A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Learn without fear. To make the daily lesson the realisable idea of having a space where to accept and respect, to listen to the other in peace; where mockery, mistreatment, punishment are crushed by dialogue, and security is never a chimera.
Say school, and you will have said that, and more, because you can’t think of this institution any other way. Efforts to eliminate all forms of violence in society, and particularly in schools, are therefore welcome.
This is one of the messages that the Cuban Conference against Homophobia and Transphobia is bringing us in these days. I’m included! For schools without homophobia or transphobia, which in its 11th edition – whose headquarters is in the province of Pinar del Rio – not only promotes respect for free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity, as an exercise in social justice and equity, but also chooses a strategic scenario for it.
“Emotional violence and exclusion generate suffering, and it is not something that can be tolerated for any reason,” Mariela Castro Espín, director of the National Sex Education Center (Cenesex), told Granma.
There is an essential space, which could not be left out of this campaign that Cenesex organizes every two years, and that is the school, the interviewee confirmed, for whom she cannot lose sight of the fact that the causes of situations of violence are often interrelated.
“If we start from the fact that homophobia and transphobia are rooted in culture, institutional dynamics and relationships between people, which makes it difficult to make them visible as a social problem and their need for prevention, it can be easily understood that both phenomena are present in the schools, as a reflection of a changing social reality that requires more effective social action,” she explained.
Hence, the emphasis on these types of discrimination. This does not mean that the rest of the causes are not being addressed, but it is undeniable that we should focus on those areas where the “education” of homophobia begins, added Dr. Castro Espín.
“Cuba is a safe country, the Cuban school is safe, the family has confidence in it, and what we are looking for with these campaigns is to raise awareness, to address worries, and to provide education and guidance to the population, based on scientifically proven data in studies that we conducted in the Center and other institutions on the subject. They alert us to the need to make any of these expressions visible, in order to provide the appropriate response accordingly,” said the expert.
IN SEARCH OF TOOLS AGAINST VIOLENCE
According to academic sources at Cenesex, “studies of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba are still scarce and are not focused on homophobic and transphobic violence as categories of analysis, but on violence in general”.
“Only some research addresses violence that has its origin in the prejudices and stereotypes associated with gender roles, those that the dominant cultures assign to men and women in order to maintain a social order that services the economic interests of the ruling classes,” they say.
In this sense, Dr. Castro Espín explains that, in the case of children, they do not work with or handle concepts such as sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather that prejudices are exercised through the expression of gender, which is also constructed from what we educate as roles historically assigned to the masculine and feminine.
But it must be understood, she said, that homophobic and transphobic violence in schools affects all those who are in this situation: victims, perpetrators and witnesses.
It also has a significant impact on the physical and mental health and well-being of the educational community, and adversely affects access to education, academic achievement and job prospects. “These situations create a climate of insecurity, fear and discontent in the school community. They diminish confidence in educational staff and the institution, increase the risk of self-injurious behavior and hinder the construction of enriching and non-judgmental relationships,” say scholars.
“The positive emotional environment that the school must create is fundamental for learning,” said the specialist, who pointed out that the Cuban state’s educational policy has a responsibility to continue to promote the values of inclusion, not hatred.
“Hate is begins with adults, not children. They are the ones who educate or transmit the prejudices, so the campaign is strongly aimed at making this understood,” he said.
Today, one of the main challenges facing Cenesex is to find appropriate and effective teaching tools that allow students, teachers and their families to tackle these phenomena. It is also a response to UNESCO’s call for states to investigate and address bullying issues in the context of violence in schools, said the director of the center.
The role of comprehensive sexuality education as a basis for training to prepare for and prevent violence is critical, she added.
In line with this, Manuel Vázquez Seijido, Deputy Director of Cenesex, pointed out that Resolution 139 of 2011 is a legal norm issued by the Ministry of Education itself. It orders and introduces sexuality education from the curricular point of view. It is an educational element that can become a framework that guarantees schools without homophobia or transphobia, if these elements are emphasized in the formative process.
The issue, he said, is to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, and this implies a shared responsibility that must be assumed and articulated by all sectors of society.
In Cuba, according to Cenesex experts, research that has dealt with homophobic and transphobic violence in schools has done so indirectly, one of the axes of analysis being the school environment. Likewise, another common element in these studies in our country has been the fragmentation of the samples in the LGBTI population, which prevents the integrated analysis and systematization of the results.
In this regard, they argue that retrospective research, conducted with samples of adult LGBT activists, offers among their main elements: difficulties in the processes of adaptation and permanence of trans people in school because they do not accept the school uniform established according to their legal identity (Castro, 2015; Suárez, 2015). In addition, there are experiences of rejection, physical, verbal and psychological mistreatment of trans people by students and some teachers, because they do not accept their gender expressions (Castro, 2015; Suárez, 2015) Also, there is the inability to begin or continue higher education because of the contradictions between their gender expressions and institutional norms (Castro, 2015). Finally, there is the tendency towards social exclusion of trans people in educational institutions (Castro, 2015).
For example, out of a total of 160 people surveyed, from 12 provinces in the country, 142 have been victims of homophobic acts (Garcés, 2015).
On the other hand, studies carried out in some school spaces in Havana show the existence of physical and verbal abuse, situations of social exclusion, as well as the use of a naturalized homophobic and sexist language (Rodney, 2015).
