by Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, aka, Paquito
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Almost coinciding with the celebration on December 4 of the ninth anniversary of my blog, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association (Ilga) has just given me the surprise of posting in its official pages an interview where I am presented as a defender of human rights in Cuba.
Sometimes one is afraid of the use of terms whose political manipulation in relation to our country leads us to murky and ungratifying stories with which on many occasions they tried to tarnish, and even attack, what was done by the Cuban Revolution in terms of equality of rights and social equity.
However, it is possible and very desirable to defend human rights in Cuba, because we also have a long way to go on that essential path. To do so implies a critical stance towards what has been achieved and what we lack, and when we do it with total honesty, it means that we are uncomfortable people both for the system’s propagandists at all costs, whether out of conviction or for the safeguard of some privileges, and for the recalcitrant enemies of socialism, who disguise their not at all altruistic interests with the labels of opponents or dissidents.
And this distancing does not imply any intermediate positioning. I don’t believe in centers or neutrality. Centrism and extremism are in politics only ways of masking or procuring benefits, most of the time with motivations in the individualistic background. Like everything else in life, these are statements that may require nuances. Nothing is absolute, especially in matters of subjectivities and filiations.
As I reached 48 years of age with nothing material to safeguard, I am free to say what I think and to do what I want, with all the responsibility that I am able, based on what I feel and believe to be fairer, to contribute to the collective well-being of LGBTI people and also of my homeland in its broadest sense. It’s my very particular idea about being a militant and a communist.
That’s what the nine years of this blog are all about. Thank you, Ilga, again. I will try to be consistent with this new label that I am given and that I consider being still very big: defender of human rights in Cuba.
Here’s the video:
I am Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, also known as Paquito, from Cuba; I am a Marti follower and an author; I am a communist and gay journalist; I am a convinced and superstitious atheist; I am the father of a son whom I have adored and have been a partner for fifteen years with a seronegative man who loves me; I have been an AIDS patient since 2003 and am a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than twelve years; I am a university professor and a student of life; a follower of Cuban economic issues and a passionate devourer of universal literature; an incontinent and belligerent moderate; a friend of my friends and a compassionate friend of my enemies; often wrong and never repentant; a hardened and eternal enthusiastic optimist; alive and kicking; in short, another ordinary man who wants to share his story, opinions and desires with you…
Learn about the victory of a grandmother’s love in the voice of attorneys Anahita Sanchez and Rodolfo Echevarria.
By IPS Cuba, Feb 24, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
HAVANA: Lawyers linked to the case where a Cuban court awarded custody and care of three minors to their grandmother, a lesbian woman who lives with her partner, note that the sentence recognized in some way the union between people of the same sex.
This was expressed in an interview with IPS Cuba by lawyers Rodolfo Echevarría and Anahita Sánchez, who were in charge of the legal representation of Eumnice Violeta Cardoso, the grandmother of three children who were orphaned.
The event transcended as a victory for the community of lesbians, gays, bi, trans en intersexuales (LGBTI), which is waiting for the legalization of equal marriage and respect for other rights such as homoparental adoption.
It all began in March 2016, when Vioem Karen Díaz Cardoso, the daughter of Eumnice Violeta and mother of two girls and one boy, aged nine, eight and six respectively, died after fighting lymphatic cancer.
To determine the custody and care of the three children, the grandmother and the children’s father, Guillermo Gomez, went to court.
In October 2017, the family room of the Tribunal Municipal Popular de Boyeros, a municipality on the southern outskirts of Havana, mediated the family conflict and left custody and care in the hands of the grandmother.
The news broke last January in international news media and Internet social networks.
“In the ruling, which is the binding and obligatory part of the sentence, the court confers the guardianship and care only in favor of Eumnice. That has to be well clarified,” said Echevarría, because current local legislation does not recognize same-sex couples or homoparental families.
“Although the sentence recognizes in its first Considering the active role of Isabel (the couple of Eumnice), who is also the godmother of children, in the upbringing of minors, “he detailed.
“Nor is there any sign of “discrimination” in the sentence, that is, indirectly there is a recognition of the union between these two people, because it refers to the godmother of the children, her partner, also plays a fundamental role in the care of the three minors,” he continued.
