Queerty is better as a member

Log in | Register
 

In Government’s Shadow, Gay Cubans Test Communism

1 2 3 Next »


Editor’s Note: This piece picks up where yesterday’s “Cuba’s Gay Politics Mired In Past” left off. The uninitiated may want to catch-up.

As the decades wore on and the Communist government found its internal popularity sagging, officials had no choice but to make certain concessions and open their doors to less desirable elements. Not only would the move ensure political survival, says Cuba-born AIDS activist Leonard Chacon, but also had a decidedly diplomatic purpose:

Now because the government has not so many followers, they have to get people from other areas of society, like gay, like Catholic, people from other religions. Because in the past, if you belong to the Communist Party, you cannot be a gay… Now it’s different. They want to bring a better image to the other people, to the international community.

And these international public relations efforts put Cuba in a sticky situation.

Though certainly interested in courting positive international opinion, Cuba must be careful not to alienate its more conservative allies. And, in order to avoid diplomatic awkwardness, Cuba’s United Nations representatives are known to leave the room for lavender-tinged votes. Human Rights Watch’s Boris Dittrich, also a former MP from the Netherlands, explains:

Every time something like that comes up, Cuban representatives are very quiet. They don’t speak in favor of LGBT organizations and when it comes to a vote, they always leave the room. So, we asked them, “Why do you leave the room? Why don’t you vote in favor of LGBT organizations?” And they always say, – and this is confirmed by other missions to the UN, from other countries – “Of course we are in favor of LGBT rights, but we are afraid that our allied friends wouldn’t like it if we voted in favor of LGBT rights.”

Those “allied friends” include the stridently anti-gay Egypt and Pakistan. While the United States maintains sanctions against Cuba, some States-based groups, like Florida’s fiercely anti-Castro Unity Coalition, are moving in on the island. And their approach suggests larger misconceptions in the fight against Cuban homophobia.

1 2 3 Next »
By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Sep 10, 2008
Tagged: , , , , , ,

  • 16 Comments
    • Brendan D.
      Brendan D.

      Berensky’s culturally-biased prescriptions of what “being gay” is make me a little uncomfortable. Subjective assumptions about what makes the foundation for a queer community aside, he seems terribly blind to the possibility that the Cuban government (and, indeed, many Cuban people) are likely to resent his efforts to endow Cuban queers with a U.S.-based identity.

      Sep 10, 2008 at 4:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer

      Thank you so much for this article. I am really interested in Cuba and hoping to visit (Canadian, so I CAN-ada…ha ha) next year. I agree with the first poster: the imposition of Western ideals on a communist society are inappropriate and potentially damaging for gay Cubans. CENESEX may not be our idea of advancing the rights of gay Cubans, but it’s an improvement on the past. Maintaining solidarity is sometimes about context and respecting that context. That’s “strategy”.

      Again, thanks. This is wonderful.

      Sep 10, 2008 at 9:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greg
      greg

      Yes, gay identity itself is anchored in postwar capitalist experience: by definition, gay liberation in Cuba signals the import of a non-native subjectivity. The important question is whether this is a new identity that Cuban homosexuals would want: if so, than let gay freedom run rampant. The local homosexual tradition is one of “locas”, effeminate males who are sexual bottoms. At the highpoint of Cuba’s Stalinist policies toward gays, tops could and did denounce Locas (bottoms) as faggots, and have them sent to UMAP concentration camps, while as tops they were victims, rather than perpetrators, of homosexual acts.
      My point is that local traditions of homosexuality can be really horrible – read Reinaldo Arenas’ brilliant ‘When Night Falls’ for a glimpse into Castro’s hell – and that a global gay identity can be a kind of liberation – not without downsides, of course, but you can live with downsides that don’t include a concentration camp for going down on someone.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 6:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brendan D.
      Brendan D.

      @Greg- That’s a fair observation, but (unless I’ve misunderstood you) I disagree with the notion that queer liberation must necessarily be capitalist in nature. Indeed, in many early queer liberation organizations, quite the opposite was true (Mattachine, GLF, Queer Nation, and more). For many, myself included, the notion of a queer community is undermined by class conflict. Just look at the HRC. Because they rely on donations from wealthy individuals and corporations, rather than grassroots support, the HRC refuses to support the agenda of organized labor, despite the fact that the unions often support our marriage equality, partner benefits, trans rights and healthcare, and anti-discrimination laws. Because of who they cater to, upper-class interests are given priority over working-class needs.

