Dreams and Desires of Gays in Havana / Iván García

He closes his eyes and sees himself with a bouquet of flowers, the white wedding veil and an 18-carat gold ring on his right index finger. And more. Roberto, 38, a gay hairdresser, wants to be married with all the trimmings, with children serving as pages and, as he emerges from the Havana Wedding Palace, people throwing rice. Lowering his voice he said, “My dreams is to be married by the church.”

And it is not only gays like Roberto trying to get homosexual marriage legalized in Cuba. Every night, in the dark street that runs parallel to the Malecon, queers of every kind and age gather to chat, flirt, drink rum and let their imaginations soar. They feel they are in their element.

For some time, the stretch between Maceo Park and the start of 23rd Street, La Rampa, has become the largest gay club in Havana’s nightlife. Those who are barely out of childhood, like Arturo, 14, who have left school to live off sex. Or Raimundo, 61, who defines himself as “an old faggot, unhappy and suffering, who hasn’t given up on finding a stable partner.”

Roberto the hairdresser also goes there. It was just a night this August when he met his current partner. “I feel very comfortable on the Malecon. My life did a complete U-Turn. To be hunting dicks on October 10 Street, to have a place to share and talk about our frustrations and aspirations. It’s very comforting.”

Among the dozen homosexuals I consulted they all agreed that the good manners with which the government treats them lately should be applauded. Even the police, they assert, have left off with the bad treatment and beatings. They see Mariele Castro, daughter of the general and president Raul Castro, as an icon. “She has done a lot for us, the queers. Now we have a gay pride day, May 17,” says Yasmani, a 25-year-old nurse.

Ruslán, 21, with his hair in spikes and wearing a T-shirt with gold letters from Dolce&Gabbana, wants to be a haute couture fashion model. “We go to gay parties and every month we organize fashion shows in a theater, without police interference. We see homophobia in their looks, but they don’t repress us. When they look at us like freaks it’s like anyone, and sometimes they insult us.”

But the twelve gays I interviewed want more. They summarized it in three demands that are essential to them: allowing legal marriages and adoption of children; the ability to occupy senior management positions or head up companies; and allowing them to have their own union, association or party.

Roberto doesn’t ask for too much. “I don’t see myself, a sissy my whole life, sitting in parliament discussing important topics, nor with a Cuban Communist Party card in my bag. That will not happen, nor do I want it. If they don’t let dissidents into their Party, I don’t think they’re going to let us have our own, even though there are more of us than there are dissidents.”

What the barber wants is to marry his boyfriend before a notary and in style. Better still if it were in a church. The other, he says, is asking too much.

Photo: AP. Day Against Homophobia Celebration in Havana, May 2010.

November 6, 2010