Socialism Yes, Homophobia No - Cuba celebrates its 9th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

News from Cuba | Thursday, 26 May 2016

"Socialism Yes, Homophobia No" chant on the 2016 IDAHOT parade in Havana

More than 1,000 people took part in Cuba’s 9th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDOHOT) celebrations in Havana on Saturday 14 May.

Mariela Castro, President of the National Centre for Sexual Education (CENESEX), led the parade, together with international guests including transgender US actress Candis Cayne. Popular Cuban comedian, Luis Silva, also joined the colourful conga along Havana’s Malecon and 23rd Street to the Pavillion outdoor exhibition and convert space. Silva is best known for his comic character Pánfilo, who made international headlines when he invited Obama to appear on his weekly sketch show during the US President’s visit in March.

The parade was part of a larger awareness and empowerment campaign that ran from 10 - 21 May, including activities in the province of Matanzas.

Celebrations included film shows, seminars, round table discussions, a cultural gala and a sports festival for diversity, all with the aim of promoting awareness about LGBT rights and the campaign against homophobia and transphobia in Cuba.

Many events were organised by CENESEX, a state-funded organisation which promotes equalities, sexual and LGBT rights, and runs diversity projects to educate and challenge prejudices within Cuban society. As a result of CENESEX’s work, the National Assembly approved a labor law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2014, and free gender reassignment surgery has been available since 2008.

Addressing crowds after the parade Castro explained that this year, IDAHO activities were focussing for a second time on campaigning for homophobia and transphobia free work spaces. In previous years CENESEX’s work had focussed on family environments, but that now the organisation was building links with the Cuban trade union movement to raise awareness in the workplace. She welcomed the new labour code which prohibits discrimination based on sexuality, but added more needed to be done to prevent discrimination based on gender identity which had not been included in the updated legislation.

Mariela also gave a strong message to groups opposing the Cuban Revolution in Miami that the IDAHO parade in Havana and fight for LGBT rights was indivisible to the Cuban people’s fight against the blockade. Many in the US have attempted to equate LGBT activism in Cuba with anti-government campaigns. Indeed some US media reports attempted to spin this year’s activities were part of these - ignoring the fact that CENESEX is state funded and that activists were carrying signs which read, “I include myself - No to the blockade.”

IDAHOT is a global initiative to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of the violence, discrimination and repression still experienced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) communities worldwide. The 17 May date was chosen to mark the day in 1990 that homosexuality was removed from the World Health Organisation’s list of classified diseases.

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