“Perhaps that is the novelty of the sentence,” said the lawyer.
And he clarified that the father was not deprived of parental authority. “He has duties and rights also with respect to these minors,” he said.
Do we say they are lesbians?
Both jurists admitted that they had doubts about whether or not they should address the homosexuality of the grandmothers when filing the lawsuit.
“In self-consultation with my conscience, I said to myself, “Do I put all the data related to this family?” recalled Echevarría.
The lawyer was concerned that the other party might use the fact that it was a homosexual couple to allege alleged harm to children because of same-sex relationships.
“And I said to myself… why not? You have to put the patch on before the hole comes out. They are in a relationship as a couple and that doesn’t in any way affect minors,” she recalled.
“To introduce that element, she obviously had to have the consent of Eumnice Violeta. She always agreed, even asked that this information be introduced in the lawsuit,” she continued.
Attorney Sanchez described the court’s reaction on the day of the hearing as “impressive.”
“When the grandmother finished speaking, with very personal and moving experiences, the godmother stood up and explained. Everyone ended up crying, and the two of them embraced,” she shared.
“It was a very nice process, because the court didn’t have the slightest doubt that they have a relationship. But that didn’t mean that they were deprived of their rights, on the contrary,” she said.
The lawyer maintained that “the judiciary didn’t show any kind of opposition, neither in the act of appearance nor in the sentence” because of the sexual orientation of the grandmothers.
An exceptional case
The case of Eumnice arrived in April 2017 at the hands of Rodolfo and Anahita, two professionals from the Law Firm Specialized in Cassation Resources, thanks to the recommendation of a colleague who assessed the sensitivity of the problem.
“They had been given little hope, and the granting of guardianship and care to grandparents is certainly unusual,” Echevarría said, as the law states that custody should be vested in the father after the mother’s death.
However, “this is not the first case of detachment of custody and care in favor of the extended family, such as grandparents, although they have not been abundant,” said the lawyer.
Due to the very nature of the work in the law firm where they work, which handles cases from all over the country, Rodolfo and Anahita affirm that there will have been three or four similar cases in the rest of the Cuban provinces.
Nor do they believe that he is the only one in Havana, although “there are many judges who have not yet had any in their jurisdiction. Since it’s not the first, it’s not that many,” Sánchez said.
In fact, the first setback faced by the family was that the Popular Municipal Court of Old Havana, in an unusual intervention by the Attorney General’s Office, alleged a lack of competence to deal with the case and ordered its transfer to the municipality of Boyeros, where the children’s father resided.
New paths in family law
As professionals, Echevarría and Sánchez maintain that the positive solution to this case brought them great satisfaction.
“Law has to go hand in hand with these new family paths. There are reconstituted, assembled families, and there is already a recognition of the role of the extended family,” Echevarría reflected.
For the lawyer, “the right has to look at the new paradigm shifts, from a nuclear family based on the ties derived from marriage, to a family that is sustained by affection.
The family rooms today reinterpret current but outdated Cuban norms and apply international agreements signed by the country to solve family law cases, pending the postponed revision by parliament of a draft of a new Family Code to replace the one drafted in 1975. (2018)
This is a dialectical and modern Constitution, if tradition is to be broken, tradition is to be broken, because breaking tradition is also a revolutionary act. Under socialism there is no room for any kind of discrimination against humans. Love does not have sex,” stressed intellectual Miguel Barnet.
Author: Susana Antón | firstname.lastname@example.org
July 22, 2018 12:07:10
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
As part of the analysis of the Draft Constitution at the First Ordinary Session of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of the People’s Power, some of the issues discussed were gender equality, marriage and family as part of Article 68.
Mariela Castro Espín, a deputy for the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, commented that with Article 68, Cuba places itself, from a perspective of comprehensive protection of people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, among the leading countries in the recognition and guarantee of human rights.
“This proposal for protection is the result of the maturity reached by the revolutionary process that legitimizes and protects social relations that materialize in various types of families, from which the State’s duty to protect them and not to discriminate against them is derived,” she said.
