A Viewpoint Regarding Everyday Homophobia / Dora Leonor Mesa

The Motherland is joy for all, pain for all and heaven for all,
and nobody’s fiefdom or chaplaincy.
Jose Marti

In Cuba’s educator circles, the proper attention to the sexual orientation of students is lacking.

In my judgement we are a homophobic society whether in a conscious way or not. Matter of fact, some of the worst insults used against others are: “tortillera” (lesbian) or “pajaro” (gay). There were other times when other defiant expressions were “marimacha” for females, and “pato“, “flojo” or “loca” for males.

The few advances in the matter of sexual diversity that have occurred in the country are a function of several factors, some of them, inevitable. The population up to a point have gained some comprehension and interest regarding this matter, a change in postures towards homosexuality timidly comes forward.

It is not difficult for an experienced teacher to discern with much effectiveness the sexual orientation of pupils in an elementary school The attitude that teachers take, for lack of better strategies and training, swings between “alerting” the parents to “turning a blind eye,” in the event that the heterosexuality of the boy or the girl is not “properly defined”, only to be commented upon on later among the teachers themselves.

The theme of homosexuality has been taken up with more or less success by visual artists, film directors — the well received “Fresas y Chocolate” (“Strawberries and Chocolate“) is a good example — as well as intellectuals and writers. The climax arrived with Mariela Castro, director of CENESEX, The Cuban Center for Sex Education, and wide diffusion of her objectives. Other initiatives in favor of the rights of lesbians and gays gain strength. Among the most recognized is Observatorio Cubano de los Derechos LGBT (“Cuban Observatory for LGBT Rights”) directed by Leannes Imbert Acosta.

From my perspective on the matter, any citizen initiative in favor of minority human rights is valid. In the case of gays or lesbians it must pointed out that the suffering inflicted on them in the majority of classrooms is real. Any manifestation from an adolescent is to some extent emotive, but if the adolescent is gay or lesbian, it is qualified as exaggerated or indecent.

The cases of physical or psychological assault on both boys and girls in secondary and college preparatory education are not rare, coming from their classmates as much as from teachers. Some years ago I witnessed how the assistant principal of a secondary school humiliated a pupil on a daily basis while all of us fathers and mothers of students were almost convinced that the teacher was also gay. The attitude of the child’s family seemed inexplicable to me always. I learned later that the knowledge and courage required to come to the defense of someone has to wend its way through one’s own self-esteem and the laws or training related to conflict resolution.

Several transsexual weddings have been celebrated in Cuba. Mere drops in the ocean of ignorance and disgust with which the majority of the citizens look at them. The scant information about the topic, the prejudices of centuries, add even more fuel to the fire of the difficulties that accompany this part of our Youth.

The Education Ministry in Cuba and civil society along with other entities, state or not, have talented professionals, ready to take an interest in this matter, and create proper communication. All it needs is space to work in peace and trust.

The State needs more people interested in being teachers or collaborators within the teaching system; as such, it should show the indispensable concern and generosity to help many more of the ones who today – lesbians and gays – are students and who tomorrow, who knows, may be highly qualified citizens, ceaseless workers, renowned scientists. They are Cubans, they are worthy of the full enjoyment of their lives and successes. The right to be proud of their sexuality belongs to them.

Translated by: lapizcero

September 29 2011