Ivan Garcia, 30 June 2016 — “Beyoncé” — that’s what she likes to be called — prostitutes herself for less than two dollars on the outskirts of the old bus stop of Víbora, 30 minutes by car from the center of Havana.
By day she’s an “emerging teacher” in a secondary school, that is one of a class of teachers created due to the shortage of experienced teachers who begin training in the 11th grade at age 16 and take over a classroom while they’re still teenagers themselves. By night she goes out to hunt clients on the Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October] roadway, dressed as a woman. She wears a blond wig, a clinging dress, high-heeled shoes, too much makeup and a cheap, penetrating perfume that she combines with an imitation-Gucci handbag and some false eyelashes imported from Miami.
Beyoncé remembers that three years ago they summoned her to the municipal recruitment committee to take a medical exam that endorsed her admission to General Military Service.
“When I arrived dressed as a woman, an official sent me home. With an angry tone, he told me: ’You have to be dressed appropriately when you come before State institutions.’ Among other things I told the Cro-Magnon: ’Boy, and perhaps I’ll show up nude.’ Then I asked him: ’We gays don’t have the right to defend the homeland?’ The soldier turned around and left,” says the Havanan transvestite.
According to Beyoncé, the recruitment office didn’t even bother to summon her. “I don’t like military life, but it would be an interesting experience to be surrounded by so many males. You can imagine the number of men I could sleep with. They would call me ’Beyoncé the canteen’,” she says, smiling.
Serguey’s story was different. He always suspected that he was imprisoned in the wrong body. “From secondary school on I liked men. But I led a double life in order to not disgust my parents. I played basketball, I talked like a tough guy, but no woman interested me. I kept my homosexual relations hidden. When I finished pre-university, they called me for military service.”
Serguey continues remembering: “That was at the beginning of the ’90s. When the time came for the physical exam, I had to get naked and open my cheeks. Then the doctor who was there called me aside. It was like a police interrogation. I told him that yes, I was gay, but I didn’t want my family to know. They told me they wouldn’t tell, but an official told my father anyway. It’s not that I was interested in being a recruit, but I always wondered why a homosexual couldn’t be a soldier.”
Yosvany, a captain in the armed forces, points out that “according to the military regulation, gays, ex-convicts and counterrevolutionaries aren’t permitted to join the institution.”
When they ask him for the reasons, he explains: “Let’s speak clearly. Just because they tolerate homosexuals now doesn’t mean that we have to accept them everywhere. In the army as in the police, you need virility and responsible behavior. A criminal isn’t going to respect a police officer wearing feathers. And in the armed forces a gay could be more patriotic than anyone, but he’s a hindrance because of his inappropriate conduct. That’s the norm not only in Cuba. I believe there’s no army in the world that accepts gays in their ranks.”
Argelio, a former Major in the armed forces, recognizes that among the officers and recruits, “from time to time a fag slips through. It happens. I’ve been in units where there were cases of homosexual relations. But when it happens, ipso facto, the solider or officer gets a dishonorable discharge.”
Osvaldo, a historian, considers “that military institutions tend to be very retrograde. Although in the history of Cuba there are examples of revolutionary leaders with homosexual conduct or moral standards, it doesn’t agree with society. There is credible proof that José Martí, our national hero, the fruit of an extra-marital relationship with Carmen Miyares, fathered María Mantilla. Also, among some mambises (guerrilla Cuban soldiers who fought against Spain in the wars for independence) there was homosexuality. The most rumored was the supposed loving relationship of Antonio Maceo with Panchito Gómez Toro, his aide and the son of Máximo Gómez. Whether true or false, they are never going to stop being heroes of the fatherland.
Fidel Castro, a bulletproof homophobe, since his university years was the friend of the deceased Alfredo Guevara, an explicit homosexual. Carlos, a sociologist, recognizes that “the Cuban Government has taken a huge leap in recognizing the LGBT community. But it’s taking only half-measures to legalize homosexual marriage, accept gays in the army or promote government ministers who are openly homosexual.”
Norge, a retired doctor, remembers “that in the middle of the ’60s, research commissions were created to study the causes of homosexual behavior and their possible cures with hormonal medication. In the UMAP forced labor camps, many gays served as guinea pigs.”
Mariela Castro, the daughter of the autocrat Raúl Castro, who has undertaken a national and international crusade in favor of the LGBT community — if and only if they don’t dissent from the regime — hasn’t managed to get the Council of State and the one-note National Parliament to authorize homosexuals as members of the armed forces.
The intransigence toward accepting people with a different sexuality doesn’t affect only military institutions. Inside the dissidence in Cuba, explicit homosexuality is also taboo.
In a macho and homophobic society like Cuba’s, where the Government prohibits political differences, gay and lesbian opponents don’t openly reveal their homosexuality. And they bet on staying in the closet.
Translated by Regina Anavy