About 11M, our rights and challenges
Alberto Roque Guerra
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I have taken some time to reflect on the regrettable events that occurred during the 12th edition of the Day Against Homophobia. I pause at this moment with the conviction that this is not a finished debate.
I am the founder of the Cuban Days Against Homophobia, at a time when the idea that all activism in relation to sexual rights is political had already matured in me; therefore, it will always be permeated by specific political values and ideologies. Whoever does not situate himself from this angle sins out of naivety or tries to manipulate the complex reality.
No ideological struggle is free of contradictions and the complex process of building political consensus (if that is possible between Cubans) always has advances and setbacks.
The march not authorized by the government last May 11 was not produced only by the suspension by the State/Party of the traditional conga included in the programs of the Cuban Days against homophobia. The antecedents and the conjunctures that I perceive are:
Unique vertical dialogue and legitimacy of the CENESEX leadership by the State/Party in the fight against homophobia.
The State/Party’s obsessive and pernicious fear of horizontal leadership and the emergence of LGBT groups within civil society collides with a gradual public awareness of sexual rights as human rights. The formation of activists by CENESEX and the Cuban Days against Homophobia have generated a critical mass of activists that overflows institutional spaces and challenges the doctrines of control of thought and action that are generated from there. There are also many good people who are activists without having been linked to any institution.
Since a group of activists introduced the Yogyakarta Principles in 2007, their use has expanded to advocate non-discriminatory policies on sexual orientation and gender identity in accordance with international human rights law. The heterogeneity of these groups includes many ideological positions that fluctuate between radical Marxists, bourgeois social democrats, anarchists and neo-liberals and neo-annexionists. There are also the usual mercenaries who serve any ideology. For the monochrome vision of the State/Party and its institutions, these people are nothing more than counterrevolutionaries and any initiative arising from them is criminalized, in the name of national unity. It does not take into account that except for the neoliberals, annexionists and mercenaries, there are many progressive people who would put forth, from organized civil society, anti-discriminatory public policies.
Arbitrary arrests, violent repression, censorship and discrediting are neither revolutionary nor do they adhere to the Martian principles of a Republic, as endorsed in the recent Constitution.
2. The Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia have lost their political character and their capacity for interlocution with people with non-homoregulatory sexualities and genders.
From the first editions, tensions arose in conceiving this space as a political and revolutionary celebration or commemoration. The result has been the celebration and the dangerous approach to banality and to what we wanted to avoid: to turn it into a march of Cuban gay pride with strong classist and neoliberal inspiration. While recognizing that pride in our identity is a political attitude, the conga itself has distorted that meaning and the parade of its leaders in pink convertible cars, the floats, the carnival atmosphere and the strange participation of transnational emporiums such as Google (in edition 11) are just some of the most notorious elements of this point.
The suspension of the conga last May 11 and the change of the party at the same time that the unauthorized march would take place, was a very counterrevolutionary and irresponsible maneuver. The high participation in the march and the follow-up in the social networks by the participants in the celebration of what was happening in the Padro speak for themselves of the fragmentation and violence that could have been avoided.
The parade of more than 100 people, peacefully chanting slogans in favor of sexual rights and recognizing rights for all citizens, without counterrevolutionary expressions along the Prado promenade, moves away unfounded statements (such as those accompanying the conga suspension) that the march was organized from Miami. What happened in the end, with the crude police repression and the detention of four people, was a provocation far removed from the meaning of the march. The presence of the media was taken advantage of and the unfortunate events that are now circulating in the news were unleashed.
On the other hand, the rich public exchanges with LGBT people have not taken place in Havana for more than six editions. Written speeches, the introduction of other just causes but without the conviction of those present, have hampered citizen participation. It would seem that music, half-naked bodies, transformationism [cross-dressing] and dancing in the conga are the fundamental objective. The essentially political has been enclosed to academic spaces where we cook in the same sauce.
