Por Isaac Risco
HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — How many homosexuals are there in Cuba? How many same-sex couples are living together? How many transsexuals does the island have? And how many bisexual and lesbian households exist in Cuba?
Answers to these kinds of questions are being sought by Cuban journalist and blogger Francisco Rodriguez*, a well-known government sympathizer and gay activist on the island. He believes that an ideal opportunity for collecting this information will be offered during the upcoming population and housing census that will be conducted on the island from September 15 to 24.
However the authorities have no intention of collecting data on the Cuban gay community, as was requested earlier by Rodriguez, who is the head of Information for the weekly Trabajadores newspaper.
Known colloquially as “Paquito el de Cuba,” Rodriguez has spent years advocating gay rights on the island and has launched an initiative to protest what he sees as “homophobic research.”
“An opportunity was missed for giving everyone a sign concerning the progress that has been made in Cuba around the issue of sexual diversity,” Rodriguez told dpa.
In recent years the Cuban government has emphasized the fight against homophobia, following the persecution of homosexuals that marked the early years of the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
This past November, Rodriguez noticed that the census forms to be collected were not asking for information about the gay community, so he requested the inclusion of that option. His effort proved to be in vain. In response, he received a refusal along with technical justifications that the activist considers “unacceptable,” according to what he has written in his blog.
For the census, it isn’t relevant that gay marriage isn’t legal in Cuba or that same-sex unions can’t fall under the category of “marital status,” believes Rodriguez. Although they don’t live together, he himself has had another man as his partners for years.
“The census shows the reality of the nation,” he explained. “It’s even one of those materials upon which legislation is later passed. You have to describe reality like it is, and this was a good opportunity to produce concrete information about real life.”
His proposal asked for support from entities that include the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and who is the best known gay rights activist on the island.
The authorities, said Rodriguez, proposed doing specific research into the issue at a later time; but, while welcoming the announcement, “Paquito” is still not satisfied.
The 41-year activist launched an initiative this week against what he considers “discrimination by omission.” In a blog post about which he has received several emails and calls of support, Rodriguez is calling on homosexuals to declare themselves couples or as being “attached” instead of “single,” even though the data will not be reflected in the final statistics.
He is also calling on the gay community to welcome the census takers by “dressing up their homes” with the rainbow flag or other symbols of gay rights.
“Since they won’t count our households at least they’ll see them,” said the pro-government activist, who prefers to speak of this as an “educational activity” rather than a protest.
In recent years Cuba has shifted its official line to be against homophobia, with even Fidel Castro himself, after retiring from office in 2006, expressing his “mea culpa” in 2010 for the public persecution of homosexuals in the early years after the triumph of the 1959 revolution.
During that period many homosexuals were sent to work camps accused of being “counterrevolutionaries,” as the Cuban government traditionally refers to its political opponents. “If someone is responsible, it’s me,” Castro said in a 2010 interview concerning the “injustices” that occurred under his leadership.
Mariela Castro is especially known for her liberal positions on sexual matters. As Fidel Castro’s niece, she hopes that her father’s government will approve a change in the Family Code to legalize homosexual marriage, which is being advocated by her organization, CENESEX.
Although the Communist Party gave positive signals at its first national conference in January, the bill has still not moved forward. It is estimated that there remains strong resistance to such a change on the island, especially among influential members of the revolution’s “historic generation.”
(*) Rodriguez’s blog, “Paquito el de Cuba” is located (in Spanish) at: http://paquitoeldecuba.wordpress.com/