She expressed her agreement with the provisions of Article 68, which provides for the voluntary union of two persons with the legal capacity to do so and is based on the rights and duties of spouses.
Castro Espín submitted for the plenary’s consideration that the continuation of the text of the article should be left to legislation because it is specific and refers to the obligations of couples who choose to be mothers and fathers, in addition to the fact that it is based on the absolute equality of the duties and rights of the spouses and on the conditions that favor the achievement of their ends.
“It would result in an axiological and normative contradiction in the letter of the constitutional bill between the grounds of discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity in Articles 39 and 40, and we would discriminate against families with gay parents in Article 68,” she added.
On the other hand, she stressed that Article 41 stipulates that the State works to create the necessary conditions to facilitate equality of citizenship and “the best way to say it is to do it”, she concluded.
For her part, the Secretary General of the Federation of Cuban Women, Teresa Amarelle Boué, commented that it is a step forward that it has been taken away that marriage is the consensual union between a man and a woman..
However, there is no mention of adoption in this Article, and this is an issue that should be left to the Family Code and that should govern what marriage and other issues will be like.
“No one can be discriminated against because of their orientation. All rights are for all people and it is up to couples who want to be mothers and fathers to decide,” said Teresa Amarelle.
On the subject, Homero Acosta commented that the concept of matrimony that has been changed has an impact on the continuation of the article because it has a vision of a single-parent family and the issues related to children have a different formulation in the article.
The issue of children is regulated in Articles 69, 70 and 72, which refer to a concept of the family. “In no way does it limit the obligation of parents, whatever marriage in which it is constituted,” he said.
Yolanda Ferrer, deputy for Pinar del Río, commented that marriage must rest on the absolute equality of the duties and rights of the spouses and the law must determine the way in which it is constituted.
“We are taking a revolutionary and very important first step. There is no justification for depriving the happiness of forming a family. We have to face prejudice and make the justice we defend inclusive,” she said.
Speaking again, Deputy Mariela Castro Espín stated that “if we consider the reproductive issue, we must be consistent in giving these guarantees to all families”.
Miguel Barnet also commented that we are entering a new era. “This is a dialectical and modern Constitution, if tradition is to be broken, tradition must be broken, because breaking tradition is also a revolutionary act and under socialism there is no room for any kind of discrimination against humans. Love doesn’t have sex,” she said.
At the conclusion of the plenary debate on the subject, the deputies agreed to leave Article 68 as it stands and to include the terms “families” throughout the Constitution.
July 21, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The first televised summaries of the debates in the committees of the National Assembly of People’s Power on future constitutional reform in Cuba confirmed Friday that the draft of the new Constitution proposes to redefine marriage as the voluntary union between two persons with legal capacity for this purpose, and incorporates the principle of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to one member of parliament, when asking for clarification on this issue, the new formulation on the matrimonial institution would be contained in article 68 of the proposal to be discussed and approved by the highest legislative body in the first ordinary session of the current legislature this weekend.
Hardly anyone escapes the fact that this amendment to the old 1976 Constitution, which reduced marriage to the bond between a man and a woman, would be the open door for later progress in the legalization of homosexual couples.
The principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – contained in another article along with several other grounds of discrimination – would also allow for the progressive incorporation of other legal norms and public policies that would protect and equalise the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in our country.
Of course, this is not the only major change, nor the only one that should interest and mobilize LGBTI people. As citizens, we have to be concerned about the fairness and complete perfection of our next law of laws, because it not only defines our sexual orientation or gender identity, neither as human beings nor as patriots.
However, we must be aware that the incorporation of a broader concept of marriage into this draft is only the first step on the road to the adoption of a new Constitution which will ensure greater legal guarantees for the specific LGBTI population.
After its approval in Parliament, this draft bill will have to go through a broad popular consultation with all citizens. This will be a deeply democratic process very similar to the one we already experienced during the debates promoted by the Communist Party of Cuba on the conceptualization of the economic and social model of socialist development. These are the bases of the strategic development plan until 2030 and the guidelines of the economic and social policy of the Revolution.
