The Cuban government has made
significant strides towards gay, lesbian, and transgender equality,
despite lingering prejudices.
A 2002 poll found a majority of Cubans
believed gays and lesbians were “people with problems.”
Prejudice against GLBT people was at its height during the “five
gray years” from 1971-1976, when many artists and writers suspected
of being homosexual were fired from their jobs, harassed, and, often,
chased into exile.
Fidel Castro denounced gays as “agents
of imperialism.” In a 1965 interview he said, “[W]e would never
come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and
requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true
Revolutionary, a true Communist militant. A deviation of that nature
clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must
But today, Cuba, after Fidel, is a
country in transition.
It started in 2005 when Mariela Castro,
President Raul Castro's daughter, as head of the National Center for
Sex Education (Cenesex) began introducing pro-gay reforms to the
Communist Party. The center has also mounted public campaigns to
educate people about the issues surrounding homosexuality and
In May, Cenesex organized Cuba's second
anti-homophobic festival. The weeklong festival's program of movie
screenings, debates and book fairs culminated with the International
Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) – a global event designed to
heighten awareness of homophobia in society.
Cenesex told the Spanish news agency
Efe that the government had issued a resolution approving sex-change
operations for transsexuals. The organization had also sought
approval for a bill that would modify the current Family Code. The
reforms would have granted gays and lesbians housing and inheritance
rights, and, possibly, legal recognition of their relationships by
civil unions. But, Mariela Castro said the Communist Party tabled
the Family Code reforms, recommending that she “work with the
Passage of Resolution 126 provides for
the creation of a new center devoted to delivering integral health
care for transgender people, including gender reassignment therapy.
“This resolution establishes all of
the aspects of care for transsexuals, including the operation for
those who qualify and are interested – because not all transsexuals
want the surgery,” said Castro.
The law provides resources for
transsexuals to request a change of identity.
Cenesex also works on HIV prevention
policies, has proposed conjugal visits for gay prisoners, and
advocates increased visibility of GLBT people in the media.
Photo credit Montrealais