Human Freedom Doesn’t Come Through the Gutter
When will lesbians be able to access assisted reproduction or exercise motherhood without their erotic orientation generating conflicts with the father of the child? Can they share maternity leave?
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The pursuit of human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women, Betty Ford.
“I have two wonderful mothers.” That’s how the poster that a girl carried around La Rampa in Havana during the Cuban Day Against Homophobia in 2013 reads. The controversy reached the social networks and since then hundreds of questions have been raised… and very few answers given.
When will lesbians be able to access assisted reproduction or exercise motherhood without their erotic orientation generating conflicts with the father of the child? Can they share maternity leave? Why is it still believed that daughters will “imitate” them, when the overwhelming majority of homosexual people come from heterosexual, machista and homophobic homes?
According to Dr. Rosa Campoalegre, the vision of the family as an institution continues to be very traditionalist, although it no longer corresponds to a diverse reality in [Cuba’s] structures and ways of functioning, and this slows down the design of more comprehensive and unbiased public policies.
This expert from the Center for Psychological and Sociological Investigations knows that many women find themselves in the dilemma of hiding their status in order not to lose family harmony or to assume it as a life project and face discredit in the social and family sphere.
There is especially little understanding by the male ex-partner. Reactions can range from denying parental rights and duties to demanding full custody and guardianship, arguing that the new “environment” is harmful.
“This is an injustice that is not compatible with our revolutionary project and its goal of eliminating inequality gaps,” insists Dr. Mariela Castro, director of the Sex Education Center (Cenesex). “Ignorance and prejudice should not be used to justify actions of discrimination,” he said.
The law or life
Most of these women do not demand legal protection from acts harmful to their dignity or the rights of their children because they are ashamed or do not know how to do so. For example, if the biological mother is absent from the country or dies, it must be clear who assumes custody of the child, and in the event of a breakdown of the relationship, how to protect property rights.
Beyond macho atavism [backwardness], there are serious concerns about legal coverage for the diverse family configurations that [today] proliferate in the country. Manuel Vázquez Seijido, founder of Cenesex’s Legal Advice Services and deputy director of the center, says there are proposals to update the laws with a less discriminatory approach, looking after the interests of minors in particular.
Responsibility and respect
One of the biggest problems lies in the effect that living with an unconventional partner can have on psychological development. In this regard, Dr. Mariela Castro emphasizes: “Being a mother or father is not a gift of nature, you have to learn to be one in every society. Same-sex couples have shown that they can do well and seek help to take on that responsibility, just as heterosexual couples seek guidance because they are afraid of failing.
This is how the psychologist Roxanne Castellanos saw it in her consultation at the Alfonso Bernal del Riego Center for Attention to Psychological Attention: “These unions can be as functional as a typical nuclear family. The emotional consequences that impact self-esteem occur when the little person becomes aware of how different his or her life is and worries about being the target of criticism.
“The antidote,” insists Mariela Castro, “is to cultivate communication within the family and to demand that in other socializing spaces, such as the schools, the extended family or the neighborhood, they help the child to grow without humiliation or violence, and without depriving the child of her or his rights and opportunities.
It is absurd to believe that the child will end up adopting his or her mothers’ erotic model. Behaviors are learned by imitation, but not so much guidance as everyday behavior. An adequate example of love and mutual respect helps to build a healthy psychosexual identity, centeredd on the responsible enjoyment of the body and the exercise of sexual rights, rather than on the orientation of desire.
If the child is male, male role models can be provided outside the home, just as when the father figure is missing due to widowhood, abandonment or divorce. In addition, sexual orientation is a process that does not finish maturing until late adolescence or youth and by then there are other patterns when it comes to shaping the erotic taste: friendships, teachers, artists, sportsmen…
If the home is functioning well, there is no need for external psychological support, because it will be a space of contention and development where they will always find love, trust and material support, agree the interviewees.