      Has the queer community been strongly affected by capitalism? Absolutely. No doubting that. One only need turn on the Bravo network to see the impact of material culture on gay folk. Berensky’s idea of what constitutes “gay identity” is inextricably bound to his specific class upbringing within the queer community. Bars and magazines are what he knows, and these form the basis of his values. Now, queers in Cuba are likely to have a radically different upbringing, and I hope that they will establish their own values as a result of this. I hope that they maintain an independent identity, lest queer liberation be misinterpreted as a symptom of capitalist interference.

      Maybe my pinko side is showing through in this post, but hell, I think pink and lavender go lovely together.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 11:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bill Perdue
      Bill Perdue

      The Cuban CP is very different from the CPs of the former USSR and the PRC. Those parties long ago betrayed their origins and embraced capitalist politics and economics. That process began in the 1930′s and evolved slowly until the 1990′s when it’s growing momentum collapsed the rotting shell of the bureaucratically defomed USSR. Along the way the Stalinists adopted one of the standard practices of capitalist societies, promoting bigotry to divide people on the grounds of ethnicity, sexuality, gender or skin color. You name it and they’ll invent some reason or other to hate it. (1) Divide and Rule is one of the oldest strategies of state craft in exploitative societies.

      The Cuban CP was always a little to the left of other Stalinists because Washington gave them no choice. Remember it took the threat of nuclear war in 1963 to force Washington to back down from another invasion of Cuba. On the matter of GLBT rights, though, the Cuban CP (fromerly the PSP, or Partido Socialista Popular) always followed the Stalinist line which is homophobic at its core. Raul Castro was in the CP/PSP long before the Granma landed.

      We should do what we can to object to the homophobic mistreatment of our brothers and sisters in Cuba by stalinists. At the same time we have to make it clear that we support the Cuban’s brilliantly fought struggle to be free of the chains of Washington’s empire builders.

      The Cubans are an inspiration to the world. That’s why Washington and its apologists hate them and why they enforce a trade blockade. In spite of that blockade, using only the paltry resources left after centuries of Spanish colonialism and decades of the same by the US, the Cubans have made awesome gains in combating racism and misogyny and in providing jobs, housing, education and a health care system that’s the envy of the Americas (except for Canada).

      Brendan, pink and lavender are nice but red and purple rule.

      (1) That’s just one more in a long string of betrayals. The Bolsheviks, before the Stalinists rubbed them out, repealed the old Tsarist antigay laws.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • M Shane
      M Shane

      Thank you Brendan in pointing out the obvious theoretical problems with assuming that the the extremely narrow minded capitalist-right wing paradigm is the only place to start in assessing the situation in Cuba, or other places.
      I think that it is important that current veiws of being queer in the U.S. are rooted in pressuptions made by right wing extremists like Andrew Sullivan. In colusion with this , there is such an extreme symbiosis between the capitalist system and the “gay lifestyle”, that it is virtually impossible to understand this proposal without being tied up in capitalist propaganda/advertizing.& world views..

      Unfortunately a good part of the worlds reaction to ‘gayness’ has to do with a reaction to it’s inseparable ties to right wing politics, not to something which is culturally relevant to
      their economic and historic social systems.

      The “anti-gay screeches” by Berensky etc are bound to a mindless failure to see the compex socially different expression of queer life in other cultures and an insistence , with American arrogance that “we’ve got it(queerness) right”.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 2:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bill Perdue
      Bill Perdue

      Greg is not telling the truth. Or rather he’s using the truth about Stalinist mistreatment of gays to create the illusion that Cuba is somehow like NAZI Germany or the Soviet Gulag.

      The establishment of those camps was one of the few crimes of the Fidelistas. They were ugly, insulting, and people were treated badly, but the truth is that they never featured the kind of murder and torture that go on in the only remaining Konzentrationslager in Cuba, the one at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay. Greg is not telling the truth when he fails to mention that. The Stalinist camps opened in the 1960′s and were closed long age. Greg is lying when he fails to mention that.

      In the real world of the new century, and in spite of the kind gestures of Mariela Castro, Raul’s daughter, substantial changes still need to be made before Cuban GLBT folks can breathe freely.

