Cuban Day against Homophobia
Two weeks of campaigning activities and celebrations for Cuba’s 7th annual Day Against Homophobia took place between 6 - 17 May, and a CSC delegation of activists were in Havana to participate.
The strides that the country has made in moving forward on LGBT rights was recognised with Cuba hosting, for the first time, the regional conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGA-LAC). The international gathering of LGBT activists took place in Havana and Varadero from 6-10 May and many international participants stayed on for Cuba’s main day of celebrations in Havana on 10 May.
Francisco Gomez de Villaboa and Josina Calliste were part of the British delegation and share their experiences.
“As part of the CSC IDAHO delegation I was able to actively participate in IDAHO events and discovered a country plainly in evolution. Current international news about Cuba tends to focus on how it is developing its economic system, but generally people are not aware of how the country is continuing to fight for its citizens’ rights and dignity. I witnessed this first hand in the work they are doing with LGBT groups and on women rights. Although Cuba and Caribbean countries are often criticised for their homophobic cultures, I saw a Cuba that is completely breaking these stereotypes, thanks largely to the efforts of the government- funded National Centre for Sexual Education (CENESEX).
“I was very glad to see CENESEX working hard especially in family education throughout the country. Every year IDAHO activities are not only concentrated in the capital, but CENESEX also organises events in different parts of the country.
“For the first time ever, the influential television programme ‘Mesa Redonda’ (Round Table) had a panel discussion on “LGBT rights and Diversity.” Mariela Castro, director of CENESEX participated in this, and as part of the delegation we were also fortunate enough to meet with her too during our programme.
“As a photographer, working on a photographic project with transsexuals in Havana revealed to me that being a visible part of the LGBT Communities does not involve risk of being the victim of transphobia or homophobia. The transsexual community is very active and holds regular support meetings. Its members are diverse with many skills and qualifications. The inclusion of this community in Cuba could definitely be compared with any other European country where they don’t live constantly in threat.
“I believe the participation of international delegates in IDAHO activities is very important both in supporting the country’s work challenging homophobia at home, to show solidarity which is welcomed by activists on the island and to report back on what is really happening in Cuba.
“My experience in Cuba has definitely changed my life and my perception of the world. I cannot say that everything is perfect there but it is beautiful to enjoy this experience in a peaceful country with different values.”
“The numbers at this year’s IDAHO Conga in Havana were boosted by international delegates from the IGLA-LAC conference which made it an interesting experience.
“CENESEX put a lot of work into hosting the conference which I also attended, and it was amazing to see how different countries celebrate Pride. In Cuba it is very different to how we celebrate it in the UK and USA where it is sponsored by commercial organisations.
“After only seven years Cuban IDAHO is growing and there is a lot of energy and commitment from the activists involved. Being part of the IGLA-LAC conference and IDAHO delegation we got a lot of access to people involved.
“Cuba is very relevant regionally. Although it is often talked about form a Latin American perspective, it is part of the Caribbean and compares very positively to a lot of English speaking Caribbean countries in attitudes towards LGBTI people.”