A controversy broke out last January about the ‘quinquenio gris’ (refers to a gray period, variously interpreted as being of five to fifteen years), as the censorship and homophobic discrimination of the Seventies is remembered. Mariela, who participated in the debate, was asked if the discussion would have to extend to other aspects of the past like penalisation of “ostentatious” homosexuality or the agricultural camps where people of that orientation were interned.
She points out that “in the history of a human being, errors are made and one has to go on learning and taking lessons from those mistakes. But institutions also commit errors and have to be capable of recognising why it was a mistake and what it is going to do so that the mistakes are not repeated, what laws have to be established, which values have to be instituted”.
“The errors which
Reviewing the achievements and obstacles in overcoming the decades of discrimination, Mariela considers that the Cuban media “still timidly approaches” sexual diversity. “They are losing the fear”: last year a telenovela which tackled male bisexuality caused an intense social controversy; the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) has a section on sex; television approaches the theme in a comedy programmes and a short drama was broadcast about a lesbian pair.
But prejudice is still deep-rooted in society and in the government: “There still are institutions that take the right to decide if a lesbian, gay or transsexual person can or not occupy a post.” In the educational sector “we have achieved very little”: schools turn down transsexuals who wish to dress according to their real sex… they are vulnerable to mockery and rejection and abandon studies. Cenesex speaks with the police about how to behave in public spaces with homosexuals or transsexuals: “there are people very grateful for that conversation though others are not so receptive”.
A group of transsexuals work at the centre getting ready to become health promoters “ so that society sees them that way and not as a curse”; there is another group of lesbians and in both cases they discuss common problems, at times with the participation of families. Hoping that the initiatives with reach their legislative passage, at a still to be determined date, Cenesex works to “educate the public that deserves to be informed before a thing like this is set on them from the blue. Because if not, the people will feel upset and broken”.
Published in La
Slightly abridged and translated from Spanish by Supriyo Chatterjee