      First and foremost the government and the CP will have to launch an education campaign against homophobia and admit their own guilt in pandering to it. They’ll have to establish clear legal guidelines for total emancipation and repeal several anti-gay laws, among them Article 299: “pederastia con violencia”. It makes illegal an undefined offence that includes consensual sex and mandates penalties of from eight years imprisonment to death. Another, Article 303a: “importune a otro con requerimientos homosexuales,” or creating a “public scandal” prohibits public touching, fondling, kissing and cruising. These laws are similar to bigoted laws on the books in the EU and the US and that’s hardly to the credit of a state or party that aims to be liberators and leaders. They need to be repealed and be replaced by a “hands off” policy that emphasizes total acceptance of our rights.

      Lastly Greg, I hope that the one remaining Konzentrationslager at Guantanamo gets closed down, and that it’s commandant is investigated as a war criminal, but I’m not counting on it.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 2:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bill Perdue
      Bill Perdue

      M Shane, I don’t understand. What do you mean when you say “… reaction to ‘gayness’ has to do with a reaction to it’s inseparable ties to right wing politics…”?

      Are you claiming that GLBT communities are tied to reactionalry regimes? That our sexuality leads us to be rightwing?

      Sep 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CHURCHILL-Y
      CHURCHILL-Y

      “The establishment of those camps was one of the few crimes of the Fidelistas. They were ugly, insulting, and people were treated badly, but the truth is that they never featured the kind of murder and torture that go on in the only remaining Konzentrationslager in Cuba, the one at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay.” – Commie Perdue reffering to the UMAP concentration camps

      “The Cuban CP was always a little to the left of other Stalinists because Washington gave them no choice.”

      “we have to make it clear that we support the Cuban’s brilliantly fought struggle to be free of the chains of Washington’s empire builders.”

      Ah yes! Commie Perdue is most def in tha house.
      You can pretty much sum up his grammatical diarrhea on this post to those three quotes.
      Guess the cigar smoking Maricas, Locas and even the Bugarrones down in commie land should be grateful to daddy Castro for their current fabulous lot in life. Just remember what the idiot has written when he ever posts again trying to muddy the waters and making it seem like he gives two shits about Gay people. Hey for all we know commie Perdue is overseeing one of those camps that are more humane than Guantanamo. Surely if one of those Island Beaners were to land in jail merciful commie Perdue will be there to take care of them. I hope jerks like Perdue, Brendan D., Jennifer and M Shane are really ex-pats or cubans themselves. If they happen to be Americans I will take solace in knowing how diminutive almost non-existent the communist party is here in the United States. But we freedom loving Americans must always remain vigilant, always vigilant.

      Sep 11, 2008 at 4:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • thats_so_queer
      thats_so_queer

      Churchill-Y, where all the other posters in this thread posted interesting and informative comments which contribute positively to constructive debate, your pathetic little post brings nothing to the fore but your intolerant bigoted nature, get a life man

      Sep 12, 2008 at 12:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • thats_so_queer
      thats_so_queer

      Oh just to add being as intolerant as you are of other people’s opinions coining the phrase ‘freedom loving’ to describe yourself has little to no meaning.

      Sep 12, 2008 at 12:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tallskin
      tallskin

      I am with churchill-Y on this ! How dare that homophobic slimeball Perdue come onto a gay site and excuse, even brush aside, the foul treatment of gays in Cuba on the grounds that it was just a mistake, and was even justified because Cuba is some sort of worker’s utopia, is unbelievable!

      This is the same wanker that excuses the IRA’s brutality towards gays in northern ireland (ie the boys of the IRA took gay kids out and shot them in the kneecaps because of their “perversion”) -also excused by Perdue because it was all part of a wider, and more important, struggle against the nefarious brits for Irish unity.

      Perdue you have a real gall in showing your homophobic face on a gay site.

      Sep 12, 2008 at 11:43 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Arthur
      Arthur

      This is the real interview made by Belonsky to Alberto Roque Guerra from CENESEX, Cuba

      1. I’m really intrigued by the Center’s recent push to fight for family inclusion in Cuba. Rather than fighting for full marriage rights, as man activists have here in the States, your group seeks civil unions and has framed the debate in explicitly familial terms. Can you explain the thinking behind that? Was it simple pragmatism? Is the quest for civil unions part of a broader quest for marriage, or is marriage less desired than more broadly digestible inequality?