Based on the results of this consultation and on the consensus that we will be able to reach with all citizens, the National Assembly will have to consider and approve the final draft of the new constitutional text, which will be submitted to a vote by popular referendum, in order to seek its final promulgation.
So, months of hard work lie ahead. Activists and specialists, political and religious personalities, women and men of all sexual orientations and gender identities who understand justice and the revolutionary nature of this very human cause, we will have to fully attend this discussion in every neighborhood and workplace.
The fight won’t be easy. There are ideological and political positions opposed to these changes. Their representatives will do everything they can to ensure that these dreams, which are now possible and already so close, will come to nothing. Some are powers that believe they have the strength of many centuries of prejudice, stigma and taboos in their favor, which they want to impose on all of society as traditions and customs, or false natural or divine notions.
Nobody’s giving us anything. Our mission will be to offer arguments, explain experiences, transmit emotions that persuade and convince, illustrate and generate empathy, inspire and move.
Everyone should do it from their own perspective, according to their own possibilities of expression, with total honesty and frankness, without fear or shame. In every context and circumstance, let us use the language and tone that the occasion warrants. The scientific approach will be very useful, but also the intimate anecdote, the familiar and friendly reference, the hard episode of the past, the hope that already contains our best present.
Let us not rule out any recourse, provided that what is said is sincere and true, from reason or passion, and even from both. But we can’t stop speaking out. All of us, no matter if it may seem like a reiteration, or if we believe that someone has already said it before or said it better.
Nor should we think that if no one speaks out against it, there is no need to speak out in favor. If we do not say so in our meeting, perhaps in another meeting where we were not or will not be, the contrary position will appear, and there will be no one to defend this cause. Silence is not an option. Every opinion counts.
In particular, I urge LGBTI people to engage in all the spaces of debate within our reach, so that our families, work groups, and neighborhoods, know who we are and what we are worth, and why we consider this step to be just and revolutionary, even beyond our own particular well-being or benefit.
This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Revolution of 1868, the one that began our struggle for freedom, collective and individual. In another year 1968, a century later, the Western world was shaken up by great revolts between one of its many components, the so-called sexual revolution of those decades.
By pure chance, that is the same number that corresponded to the article that could cover marriage between two persons, regardless of their gender, in the next Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. So we can and must participate: it is our new revolution of ’68.
I am Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, also known as Paquito, from CUBA; I am a Marti follower and an author; I am a communist and gay journalist; I am a convinced and superstitious atheist; I am the father of a son whom I have adored and have been a partner for fifteen years with a seronegative man who loves me; I have been an AIDS patient since 2003 andam a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than twelve years; I am a university professor and a student of life; a follower of Cuban economic issues and a passionate devourer of universal literature; an incontinent and belligerent moderate; a friend of my friends and a compassionate friend of my enemies; often wrong and never repentant; a hardened and eternal enthusiastic optimist; alive and kicking; in short, another ordinary man who wants to share his story, opinions and desires with you…
By Lisbet Penín Matos
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Undoubtedly one of the most-discussed articles during the recently concluded first ordinary session of the IX Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power was article 68, which establishes the concept of marriage between two people.
The change with respect to the current constitution is that the one approved in 1976 includes marriage as the union between a man and a woman, while the current proposal, with a revolutionary vision, does not define sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
In this regard, the press spoke with Deputy Dr. Mariela Castro Espín. She said during the discussion that this article mixes the rights proposed by the Constitution to guarantee the institution of marriage with the responsibilities of mothers and fathers.
“That is a technical question, I wanted to separate them because simply when it comes to operationalizing all this in the laws, it makes it easier to differentiate them, and also, it reproduces a reproductive or reproductivist vision of marriage.
She stated that there are unmarried people who, while others marry and are unable or unwilling to have them, hence marriage does not pursue only the reproductive end.
The director of CENESEX commented that marriage has several purposes, among them the desire, the pleasure of living together where shared responsibilities are assumed in the home. “That’s fine, but then marriage takes on another purpose, another project, which is that of the children.
“If we’re going to consider the reproductive responsibility of mother and father within marriage, then when we put all this into practice in the law, we have to guarantee the same options and possibilities to heterosexual couples, same-sex couples and people who decide to become single mothers or fathers,” she said.
