Did we fail the mark or overdo it?
By Orlando Marquez
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
(The US film BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was played on Cuban TV last year. I’m told it was extremely widely watched and so, it will come as no surprise to read that, BROKEBACK evoked a long comment – two full pages in the printed journal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Havana as you can see here. We plan to translate this for readers of CubaNews in the near future.)
Hilda Mejias writes me, on behalf of other people in her community, who were very surprised on the evening of Friday May 16, when the television show “The Seventh Gate” played the film “Brokeback Mountain”. The film showed quite erotic scenes between two men, two cowboys. “Such loathsome behavior and lack of respect for the viewers”, Hilda writes,” who, in this country, include young men, teenagers and others who have never even seen or participated in a sexual act. I felt nauseated and switched off the TV. “
Is she too prudish? Is she a woman constrained to the “macho” standard of our culture? Is she intolerant because she’s Catholic? The truth is that Hilda’s reaction was not restricted to Catholics or other Christians, who from the viewpoint of their faith, reacted similarly. Many Cubans were surprised that this film was shown at a relatively early hour, because children and young people do not wake up early on Saturdays to go to school, [and therefore stay up late].
The surprise continued on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and subsequent days when the television, radio and the printed media echoed the great social event sponsored by the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX): the celebration, on May 17th, of the Day against Homophobia. There was no more talk of the Peasant’s Day, but of the day of gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. With such bombardment and promotion Cuba had achieved, some think, its social maturity. In fact someone even said this was a real “revolution”: “Revolution (is) … a group of transvestites on a stage.”
On June 6 CENESEX announced the promulgation of the resolution 126 of the Public Health Ministry that establishes “all disciplinary proceedings involving the care of transsexual people”, that is, meet the demands of the Cuban men and women who want to change their sex. It is possible that the next plenary meeting of the National Assembly in July, approves some amendments to laws that have to do with this subject. Although, Mariela Castro Espin, CENESEX Director, said that on the subject of legalizing marriage between same-sex couples there is nothing yet.
The correspondent in Havana for the newspaper “La Jornada” reported on June 5 that “up to now CENESEX has diagnosed 27 people as transsexuals and is studying 57 more. Of the 27 diagnosed, 13 have changed their official identity card and seven more have applied for new ones. One of those diagnosed was operated in1988, by special permit, and lives as a woman. “
Is it too much fuss for a few hundred people in a country of eleven million inhabitants? It is not so simple. If the percent of homosexuals in Cuba is similar to that of other countries, approximately one or two percent, it is possible that the total figure is closer to 200 thousand people. To promote respect and not discriminate someone because of their homosexuality is a gesture worthy of recognition. The Church agrees (see segment in this issue), precisely because a person is not just his status and sexual potential. As a creature of God, made in His image and likeness, the person is spirit, will, consciousness, effort, love, sacrifice, service, renunciation, self-mastery, freedom, desire for justice, transcendence …
Despite our Hispanic and African heritage, one can not say ours is a macho-style society as others around us. Suffice to see the reaction of the majority of Cuban women to the unbridled aggression of a husband. It can not be said either that prior to 1959 homosexuals were significantly discriminated against. Maybe because of the traditional cosmopolitanism, tolerance and relaxation of “traditions” that has marked the history of Cuba, even in colonial times. And, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the hordes of Americans who came as discoverers of all kinds of new opportunities designated and repeated ad nauseam that Havana was a gay city, a happy city, tolerant and open to the excesses that Puritanism did not allow there. \So even before, for some, this was a joyous and tolerant city. There were many famous Cuban persons, and there still are, many painters, writers, actors, academics, scientists and politicians who were not frustrated in their professional and social status for being homosexuals. Some hid the fact, others didn’t, but neither one nor the other was marked by scandal, nor were they sanctioned by law for their homosexual condition. Did they suffer the scorn and incomprehension of certain individuals? It’s possible. But, many of them achieved their purpose in life and left their mark in history because of their human talent, not their sexual preferences.
