don’t have in their places of origin. People trying to migrate to Havana employ a range of strategies: some legal (marriages, proof of family relations, inheritance, etc.) and others illegal.
In the end, the panel recommended that she contact the CENESEX lawyer since in another testimony someone spoke about how a similar case was positively resolved, though in a different municipality.
The young women’s situation has more to do with an act of discrimination than a regulation; it depends on an official in a given jurisdiction holding limited but decisive powers. For that reason, I expect their case will have a favorable outcome.
I hope that the effort to continue holding future “Days against Homophobia” do not become marred, since being different doesn’t imply being loathsome; and like the slogan of this organization says, “Two of the same also make a pair.”