Some clues about the above can be found in the progressive exploratory study on homophobic and transphobic violence in the school careers of Cuban LGBT activists, by the authors Delia Rosa Suárez Socarrás, Massiel Rodríguez Núñez, Marais del Río Martín, Ada Caridad Alfonso Rodríguez, Gisett Suárez Gutiérrez. Their results, although they cannot be generalized to Cuban society, do offer important warning elements to work with.
The retrospective and exploratory investigation, which aimed to characterize the homophobic and transphobic violence experienced by activists of the Community Social Networks during their trajectory for Cuban schools, had, as a sample, 90 activists from the following networks: Youth for sexual health and rights; Transcuba. Network of Transgender people, couples and families; Lesbian and bisexual women; Humanity for diversity (HXD); and Men who have sex with men (MSM).
According to the text, “the average age of the sample was 28.1 years with a trend of 22 years of age. Attendance was predominantly white (48), followed by mestizo (25) and black (17) people from the provinces of Havana, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. Most of the people studied in the urban areas of their provinces and the external regime was predominant.
“Distribution by sexual orientation and gender identity as stated by the subjects was 38 gay men, 27 transgender people, 19 lesbian women, 5 bisexual women and 1 bisexual man.
“The schooling completed was concentrated in Secondary Education. At the time of the investigation, 25 people were in higher education, mostly gay men.
Among the elements of analysis that stand out in the results, the authors cite school dropout, while “22 subjects indicated that they had left school at some point in their school career, and only 9 returned, mostly trans people who sought to complete their secondary education”.
According to the research, “the average age of dropout was concentrated at 16.6 years of age at the end of secondary school, with trans people being the most represented. Of the 22 people who reported having dropped out of school, 13 referred to the fact that this decision was linked to the situations of violence of which they were victims in the school environment . They experienced physical abuse, their opinions weren’t listened to, threats against them weren’t listened to, or they were ignored, mocked, had their belongings, stolen, were insulsted, sexually abused, sexually abused, not allowed to wear the uniform they wanted, were left home, not allowed to participate in activities, contracted the HIV virus, or needed to work because the family did not cover their basic needs.
Trans people (9) are the ones who mostly refer to this experience, followed by lesbian women (3)”.
“The response of the educational institutions focused on the change of study regime or on the isolation of the victims: (…) the solution from the residences was to put us in semi-boarding schools, (…) the daily trips (…)”, some of the testimonies state.
“It should be noted that the measures implemented could be considered a form of revictimization, since it is the victims of violence against whom measures are taken and not on those who victimize them,” the authors point out.
Among those who perpetrated violence, researchers cite students, teachers, the victims’ own families, relatives of other students, teaching support staff and others.
Support networks within the school were practically non-existent, and there was a tendency to normalize the situations that occurred: (…) they are the work of boys, they should not be given importance (…) The support, in the cases in which it was present, came from students who intervened to stop the mistreatment, according to the study.
“Verbal aggressions coming from friends were not seen as forms of violence: (…) they told me that they could make jokes and play with me, but we did not allow anyone to play with you (…), while the attitude of the teachers was aimed at silencing the situations and placing the blame on the victims”.
Another element of interest is that the people affected decided not to report when they suffered violence due to homophobia and transphobia. Among the reasons for not making the complaint are: Not being prepared to make sexual orientation public: (…) I didn’t say anything because my family didn’t know about it (…) The immobility of the teaching staff results in impunity for the aggressors: (…) Even though you denounced the abuse, nothing happened (…) Fear of the consequences against double stigmatization: (…) if you made a complaint, they made fun of you because you were gay and a snitch (…)
“Such evidence shows that it is essential to sensitize student organizations to act as support networks for situations of violence in the school setting. It is vitally important to strengthen the training of teachers and non-teaching staff in the identification and prevention of homophobic and transphobic violence,” the Cenesex experts say.
It so happens that homophobic and transphobic violence in the school setting reflects homophobia and social transphobia. “Preventing and confronting these manifestations of discrimination in schools contributes to guaranteeing one of the principles of the National Education System in Cuba: access to education free of discrimination. Thus, it will be necessary to promote, not only specific policies and regulations, but also social and cultural changes, which are expressed in subjectivities and therefore in the relations between people,” says the campaign of the 11th edition of this Conference.
Nothing compares to always, and without exception, listening to children and young people in Cuba, who say that they like their school, because fear has no place in it.
COMMENTS ON WEB:
Very enlightening interview with Mariela and the information she provides on the few studies that have been done on the subject. However, I believe that in addition to raising awareness in the aftermath, it is also necessary to raise awareness and educate the family, mainly parents, about the way in which they should deal with situations that may arise with their children and to give them tools, especially to parents of primary school children, to explain to them according to their age how to treat and accept and not to discriminate and to give them guidance on how to explain to them that it is homosexuality and transsexuality (I am referring to primary school children). Because although they are parents from a generation closer to these times and are not permeated by prejudice, I imagine it must be difficult for them to give this kind of information to their children. And I point this out because of the negative comments made by the readers in the articles that reported on the conga for the day against homophobia in terms of allowing the participation of minors, who have no level of understanding of what it means to be gay, lesbian, transgender, etc.
Eusebio Hdez said:
May 16, 2018
It is good that the school is a place of wide inclusion. However, with this campaign it would appear that violence is associated with gender issues, when it is not exactly so. The campaign against any kind of violence should be extended to ¨Bullying¨ For example against disabled, skin color, personal appearance, etc.