Dr. Mariela Castro also mentioned that the current constitutional reform has a more inclusive vision. She described the achievement of human rights-based marriage as wonderful.
She commented that no person can be excluded or discriminated against for any reason. She also said that today Cuban society has more knowledge and can openly discuss these issues with the intention of protecting couples who wish to join together, without exclusion.
Despite its proposal, the National Assembly adopted that the article should remain unchanged, but that it would be enriched by the views of the people.
“That is a wonderful revolutionary achievement,” she said, and continued, “hopefully, when the document is submitted for analysis by the people, the majority will be able to understand the very important step we are taking in the field of human rights, in recognizing all the rights of people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, because we have had difficulty reproducing the prejudices we have learned.
She reflected that there are people in the population with their dogmas, prejudices and beliefs who consider that homosexual people are not fit, capable of being mothers and fathers.
“And I repeat what I said in committee: motherhood and fatherhood is not a gift from nature, it is not an instinct as they believe: it is a learning experience”, based on observation of other mothers and fathers.
The only difference between heterosexual and homosexual mothers and fathers is simply their sexual orientation, she said.
“There are even those who believe that homosexuality is a disease, it sticks, it will be learned. No. If it were that simple, there would be no homosexuals, because they would be heterosexuals just like their parents were.
“It is an era in which this obscurantist, manipulative and retrograde thinking is being overcome with science, with scientific knowledge, inspired by the humanist spirit and based on the interest of the Cuban State in advancing the human rights agenda,” she concluded.
To make up Cuba, all the people contribute to and contribute to social and economic transformations.
This is an intentional and tempered draft project in the sense of the historical moment with the aim of guaranteeing more rights, more inclusion, independence, sovereignty and equality.
By Luis Ángel Adán Roble
Posted: 22 Jul 2018 09:59 PM PDT
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
August 8, 2017
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Cuban deputies received an explanation of a policy of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) that has been in force for a year or two to accept and place young homosexuals in military service, respecting their right to participate in the defense of the country.
The issue arose during the work session of the National Defence Commission, which on last July 10 evaluated the results of the inscriptions in the Military Register and the incorporation of young people into active military service (SMA).
As part of the debates prior to the last ordinary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, representatives of military institutions and members of other permanent commissions such as Health and Sport; Education, Culture, Science, Technology and the Environment; and Care for Youth, Children and Equal Rights of Women also participated in this meeting.
Although this aspect of the discussion on compliance with the SMA did not transcend any of the journalistic versions I could consult on the meeting, its approach in our Parliament is undoubtedly of great news, relevance and political and public interest for the Cuban LGBTI community.
That is why I sought information from fellow journalists there, but it was not until only a few days ago that I had access to the audio recordings of the question posed by Joaquín Lázaro Cruz Martín, a member of parliament for the municipality of Boyeros in the capital and a member of the Committee on Youth, Children and Equal Rights for Women; and the response given by Brigadier General Juan Rafael Ruiz Pérez, also a member of parliament and chairman of the Committee on National Defence.
Perhaps another time is left for the analysis of the importance of this event. I believe that both interventions deserve to be analysed. I confess as an advance that right now it is difficult for me to assess what is more important, if the fact that a deputy asked about the participation of homosexuals in the army and defended it in public; or the response of the president of the National Defence Committee, when reporting on a policy that still has obvious discriminatory features – he himself admits that it is not perfect – but that in practice it represents without doubt a qualitative leap towards the recognition of the rights of LGBTI people in Cuba.
However, many concerns and doubts remain unresolved, not only regarding the inclusion of gay soldiers in the FAR, but also regarding the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who aspire to or even become officers.
Without further ado, I transcribe the question and the answer in its entirety, with only small adjustments that I had to make to try to be faithful in the written language to the tone and intention of the speaker, to separate the ideas into sentences as brief as possible, as well as to avoid direct or colloquial references and mentions to some people present whose names I found unintelligible in the recording.
Deputy Joaquín Lázaro Cruz Martín: The other issue I have, which concerns me greatly, is exactly what would be the policy to follow, in this material specifically, with young homosexuals and bisexuals.