The current government campaign led from the higher echelons seems rather like a redress of wrongs. It was after 1959, with the purpose of creating a “new man”, that homophobia was imposed. They used jail cars, imprisonment, farm labor and the “invitation” to emigrate. The redress of wrongs and respect is great. But, there is danger that the campaign for respect moves towards promotion of homosexuality. There is danger that it can present homosexuality as “normal”, especially, if this campaign is launched so as to include young children and adolescents.
The television program “Open Dialogue”, broadcasted 48 hours after [the celebration of] the Day against Homophobia, is an example of the danger we face. This subject was treated superficially. It was not a debate, not a proper dialogue, because everyone had the same viewpoint. Besides, from time to time, one of the cameras focused on a poster with the phrase “The norm of sexuality is diversity.” Then, we can ask ourselves: When will we approve polygamy, or incest, or provide premises for swingers and other “sexual diversities”? And, maybe the most incomprehensible of all was the statement by a Baptist pastor, who was there precisely because she is Christian. “In the Gospels,” she said, and I’m quoting her more or less freely, “there is no word of Jesus against homosexuality.” Thus, it seemed she had blessed the event and banished all religious opinion to the contrary. It is true that Jesus never spoke of homosexuality, nor did he talk about ecology or the right to work. Nor is it said in the Ten Commandments, which the Pastor must know, that “you shall not covet your female neighbor’s wife or your male neighbor’s husband.” Doesn’t she realize that when Jesus speaks of marriage in the Gospels, when He speaks of adultery, or of cohabitation with the Samaritan woman, He speaks only of men and women because God incarnate could not conceive marriage, adultery and cohabitation between homosexuals?
But, there is a particular danger in this entire campaign if it insists in reaffirming this condition and no space or opportunity is given to those who wish to leave it behind. There are many who would like to change their attitude, and many in the world have done so.
When in 1973 the American Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, it did so by a vote of its members at a rate of 58 percent in favor of the removal. So, that leaves 42 percent of psychiatrists who believe that homosexuals can be helped to overcome this condition. In fact, there are many psychiatrists, including Cubans, who continue to consider homosexuality as a disorder that arises, in many cases, because of damaged emotional relationships between parents and children’s early years.
We say yes to respecting a homosexual person, and no to the promotion of homosexuality. We walk on a razor’s edge when, from the very governmental institutions, programs are promoted that can undermine the basis of society. Homosexual behavior is not new, but the international agenda promoting homosexuality at all levels, is. Not even the Greeks and Romans, who were so devoted to homosexual practices they considered them as “distinguished” acts during their centuries of dominance, dared to equate homosexual with heterosexual unions. They were convinced that the latter ones were the ones that guaranteed and supported the existence of society.
Respect for the homosexual person, for being a person, yes; to make the program into a State priority when there are other needs, no. If CENESEX’s purpose is education, it does not suffice to show respect for homosexuals. Why not promote, with a greater and more evident force, the value of the family as the main social institution? The family today is corrupted and divided because of many social ills. Why not strengthen the family and help them to have more children and raise them in a country that is rapidly aging? Why not develop programs that demonstrate the social benefits of a strong family and of married couples that stay together until death? Why not push for stronger laws forcing many irresponsible fathers to provide sustenance for their children, who they abandon to the fate of the mothers when they divorce, or when they do not want to acknowledge them? Why not promote with real strength an education in decency, responsibility and true love? Why not put an end to so much opportunity for sexual promiscuity and vice, where young people have been driven to homosexual behavior that they never thought to have? (An action in this direction should include educational centers) Why not publicize current studies made by experts from countries that started on this journey almost twenty years ago, such as Norway? Why not talk about homosexuals who have ceased to be so of their own free will, and who declare themselves released from a sad tether?
Perhaps we have already touched bottom with the approval of sex and identity change. In fact, when the Director of CENESEX says in an interview to Bohemia magazine (May 23, year 100, No. 11) that “homosexual marriage” is not necessary; she is setting a limit to what she advocates. But, when state institutions send messages that shake social foundations, family values, and jeopardize the innocence of the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens in a country already shaken by the uncertainty of the present and the future, the result of these messages can be counterproductive. Then it won’t be enough to turn off the TV to avoid seeing the erotic flirting of two cowboys in Brokeback Mountain.