Raúl Castro Ruz’s Outspoken Gay-Rights Supporting Daughter

Mariela Castro, niece of Fidel Castro and director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, does a wide-ranging interview with Russia Today in which she talks about the future of the country, gay rights in Cuba and what it’s like to be the daughter of the President.

Mariela’s interview is a reminder that nothing is ever what it seems in Cuba. Sean Penn came under fire last year when The Advocate‘s James Kirchick wrote in a piece called “A Friend to Gays and Anti-Gay Dictators Alike”:

“In the early years of the regime, Raúl Castro was notorious for ordering the summary execution of its opponents, including people whose only crime was their homosexuality. This is the man with whom Penn was “in stitches” knocking back glasses of red wine.

While homosexuality has since been decriminalized in Cuba, the communist government bans gay organizations, as it does any organization critical of the regime.”

Contrast that to Mariela’s description of gay and lesbian rights in Cuba today:

“We’ve already accomplished a lot. For example, we’ve achieved a resolution by the public health ministry that guarantees transsexuals specialized attention, including sex change surgeries. The first of these types of operation are about to begin. They were first performed in 1988 but were interrupted due to people’s incomprehension. We’re proposing important changes to the family code that include the right of people of the same sex to legalize their unions. We’re also working on a gender identity decree law that will make it easier for transsexuals to change their sex and identity papers, regardless of the sex change surgery. Because not all of them are automatically eligible for this operation, but nevertheless people do need society to recognize them in accordance with their gender identity, not by biological sex.”

The entire interview is worth watching, if only for the fact that it will smash many of your assumptions about Cuba and gay and lesbian rights. Castro acknowledges that “Just like any other patriarchal societies in the world, Cuban society is homophobic”, but thanks to Castro and other Cuban gay rights activists, there’s been real improvement in recent years.

That Mariela Castro is permitted to be outspoken and to enact some gay and lesbian-related reforms is a sign of a changing Cuba, but you can’t shake the feeling she is permitted to act at the whim of her father and uncle. Our her efforts window dressing for a brutal regime or the signs of an internal thaw in one of the world’s last Cold War societies?

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  • seitan-on-a-stick

    Be sure to order both the Chocolate and Strawberry ice cream!

  • Stevemd2

    One of the most stupid things this country has done is to keep Cuba, our neighbor, in isolation. Castro came to power because the people were dirt poor, the government a corrupt enterprise run by thugs allied with US Mobs. And like most revolutions, suffering often begets extremism. But they are changing.

    With the demise of the soviet union, it is immoral to keep them isolated. Sure they tried communism, and it fails, though it does do some good things, eg they don’t have 1/6 of their population without medical care because of economics. Think of what could happen to cuba, by looking at how well in some ways China is doing with their state communism / capitalism mix. If we swallowed our pride, told the cuban exile community that the goal is to help cuba become more productive and a better place for its people, and we are going to open up for them, it would be the moral thing to do. Sure the exile cuban community, who hate “castro’ would freak, but that is tough, they’ve got to get over their hatred. Raul would probably become more liberal, the people would be more prosperous, and as the leadership changes – the old guard doesn’t live forever, we’d ultimately end up with a Cuba that is like a lot of the European nations – a mix of capitalism and socialism. And last I looked, those European nations are our friends, although they will by 9 to 1 or better be thrilled that Bush and his Mob are soon to be gone. As well as will by a 3 to 1 margin Americans.

    And notice what is happening in Cuba – gay and trans people are getting recognized as legitimate members of society. While much of America remains mired in the dark ages of homophobia, based on biblical hatred driven by republicans who use it to blind the people to how they have stolen our nation, and now the bill has come due.

  • osocubano

    I find it sort of appropriate that Raúl’s daughter should be so supportive of gays, since her father has always been popularly known as “La China” (the chinese woman), and her mother was the butch in that relationship.
    I wouldn’t piss on Mariela if she were on fire.

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