Mariela Castro Hub




Cuba Elects First Trans Woman Lawmaker, Adela Hernandez

CubanprideAdela Hernandez made history in Cuba this week after winning a municipal election and becoming the island's first transgendered elected official. And it's quite a turn around from her experience growing up on the communist island:

From ABC News:

Adela Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for "dangerousness" after her own family denounced her sexuality.

This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.

In a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to grueling work camps in the countryside, Hernandez, 48, hailed her election as yet another milestone in a gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.

"As time evolves, homophobic people — although they will always exist — are the minority," Hernandez said by phone from her hometown.

Cuba has slowly but surely been making headway on LGBT rights: Activists there have held gay pride "strolls" and Mariela Castro, daughter of current president Raul, has been advocating for civil unions there. Hernandez's election is just another step in the right, rather than the "Right," direction.


Ahead Of Gay Pride, Cuban Activists Stage Kiss-In To Pressure Communist Government

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LGBT activists in Cuba held a kiss-in yesterday to raise awareness of their continued oppression in the communist nation. They also presented Parliament with a list of demands, including investigations into 60s-era roundups of gay Cubans, laws that respect equality and more police protections against hate crimes.

The action comes just days before Cuba holds its second gay pride and was organized by a group called Project Rainbow, which calls itself an "independent and anti-capitalist LGBT group."

The Miami Herald offers some more details:

"Our document calls on the Cuban government to fully comply with international agreements it has signed on human rights, especially those that apply to LGBT rights," [activist Ignacio] Estrada said after delivering the petition [to Parliament].

The petition also calls on lawmakers to launch an investigation of the Military Units to Aid Production, or UMAPs — hard-labor camps created by Fidel Castro during the 1960s to detain homosexuals and government critics — and requests trials for government officials responsible for the camps.

Activists are also demanding that authorities stop applying the vaguely worded crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” to gays and instead investigate complaints of those who are beaten or fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation, Estrada said.

Cuban society has made small steps toward accepting their LGBT comrades — thanks in large part to Mariela Castro, daughter of current president Raul and Fidel's niece — but is still ruled by a macho culture that denigrates and dismisses homosexuality.


Not All Gay Activists Cheering Mariela Castro's U.S. Visit

MarielaCastroMariela Castro, daughter of current Cuban president Raul Castro and niece of infamous leader Fidel, traveled to the United States this week to fight for LGBT rights, a cause she has championed for years in her home country.

"If we don't change our patriarchal and homophobic culture...we cannot advance as a new society, and that's what we want, the power of emancipation through socialism," Ms. Castro told medical professionals at a lecture in San Francisco yesterday. "We will establish relationships on the basis of social justice and social equality...It seems like a Utopia, but we can change it."

While many people are cheering Castro's advocacy, the Miami Herald reports that many LGBT Cubans are crying foul.

"For Mariela Castro, or anybody else under the Castro dictatorship, to say they are representing the rights of anyone is an insult to the hundreds of thousands who have either been killed, jailed or assassinated by their own hands, or the nearly 100,000 people who’ve jumped into the ocean looking for freedom who haven’t made it here," Herb Sosa, executive director of the Hispanic gay rights group Unity Coalition, told the paper.

Miami resident Pedro S. Romanach also voiced opposition, saying that despite Castro's efforts, there are still fundamental rights that Cubans, gay and straight alike, lack: She may be pro-gay marriage, but the very elementary rights Cubans don’t have — freedom of the press, freedom of assembly — gay people don’t have those rights in Cuba. Neither do straights."

He went on, "She doesn’t represent anybody but herself. The real heroes in Cuba are the gay people who are pro-gay and pro-freedom and the anti-communists who aren’t getting any publicity.”


Mariela Castro Leads Gay Rights Parade Through Streets Of Havana

CastroMariela Castro, noted sexologist and daughter of Cuban president Raul, led a gay rights march in Havana on Saturday. From the AP:

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro said ... that her father advocated eliminating sexual discrimination, and reiterated her own hope the country would soon legalize same sex marriage.

Mariela Castro, a noted gay rights advocate and head of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, also repeated her praise for U.S. President Barack Obama's public remarks in favor of same sex marriage, saying the American leader's words "have great value because of the influence they might have" on others.

Castro moderated her praise of the president, noting that although his words are lovely, there is as yet no federal push to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.

Castro claimed that her father supports marriage equality as well, even though he's never spoken publicly on the subject. She insists he's "working behind the scenes" to bring about change in the island nation's marital law:

"[Working quietly] is surely part of his tactics and strategy; it is his style," she said. "I am not going to pressure him to say things publically, because I am more interested in concrete results."

Castro is hopeful that the Cuban parliament will address marriage equality when they convene in July. If they do, it will represent a rapid evolution in Cuba's stance on same-sex relationships: as recently as 2004, Havana's police were still raiding gay and drag parties.


Independent Groups Hold Gay Pride 'Stroll' in Havana

A Gay Pride "stroll" organized by groups independent of Cuba's "pro-government LGBT groups controlled by Raúl Castro’s daughter Mariela" took place in Havana yesterday:

Havana Waving rainbow colored flags, dozens of LGBT activists and supporters joined what was described as Cuba’s first gay street demonstration not sponsored by the government in recent memory. The event drew a strong police presence but went off without incident.

Leannes Imbert, whose Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Observatory organized the event, had said that she was inviting everyone, even Mariela Castro, to the stroll — not a protest or a march because those might have required police permits.

But the event was clearly designed to highlight differences with the “official” LGBT groups backed by the first daughter, who has argued that Gay Pride parades are “protests” not needed in Cuba because the country’s laws protect gay rights.

Cubans have marched for gay rights before, but Mariela Castro was directly involved.

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez writes about yesterday's event here.

Video of the march, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Independent Groups Hold Gay Pride 'Stroll' in Havana" »


Cubans March For Gay Rights In Havana

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The march took place as part of this weekend's International Day Against Homophobia. Hundreds of people took part in what is reported to be a violent-free parade, unlike what happened in Belarus earlier today.

The AP reports:

Hundreds of gay and lesbian activists, some dressed in drag and others sporting multicolored flags representing sexual diversity, marched and danced through the streets of Havana on Saturday along with the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro as part of a celebration aimed at eliminating homophobia around the world.

Some of the marchers played drums and others walked on stilts as they made their way down a wide avenue in the capital's hip Vedado neighborhood, where they have held a series of debates and workshops ahead of the May 17 celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia.

Said President Castro's daughter and longtime-time LGBT rights advocate Mariela Castro, who is in the center of the photo above: "We have made progress, but we need to make more progress."

Related, The Havana Times has published an interview with a young Cuban lesbian about living as an openly gay person in that country. When asked if gay men "suffer more police persecution than gay women," she responded:

"We all are socially pressured, and not only through police harassment but also from social rejection,  gestures or expressions, and when we don’t receive proper treatment in some place because someone is a “too mannish” or “too loose,” and consequently they’re discriminated against.  I don’t know if lesbians or if gays are the more rejected.  I think lesbians are harassed more; men tend to give looser reins to their ghoulish instincts without realizing that it doesn’t please us.  On the other hand, they humiliate us by subjecting us to their obscenities, often in public."


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