      The Cuban Women Federation, The National Lawyers´ Association and The National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX, acronym in Spanish) have focused their goals on familial terms through a very modern and revolutionary proposal of changes of the Family Code. Those changes include a redefinition of the concept of “family” and parenthood among others. It also includes the respect and protection of sexual orientation and gender identity of all family members. For most of Cubans, marriage is not the most important way of partner´s union. A change in the Constitution is needed to reach the same sex marriage legal recognition. It will be a long and hard process. We decided so far to seek for civil union recognition. Same sex partners will enjoy the same rights as heterosexual married couples. Adoption is an issue which is now under discussion before the proposal is presented to the Parliament (Congress) for approval.

      2. There have been many changes in Cuba over the past twelve months, not least of all Fidel Castro stepping down. Can you explain the psychological impact of the former president’s decision to move aside? Did you bolster the activist movement?

      That is a political issue that is out of my field. You should better ask a political analyst or a sociologist. We do not have an activist movement concerning LGBT rights in Cuba.

      3. Can communism and gay rights coexist ideologically and in reality, in your opinion?
      Communism is a socioeconomic formation to be reached yet. There is not any country or community which has lived under communist order yet. Ideologically speaking there is not any contradiction between communist ideas and homosexuality. The ideal communist society states and advocates for the principles of equity and non-discrimination. It is the antithesis of what happened under the fascist regimes and McCarthyism in the last century.

      4. Can you describe what you heard about gay people growing up? What was your first exposure to gays?

      From my professional experience gay people is facing a lot of discrimination. Homophobia is still a worldwide problem. It is first seen in the family, later at schools. CENESEX and other institutions in Cuba are promoting the respect of sexual diversity and gender identity through the “Homophobia Awareness Campaign”.

      5. I understand that gender reassignment’s more accepted – at least by the government – than same sex love. Why is that? Why is gender identity more malleable than sexual?

      Medical care to Transsexual people is provided since 1979 in Cuba. The process that you call “gender reassignment” includes free cross-gender hormonal treatment, psychological assessment and treatment during the “real life experience” and sex reassignment surgery. The National Commission for Transgender Care belongs to The Ministry of Health and also covers social inclusion of transsexuals, legal issues and a participatory and supporting work with transgender relatives.
      On my opinion, transgender people –the same as in other countries- are more discriminated than homosexuals. They are not considered sick persons, but they need a special medical attention as I mentioned above.

      Sep 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Arthur
      Arthur

      Real interview Belonsky to Alberto Roque CENESEX, Cuba II

      6. What, in your opinion, would be the economic benefit of gay inclusion?

      I do not see the connection between “gay inclusion” and any economic benefit. I have met a lot gay people that are professionals, common workers, farmers, etc. without economical distinction compared to heterosexuals peers.

      7. Steve Clemons here in the States mentioned that many politicians would be fearful of coming out in support of gay rights? Is public opinion on the matter that volatile that it would hurt someone’s career?

      I have seen some of our main politicians and outstanding personalities supporting gay rights in Cuba and they are still respected by the population.

      8. Is there still a view that homosexuality’s a capitalist invention?
      CENESEX has never considered that pseudoscientific affirmation. What about the homosexuality that is seen in the animal kingdom a normal behavior? Is that a capitalist invention too?
      9. How important has it been to work with international groups, like the Florida Unity Coalition?

      We do not have any relation with such an organization. CENESEX and the other Cubans institutions which work with sexual diversity are serious and professional organizations.
      CENESEX and The Cuban Multidisciplinary Association for Sexuality Studies (SOCUMES, acronym in Spanish) are members of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) and The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). In 2003 we celebrated the WAS Congress and our relations with ILGA has increased.

      10. If a gay man’s arrested, would you consider that to be a political imprisonment?

      There is not any reason to arrest a man for being gay. It not considered as a crime -not even a political one- in our penal code.

      11. What is the state of the gay rights movement in Cuba? With what other organizations do you work, gay or straight? Are there many different factions?

      Gays, lesbians and transgender rights are not part of any movement. It is part of the work of several institutions and organizations (governmental and non governmental). The government and the Communist Party have given their support to eliminate any form of discrimination in the Cuban Society. We are also working with the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists, the Young Communist League, the Federation of Universitary Students, The Ministry of Interior and the Cuban Women Federation.

