Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES, Jan 11 — June Fernandez is a freelance journalist and blogger from the Basque Country. She has returned to Cuba for the second time, this time to talk about her activism and militancy in the arena of women’s rights, and to search for similar experiences here on the island.
For this, the “Critical Observatory Network” organized a discussion session that took place in the Vedado district on Sunday, January 8, with the participation of researchers, independent bloggers, freelancers and LGBT activists linked to government institutions.
What is trans-feminism?
June’s area of work is “trans-feminism,” which according to the young activist is a concept that draws from the “queer” movement, the “pro-sex” and “post-porno” movements, as well as anti-colonial, feminist, black, Islamic, and anti-racism movements in general.
“Trans-feminism” is understood as a critique of the prevailing global hetero-patriarchal system of the white and Judeo-Christian heritage, based on the European experience, and which develops embedded in today’s hegemonic capitalism.
The movement champions sexual freedom and free expression of identity, while at the same time criticizing certain immigration policies, especially those that affect women, and the precarious conditions in which many women must survive.
What’s curious about this new activism sweeping European youth is its creation of strange alliances, where the type of decentralized organization they propose manages to link, for example, Muslim emigrants who defend their culture and sex workers who are proud of their craft.
Assuming that all oppression has the same basis, it makes no sense to disapprove some forms and tolerate others. For trans-feminists the root is the same: prejudice and the same unjust system. They are about defending equal rights for everyone and respecting diversity.
The movement proposes an anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist feminism stripped of the “scientism” and moralizing that corrodes “enlightened” 21st century society.
In the face of complaints about sexual reassignment, it defends the free experience of identity and questions the aggressive treatment of the human body. In other words, they propose that people can change gender without surgery.
Nonetheless, they are struggling for trans-sexuality or trans-gender to no longer be considered a disease and for there to be a modification of the requirements of two years of hormone and psychiatric therapy to achieve a successful sex change for those people who want one.
That process is very similar here in Cuba, according to comments from the meeting’s participants, who are close to these practices on the island.
A tropical discussion
The presentation by Fernandez was constantly interrupted by comments from those in attendance, which was heterogeneous in terms of sexual orientation and included heterosexuals in a lively interaction.
June explained the discussions that are currently taking place in Spain, as well as projects and initiatives in which she has participated. Her reflections encouraged those present to present their own experiences with this type of activism here on the island.
While it’s difficult to categorize groups in Cuba as “social movements,” certainly in recent years there has been an increase in the number and quality of groups sensitive to issues of gender, sexual diversity and race.
It was mentioned in the discussion how the official Cuban Women’s Federation, which was a source of feminist activism at the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, has diluted these currents from within to the point of making them disappear. This explains the near absence of groups with those tendencies across the current landscape of the island.
In addition, sex work in Cuba was contrasted with the Spanish situation. The violation of the rights of these women was criticized, as was their unjust treatment by police authorities.
Prostitutes in the capital are also persecuted and in the cases when they have no legal residence in Havana they are sent back to their home provinces. This fact surprised the European visitor, for whom such acts are only understandable under retrograde right-wing governments.
Also explained to her was how male homosexuals in Cuba are faced with a veritable siege by law enforcement officers who fine them for “indecent exposure” or arrest them and hold them in police stations.
Who is June Fernandez Casete?
June is a young journalist and researcher who graduated from the University of the Basque Country. She works independently as the editor of the feminist magazine Pikara Magazine as an advocate of equality and diversity.
She sees herself as an antiracist, anti-capitalist and pro-sexual freedom feminist activist, and is a blogger within the community of the online publication Gente Digital.
She is currently developing workshops for the empowerment of women (organized by municipalities and women’s groups) to encourage critical analysis from a gender perspective on the part of participants.
She visited Cuba for the first time in May of last year and since then she has wanted to compare “the polarized and confrontational reports that reach us in Spain” with the real situation on the island, “where there are diverse voices promoting alternative views around justice and respect for social rights and freedoms.”
She has participated in feminist and anti-racist forums and a few years ago (2006-2009) was a steady contributor to the El Pais newspaper, as well as to the magazines Emakunde and Frida.
June is a founder and member of the “Kazetarion Berdinsarea Basque Network of Journalists with Vision of Gender“, as well as a member of the “International Network of Journalists with Vision of Gender”, and the founder and a member of the Comision Feminista de SOS Racismo-Bizkaia.