How it is treated, how politics is with these young people, who are not different at all in our society; that is, they deserve a place of respect too, that is their sexual preference and I do not think that this will influence at all….
Right now it’s time to add, not subtract, and we need everyone’s support. It is no secret to anyone that at the moment, as we can see that they are not being discriminated against as much as in previous times – although discrimination still exists, it is a problem that concerns us all – many more are increasingly identified…
Thank you very much.
Congressman Juan Rafael Ruiz Pérez, President of the National Defence Committee: I am going to take the floor on this last issue to explain and make it clear.
As you have heard, there is in the Armed Forces – we have known this before – a commission of the body that establishes policy for the performance of military service.
In other words, military service is in a law, the law has its regulations, but this commission is establishing policies. For example, no law says anything about the year deferred, about the boy who took a college degree. That’s a policy.
Service is two years, everyone must complete it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera… Ah, but if you pass the entrance exams and get a degree, then the policy is that you must only serve one year, to interfere as little as possible in your incorporation. That’s politics.
Then, with regard to this issue raised by the companero, a policy was established and approved a year ago, perhaps two years ago, which is essentially the following:
First, no young person, because of his social preference (sic) is excluded from being able to fulfill his preparation for the defense of his country.
Second, if that young man is called, but he considers that for this reason, he will not be able to perform his service in the conditions of a military place, he is excluded.
And thirdly, we also try to apply a third alternative that exists, and that can allow you to comply with the first, without having to fall into the traditional, let’s say, two-year service in a military unit, in maneuvers, etc…. It can also be conducted so that the performance of your military service, and therefore of the law, does so through alternative forms.
Therefore, a young person with these characteristics is called military service, gives basic military training, if possible, and is assigned to alternative military service. Say, he can be a nurse, an auxiliary in a hospital, he can even be in a military hospital, or he can be assigned to work elsewhere.
He’s doing his service, he’s complying with the law, he’s carrying out his duty to the homeland. He may have prepared for defense, and yet he is in conditions that may be more appropriate for the situation.
Ah, no, you’re capable that even if you have your… overcome that, and keep yourself… Because also the environment can influence a lot. We’re talking about a barracks with 80 of another preference, talking about other things, saying other things… Oh, not you?… Right, you’re not called and you’re given that chance.
What happens, that sometimes this happens when they say about a case that came in and that after it was detected. Well, this is sometimes not detected, because sometimes even the person doesn’t want to say it yet….
Is it detected later? We do that. You can’t, Counselor. Yeah, you’re licensed. Any chance you’re going to finish it by alternative means in one place, according to a plan, et cetera? That’s a variant. Another variant? No, you’re going home.
That is to say, what must be clear: that is why nobody is exempted – by politics – from their right to prepare themselves to defend their homeland.
But, taking into account the existing conditions and so on…. As you say yourself, military service is not a panacea, that’s what it is, that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes and so on. No (can’t)…, well, it’s not going, now. It’s not going. It’s not a disease, it just doesn’t go, because of the conditions, it’s a possibility you give it. Or also, to go towards that other channel that can be service through alternative forms.
That is the policy that is approved, in writing, oriented towards the whole country, what happens is that these things happen, because sometimes they are not detected and can be chosen, well, then you do what you did, you know what I mean?
But the policy is approved, and this is what is being followed. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, everything here is provisional. But the issue has already been identified, and that is what is being done.
I am Paquito, from CUBA; I am a Marti follower and a an author; I am a communist and gay journalist; I am a convinced and superstitious atheist; I am the father of a son whom I have adored and have been a partner for fifteen years with a seronegative man who loves me; I have been an AIDS patient since 2003 andam a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than twelve years; I am a university professor and a student of life; a follower of Cuban economic issues and a passionate devourer of universal literature; an incontinent and belligerent moderate; a friend of my friends and a compassionate friend of my enemies; often wrong and never repentant; a hardened and eternal enthusiastic optimist; alive and kicking; in short, another ordinary man who wants to share his story, opinions and desires with you…
By Darío Gabriel Sánchez García
Journalist and photojournalist. Professor of Photography and Audiovisual Production at the Faculty of Communication of the University of Havana.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.This Friday, the stage of the great Cuban events, the Karl Marx Theatre, was filled with people at the 11th Cuban gala against homophobia and transphobia, under the slogan “For schools without homophobia and transphobia”.
