Gays and Cuba

Nigel Irritable nigel_irritable at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 18 19:52:43 MST 2002


Phil wrote:
> In a socialist society, where sexual orientation was
> neither here nor there, it is rather difficult to
> imagine why anyone would organise a gay pride march
> or publish gay newspapers.

Phil, I think that you may want to sit back and have a
quick think about that one. Most of the gay press
anywhere is not primarily political, at least in an
explicit sense. Its main role in most places - or at
least most places where gays have won a degree of
toleration - is social. I rather suspect that even
after the final eradication of homophobia in any
society some kind of gay press would exist.

Your statement is even stranger in a Cuban context. I
doubt if even the most slack-jawed Castroite would
make a serious claim that homophobia has entirely
disappeared in Cuba. So the issue of the absence of a
gay press, political or not, in Cuba is certainly
relevant.

The Castro comments themselves I find rather less
interesting in and of themselves. As you point out,
the intereview took place a long time ago. At that
time open homophobia (or at best a blindness to lgbt
issues) was widespread on the left, particularly the
Stalinist left but also on the Trotskyist left. The
predecessor of my own organisation, the Militant,
wouldn't have been so crass as to argue that no
homosexual can be a communist but it certainly did its
level best to ignore gay issues throughout the 1960s
and later.

The point is that views can change and across the left
there is now a better - if far from perfect -
understanding of the oppression of gays than there was
then. To continue with the example of my own
organisation, the Socialist Party has had an active,
lively and important lgbt caucus for a couple of
decades now, and such self-organisation has had a huge
impact on our understanding of gay oppression. Similar
strides have been made in some other left groups.

The situation in Cuba, an entire country and one which
claims to be socialist, is obviously a much more
important issue than the changes in small leftist
groups. So the question becomes, what exactly has
changed in Cuba?

Homosexuals are no longer criminalised, which is an
important change. Castro would be extremely unlikely
to make such crass statements about homosexuals,
regardless of whether or not his personal views have
changed - which is itself a significant change.

But are lgbt people still oppressed in Cuba? And what
role does the Cuban bureaucracy play in that
oppression?

As a last aside, I would advise some of those who just
don't think that Cuba's attitude to gays is all that
big a deal to go and read Erin's most recent post.
Nobody here, I hope, would think of glibly dismissing
the oppression of women or racial oppression anywhere.

Is mise le meas
Brian Cahill

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