3. The State/Party has negotiated with the rights for sexual orientation and gender identity like a pendulum.
This point is also complex. Without a doubt, CENESEX, the leadership of its director Mariela Castro and the voice of numerous activists have contributed to placing the rights of LGBT people on political agendas and in human rights discourses in Cuba. However, in the international context, pendulum positions have been shown. In 2010 our State/Party had to rectify its vote at the United Nations when it aligned itself with third world countries that condemned homosexuality with the death penalty and did not consider it to be the cause of extrajudicial executions. Since then, our representatives have been absent from several votes on LGBT rights, especially at ECOSOC.
From 2011 to date, the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is recognized in documents issued by the State/Party that include the Statutes of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Labor Code Law. However, from 2012 to 2013 serious tensions were generated by the public speeches of numerous activists associated with CENESEX on pending policies, including marriage equality.
On this issue, the director of CENESEX herself has expressed opinions that vary according to the circumstances. Her speech was finally profiled in favor of marriage equality during the debate on the constitutional project. Later we learned that in the same period the Catholic Church had been the mediator in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. At this point I paraphrase the Apostle [: in politics what is most important is what is not seen.
More recently, the elimination of article 68, which opened up the possibility in the Constitutional Bill of recognizing marriage equality, was a complicit wink from the State/Party to the fundamentalist religious groups, which have gained strength in Cuba and enjoyed complete freedom to demonstrate against the aforementioned article. In the meantime, they maintained tight control over the activists associated with the institution and no street actions were allowed against religious and fundamentalist hate speeches.
The first three months have passed since the proclamation of the Constitution and there is no debate or concrete action to comply with the complementary laws that define the adoption of the Family Code within two years. The approval of this Law will be taken to a referendum, thanks to the decisions of our representatives, experts in dictating policies through decree-laws in agendas that are peremptory to them.
I note that the Christian churches have been too quiet during the present day, although we know in good faith that many of their proselytes were in the vicinity of the feast organized by CENESEX doing their fundamentalist ideological work.
4. The 11/5 march marks a historic milestone in the construction of a Cuban LGBT movement.
Depends. Not thefirst unauthorized gear. It is preceded by some actions in the late 1990s, the wedding between a transgender person and a gay man, and other unpopular attempts that were marked by interests to subvert order. Most of these unconvinced activists are in the United States because of the gratifications of their political masters. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have many more here who will do the impossible to torpedo any attempt at civil organization that dialogues with the State/Party.
We also have former activists who now live abroad, who are patriots and want to continue participating in the construction of a sovereign nation and have every right to do so.
Some have said that what happened on Saturday compared to May 1968 in Paris. Others have evoked the Stonewall Rebellion*, whose legacy has been taken as a global reference but which has been distorted by the generation of a universally classist, elitist LGBTI movement that reproduces the essences of the market and patriarchal domination of heteronormative oppression. In fact, in many countries, an attempt has been made to found anti-system movements and praxis that move away from the ideological right-wing and the political and commercial banalization of the international LGBTI movement.
What happens from now on will depend on concerted action and the lessons learned from these experiences. The permanence in force of a Law of Associations that limits and subsumes the rhetoric of a besieged square plus the fragile mechanisms of citizen participation hinder these actions.
Some view the march as a matter of winners and losers and focus their activism on opposition to CENESEX and Mariela Castro. With such a narrow vision it is not possible to make much progress either. Having a government institution to deal with these issues is necessary, but it does not limit the recognition of the right of LGBT people to self-organize as part of civil society, with the capacity to participate and challenge policies.
The march of May 11 also reflects that Cuba is not Paris 68 nor New York 69. A good part of political participation and the exercise of civil rights are done in social networks. The call became viral and despite the final outcome, people came to express their positions on this issue. To say that everyone was deceived or confused is contempt for people’s intelligence and at the same time, we must be very careful about who (or whom) benefits from results alien to our struggles.
On the other hand, to those who believe themselves to be owners of the Revolution and of thought, I inform you that a change of era has occurred in Cuban society. Comply with the Constitution and return the Revolution. [Santos Suarez, May 13, 2019]
*The Stonewall Inn bar was the epicenter of a rebellion of gay men and transgender people against police harassment in New York City in 1969. June will be 50 years old.