The gala featured nationally recognized international artists such as Alain Daniel, Diván, Haila, Laritza Bacallao, Migue-DECUBA, Proyecto Voces, Yotuel, as well as the dance companies Acosta Danza, Rakatán, Coro de la Escuela René Vilches, Latin Dance Ballet and Revolution.
With the presence of Roberto Morales Ojeda, Minister of Public Health, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and Vice-President of the State Council; Ena Elsa Velázquez, Minister of Higher Education; José Ramón Saborido, Minister of Higher Education and Mariela Castro Espín, Director of the National Sex Education Center (Cenesex), among other personalities, this eleventh edition is being held within the framework of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of Cenesex, an institution that since 2007 has strengthened its educational strategy to promote the full and responsible exercise of sexual rights as inherent to human beings.
Beyond the artistic display, the gala was also the occasion for the presentation of special awards by Cenesex to Carla Antonelli, and recognized LGBT rights activist who since 2011 serves as deputy of the Assembly of Madrid by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, becoming the first and only transgender woman in Spain to accede to this position. Also honored was Mike Jackson, an English activist and one of the founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a lesbian and gay organization that came together to support striking miners from 1984 to 1985 in Britain after the Thatcher government confiscated funds from that sector of the workforce.
The “In memoriam” prize was awarded to the recently deceased journalist, researcher and professor Isabel Moya Richard. From her position as director of the Women’s Publishing House, of the magazine Mujeres, and as president of the Chair of Gender and Communication at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism, Isabel Moya was always a fervent defender of gender equality.
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.
Posted on May 15, 2018 – 7:14 by Alina M. Lotti
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Stephen Beresford probably found in Mike Jackson a good story to include in what would later become the screenplay for the film Pride, a historical drama about the work of a group of LGBT activists (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) who raised money to help families affected by the 1984 British miners’ strike.
A long time has passed since then and now Mike has had a chance to revisit those facts. Invited by the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) to celebrate the eleventh edition of the Conference against Homophobia and Transphobia, the activist, is also a member of the UNITE trade union. It’s the largest in the country, bringing together millions of members from various sectors, an organization in solidarity with Cuba, shared here with the public some of his experiences with the film and the event that motivated it.
“It was during Margaret Thatcher’s second term in office (1983-1987) when she intended to close a large number of mines and put thousands of workers out of work. I was just a young man of socialist thought and a member of the LGBT community, for whom it was important not only to recognize their rights, but also those of others.
“Stephen, the screenwriter, thought the story was incredible and worth taking to the big screen. The experience was different for those of us who were part of that group. I came from the working class and it was easy for me to identify with that cause.
That is to say, during all these years millions of human beings have had the possibility of learning the real dimension of the facts…
In September 2014 it premiered in the UK and it was amazing! Many young people were attracted to it. Today, new groups have emerged in the gay community, such as those who support dockworkers and immigrants. Many are trying to do what we did at that time. We couldn’t hope for anything better!
Thanks to the film we were able to broaden our voices in the UK and in other nations, and to speak not only of struggle and commitment, but also of solidarity.
This is the first time he has visited Cuba and it has only been three weeks. However, how do you see respect for the LGBTI community (this last letter has been incorporated a few years ago and means intersex)?
I feel very safe here; there are no drug users or homeless people on the streets. Compared to London there is a great contrast. My country has lived for 40 years with strong right-wing rule, but now the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a great candidate on the left.
As for what you ask me, I believe that Cuba has made progress on the rights of the LGBT community, similar to my country.
If there was the possibility of a second film….
If that happens I’ll migrate to the moon!
The 11th Cuban Conference against Homophobia and Transphobia: For schools without homophobia and transphobia, began on May 4 and will run until May 18 in the context of the 30th anniversary of Cenesex, the main organizer and promoter of the event. Under the motto I include myself, this year – and for the second time – the campaign focuses on better education for the new generations.