Gays and the Cuban Revolution

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 17 03:16:11 MST 2002


One can never take up the subject of gays
and the Cuban Revolution in great enough
detail to satisfy anyone completely as it's
a rich and complex subject which cannot be
dealt with adequately in a short note.

It's worth remembering that the world-wide
campaign against Cuba includes stories
(some true) about the terrible mistreatment
of gays in the sixties and seventies, which
are given exaggerated form and presented
as if they were still occurring. This is
what the movie BEFORE NIGHT FALLS did.

Many people who know nothing else
have that movie as their "source" about
Cuba, or gays in Cuba, and from that point
of view, the movie is a grotesque fabrication.
Jon Hilson's critique of the politics of the
movie would be good to read for any who
have not done so. It's at www.blythe.org

The phrase "no homosexual can ever be a
true communist" (roughly, I don't have my
copy of the book here with me in Havana)
can be found in Lee Lockwood's wonderful
book-length interview CASTRO'S CUBA,
CUBA'S FIDEL, where the section on his
attitude toward homosexuality takes up
about half a page. If you have a copy it
would be worth scanning and sharing.
It was written in 1965 or 1966, which is
prior to Stonewall. I say that not to cover
for what Fidel said which was stupid, but
only to put it into a bit of context.

When anyone speaks as frequently as
does Fidel Castro, and his words are as
copiously transcribed as his have been
over these past 43 years, it shouldn't
come as a surprise that once in a while
he puts his foot in his mouth. I'd hate to
think that everything I've said would be
brought back up and presented to me
as if it was my current thinking...

Of course there are other quotes from
Fidel on the topic as well, including his
response to Tomas Borge in UN GRANO
DE MAIZ in which he says he's never
been prejudiced against gays.

It would also be useful to look back at
the UNEAC convention of 1971 where
resolutions were adopted stating that
gays should not be permitted to teach.
I don't suppose any of these have ever
been formally repealed, but they don't
exist any longer in practice.

There's even a formal study on the issue
by a professor at one of the higher univer-
sities here, Pedro de la J. Cruz titled
HOMOSEXUALISIMO, HOMESEXUALIDAD,
Y ETICA HUMANA. Someone should get
the book translated for a broader audience
as this topic is always of interest.

Fidel is quite influential in Cuban life and
the policies of the Cuban government,
so his thinking on such matters would be
reflected in government action here on
the island. There are no autonomous
gay and lesbian organizations in Cuba,
but the repression which gays (I don't
know anything about lesbian life here)
experienced in the 1960s is long gone.

The movie Fresa y Chocolate is widely
seen to be effectively an apology for
past negative practices. The recent film
Lista de Espera (waiting list) has a clear
gay subtheme. This year a new Cuban
film, VIDEO DE FAMILIA (Family Video)
which showed both here in Cuba and at
the Los Angeles Latino International Film
Festival, is a completely sympathetic
treatment of coming out. It tells the story
of an Cuban family preparing a video to
send to their son who inexplicably left the
island for the US some years earlier. In
the course of the film (shot on VHS but
featuring top Cuban actors like Enrique
Molina and Veronica Lynn) we learn the
reason he left was because he's gay.

Then we watch as the parents and other
family members go through a range of
emotions, from denial to a tentative
acceptance in dealing with this. Fresa
y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate)
as anyone who's seen it knows, deals
sympathetically with these issues and
ends when the gay protagonist leaves
the island.

The paladar where some scenes in Fresa
y Chocolate were shot is now a tourist
attraction here in Havana as well.

A highly critical, yet still sympathetic book
on this is Ian Lumsden's MACHOS,
MARICONES AND GAYS by the Canadian
Ian Lumsden. To my knowledge, it's the
most comprehensive look at the topic.


Walter Lippmann


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