Cuba: Where the Rainbow Starts

Luis Rondon Paz

From a previous march against homphobia. Foto: Caridad
From a previous march against homphobia. Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — In the course of Cuban history, political leaders have mocked sexual minorities. The medical and religious establishments labeled them sick and depraved beings, and, during the sixties, they were dubbed as weak and counterrevolutionary. It is indeed regrettable that today, after it’s been scientifically proven that none of the above is true, these minorities should continue to be considered inferior by Cuba’s socialist constitution and law.

Some months ago, I wrote an article for Havana Times briefly analyzing Cuba’s current constitution and roughly outlined how it had stagnated and continued to deny sexual minorities social justice.

Sometime later, there were several developments in my country: the Cuban parliament approved a labor code that was equitable in terms of sexual diversity. The International Congress of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (ILGALAC) was held in Varadero. It was a huge event for the country. To think that, twenty years before, it would have been unthinkable in Cuba, or any other country in Latin America for that matter, to host a gathering of this nature.

During the “festive euphoria” that ensued, I began to think about my country.

We’d had eight years of the Day against Homophobia, an LGBT congress and a non-discriminatory Labor Law. I thought that the Cuban government was becoming better acquainted with the legal disadvantages of the LGBT community. I was excited about the direction things seemed to be heading in.

How naïve of me. I had misread everything. The first sign of this was how the Cuban parliament dismissed the public statements made by Cuba’s Proyecto Arcoiris (“Rainbow Project”), which questioned the legislative processes behind the labor code for not having explicitly included the issue of gender identity in this instrument.

The second sign was how an activist from the Arcoiris project was used as a vehicle to inform the rest of the LGBT community about the parliament’s decision.

That was when I asked myself whether we were intentionally advancing at a snail’s pace and had any intention of moving past these cosmetic changes.

I am sick and tired of continuing to experience discrimination because our displays of affection do not fit the hetero-normative model. It pains me see how eight years of campaigning against homophobia have not been enough to change the law.

I think it’s time our country understood we are human beings and have the inalienable right to be accepted as what we are, that we have feelings, love, suffer, work and contribute to the development of Cuban society.

I believe it is crucial for Cuban society that schools, workplaces, universities and government officials find out we are not inferior, that we are courageous, fun-loving, marvelous and very intelligent people, and that the State has the right to guarantee the same rights for us.

I don’t think this state of uncertainty is healthy for the country. I believe it is time for the government to address sexual minorities (who also count) with positive responses. I believe it must bring about drastic changes to the current laws.

In my personal opinion, 54 years is more than enough, and, after 8 years of campaigns in favor of sexual diversity, if we don’t see any real political changes in the short term, we are heading towards a cul-de-sac, where our work will not become anything other than a highly-publicized public performance without any real political power. We will only get discos, galas and meeting places for gay people down this road. Imagining myself stuck in this limbo frightens me.

To prevent this, I believe we must forge alliances with different sectors within civil society and ensure no one can author any bill single-handedly, that such legislation is conceived by a pluralistic and genuinely LGBT community.

I believe these are times of change, a moment in history in which the Cuban revolution must accept that the basic presuppositions of Cuba’s political, ideological and social model are not an effective foundation for the legal system, because they discriminate against, censor or exclude several sectors of the country’s civil society, the LGBT community in this particular case.

Regrettably, this makes the Cuban model an elitist regime, which guarantees constitutional rights under a hetero-normative model which runs counter to the dialectics and development of humanity.

I believe that, if Cuba’s current government learns to understand and address the genuine demands of the LGBT community, implementing reforms on the basis of these demands, the country will be more in step with the image it gives the world in terms of human rights and sexual diversity.

I also believe the time has come to do something positive with real, political consequences: decentralize the institutional mechanism that has been used to divulge issues of sexual diversity through the mass media in recent years, project a positive image of the LGBT community and publicize other positive criteria that do not stem from State institutions.

In addition, I think that, at this point, we must urgently consolidate different campaigns, implement mechanisms that encourage several forms of activism in the public, political and social spheres. This would be very useful if we are interested in changing the law in the short term, as political causes serve to motivate people and create alliances. The public campaigns would serve to convince politicians in power who aren’t entirely decided on the issue to pass legislation that gives the members of the LGBT community the right to start a family, the right to a better quality of life, visibility and the inalienable right to display affection without the fear of being discriminated against over one’s sexual orientation or identity.

2 thoughts on “Cuba: Where the Rainbow Starts

  • Thank you for your thoughtful commentary on the island’s struggle for wider acceptance, respect and equality under the law for Cuba’s sexual minority.

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