      Part III to continue…

      Sep 14, 2008 at 1:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Arthur
      Arthur

      Interwiew made by Andrew Belonsky to Alberto Roque Guerra, CENESEX CUBA (III and final)

      Why has CENESEX looked to change the family code? Why is that the preferable method?

      The Cuban Family Code was approved since 1970´s. CENESEX and other institutions have evaluated the necessity to modify its content in order to make it suitable to the current Family status. Family is the core of the society. Homophobia and transphobia are first seen within the family. The fight against homophobia awareness is focused on the family as a main goal.

      You said that there’s no LGBT movement in Cuba. I’ve heard, however, that there are gay activists. Why then is there no movement? Is CENESEX sufficient, in your opinion? And … If there’s no “activist concerning LGBT rights in Cuba,” as you said in your original reply, why does CENESEX concern itself with civil unions? The struggle for an equal society?

      It is better to answer all these question in one reply. You are insisting in the LGBT activism in Cuba. Maybe, we do not have the same perspective concerning activism. You heard “that there are gay activists in Cuba”. Are we talking about the same country? I do not blame you, anyway. Anything can happen in a country like yours, where the media is able to create fake heroes, like the soldier Jessica Lynch during the US genocide in Iraq, or even alleged enemy nations. As I answered in my original reply, CENESEX and many other institutions and organizations in Cuba are putting into action a very serious agenda that include sexual education, HIV prevention, gender violence, transsexual care, struggling against homophobia and transphobia amongst others. On my opinion, I do not consider that work as “activism”. I prefer to call it: education and advocacy. I respect what LGBT activist and ONG´s are doing worldwide, but I prefer –as many other gay people in Cuba- the institutional work. I am also quite reluctant to accept foreign models.

      On the other hand,there are many other important issues to cover on LGBT situation in my country. It is a pity you have lost that opportunity this time. I advise you to get well prepared before elaborating another questionnaire regarding LGBT issues in Cuba.

      Alberto Roque Guerra

      Diversidad Sexual

      CENESEX

      Sep 14, 2008 at 2:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Arthur
      Arthur

      Interwiew made by Andrew Belonsky to Alberto Roque Guerra, CENESEX CUBA (III and final)

      Why has CENESEX looked to change the family code? Why is that the preferable method?

      The Cuban Family Code was approved since 1970´s. CENESEX and other institutions have evaluated the necessity to modify its content in order to make it suitable to the current Family status. Family is the core of the society. Homophobia and transphobia are first seen within the family. The fight against homophobia awareness is focused on the family as a main goal.

      You said that there’s no LGBT movement in Cuba. I’ve heard, however, that there are gay activists. Why then is there no movement? Is CENESEX sufficient, in your opinion? And … If there’s no “activist concerning LGBT rights in Cuba,” as you said in your original reply, why does CENESEX concern itself with civil unions? The struggle for an equal society?

      It is better to answer all these question in one reply. You are insisting in the LGBT activism in Cuba. Maybe, we do not have the same perspective concerning activism. You heard “that there are gay activists in Cuba”. Are we talking about the same country? I do not blame you, anyway. Anything can happen in a country like yours, where the media is able to create fake heroes, like the soldier Jessica Lynch during the US genocide in Iraq, or even alleged enemy nations. As I answered in my original reply, CENESEX and many other institutions and organizations in Cuba are putting into action a very serious agenda that include sexual education, HIV prevention, gender violence, transsexual care, struggling against homophobia and transphobia amongst others. On my opinion, I do not consider that work as “activism”. I prefer to call it: education and advocacy. I respect what LGBT activist and ONG´s are doing worldwide, but I prefer –as many other gay people in Cuba- the institutional work. I am also quite reluctant to accept foreign models.

      On the other hand,there are many other important issues to cover on LGBT situation in my country. It is a pity you have lost that opportunity this time. I advise you to get well prepared before elaborating another questionnaire regarding LGBT issues in Cuba.

      August 14th, 2008

      Alberto Roque Guerra

      Diversidad Sexual

      CENESEX

      Sep 14, 2008 at 2:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

    Add your Comment

    Please log in to add your comment

    Need an account? Register It's free and easy.



  • POPULAR ON QUEERTY

    FOLLOW US
     



    GET QUEERTY'S DAILY NEWSLETTER


    FROM AROUND THE WEB

    Copyright 2014 Queerty, Inc.
    Follow Queerty at Queerty.com, twitter.com/queerty and facebook.com/queerty.