[Marxism] Cuba: Door Opens for Sexual Diversity

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 29 00:31:54 MDT 2004

(Thanks to Marcel Hatch of Canada for pointing
me to the CENESEX website in Cuba where this
article appeared in Spanish, translated from
the original English. There is now an entire
section of the CENESEX website devoted to 
issues of interest related to LGBT people.

(Facts are stubborn things, and no doubt this
will not satisfy those who continue to push
the line that Cuba is hell on gays, but this
is a fascinating bit of additional information.

(This posting is dedicated to John O'Brien.)

RIGHTS-CUBA: Door Opens for Sexual Diversity
Dalia Acosta

HAVANA, Jul 3 (IPS) - The semi-nude bodies of men
interlaced in a passionate embrace seems to stun the Cuban
audiences in every performance of ''The Life and Death of
Pier Paolo Pasolini'', the play about the Italian filmmaker
who was assassinated in 1975, and about discrimination,
conventionalisms and mediocrity.

The portrayal of the conflict of a lesbian couple in the
Cuban soap opera ''El jardín de los helechos'' (Garden of
Ferns) continues to spark debate across the social spectrum
even a month after the final episode of the series was
broadcast by the state-run television network.

Meanwhile, the government's National Centre for Sex
Education (CENESEX) has begun publishing on its Internet
site a section on sexual diversity, which provides general
information, posts public opinions e-mailed to the web
site, and gives Cubans the opportunity to consult with

''Being homosexual or bisexual is not a disease, it is not
synonymous with perversity, nor does it constitute a
crime,'' says the web site, which aims to ''overcome the
taboos and prejudices that persist'' in Cuba.

Homosexuality ''is a sexual orientation that is not caused
by seduction at any age, it is not contagious, and is not
acquired by educational defects or negative examples in the
family environment,'' says the CENESEX web page.

The Infomed web page, the most visited Cuban Internet
portal with 150,000 hits per day, includes the graduation
photos of a group of transsexual and transvestite sexual
health promoters, a glossary and the emblematic rainbow

The possibility for more visibility for an issue that has
traditionally been silenced by the government-controlled
media on the island began to take shape in the two years
leading up to the 16th World Congress of Sexology, held in
Havana in March 2003.

According to sexologist Mariela Castro, director of
CENESEX, what is occurring ''is the result of an effort of
more than 30 years, and now we are seeing its fruits more

CENESEX emerged in 1989 out of the National Working Group
on Sex Education, which was founded in 1972 by the
Federation of Cuban Women, a non-governmental women's

Made up of experts and officials, the entity operates as an
adviser to the permanent parliamentary commission on
children, youth, and women's rights, with the mandate of
creating and implementing the National Programme for Sex

She says that 10 years ago it would have been nearly
impossible to introduce a textbook on sex in the high
schools. But such texts are being included in the
curriculum now, and they include unprejudiced information
on sexual diversity.

Nor would there have been such tolerance of training on
transsexual and transvestite issues. ''In the 1960s, 70s
and 80s, the resistance against even mentioning sexual
diversity was incredibly strong even amongst that
population,'' Castro told IPS.

With the advances of the past decade, she added,
homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals began to
''flourish with greater freedom, to have a public presence,
to be everywhere.''

In her opinion,'' this presence has provoked opinions
amongst the general population, for and against, but they
are opinions, observations, concerns, reflections.''

''In this context, the CENESEX mission is to provide the
elements for analysis that are necessary for defining
appropriate policies that are coherent with our social
project,'' said the sexologist.

Rejection of non-heterosexual expressions of sexuality
remains widespread in Cuba, which experts see as being
linked to the predominant culture's entrenched ''machismo''
and homophobia.

But studies show that gays, lesbians and even a broad
segment of the heterosexual population say there is greater
tolerance now than compared to the 1960s and 1970s.

Cuban legislation does not include homophobic-slanted
regulations, but nor does it explicitly recognise the right
to sexual diversity.

Although there have been some isolated cases of symbolic
ceremonies uniting gay or lesbian couples, there have been
no public demands for legalising homosexual marriage, the
right to adopt or, for lesbians, the right to assisted

In Cuba there are no established gay or lesbian
organisations, but in recent years groups have formed
through the Health Ministry's national network of centres
to prevent sexually transmitted disease and to fight

The CENESEX Internet site is part of a broader project of
the ministry, which includes a forum to promote reflection
and debate about masculinity, relationships, sexual
diversity and other issues.

The forum comprises specialists from different fields and
plans to hold workshops on topics like current sex
legislation in Cuba and the social perception of

It also disseminates the experiences of people the CENESEX
experts have collected through their discussions on sexual
diversity with various groups, such as university students,
social workers and prisoners.

''We know it is a controversial issue and we know we are
going to run into criticism,'' says Julio César González
Pagés, professor at the University of Havana and
coordinator of the forum administration.


CENESEX - in Spanish


CUBA: Puerta abierta a la diversidad sexual

Dalia Acosta IPS

28/Jun/2004 La posibilidad de mayor espacio para un tema
tradicionalmente silenciado por los medios de comunicación
social en Cuba, empezó a vislumbrarse durante los dos años
que precedieron al XVI Congreso Mundial de Sexología,
realizado en marzo de 2003 en La Habana.

More information about the Marxism mailing list