The Subject of Gays Is Not A Priority On the Island / Iván García

The gross behavior of numerous gays provokes ill will in a sector of the Cuban populace. There isn’t a ferocious homophobia on the island, but the priority that they want to give the subject from the highest spheres of power disgusts many.

In a country where two meals a day is a true luxury, and from when someone gets up to until he goes to bed, he suffers a fistful of material shortages, slow and inefficient services whether its to deal with some paperwork or catch a bus, to present the subject of gays as a national debate is to avoid the real problems that affect the common citizen.

In a poll of 30 people, 21 accept a legal space and respect for homosexuals. In return, they insist that they comply with basic norms of social conduct.

The 9 others don’t accept that doors should be overtly open to gays. To them, there are more important problems than a marriage between queers or sex change surgery.

Marisol, 24, has nothing against ”poofs”, as she calls them too. “I see with my own eyes that they’re passing laws to support them. But I don’t believe that sex change operations should be more important than raising the quality of life or having free access to the Internet. The gay matter is a smoke screen to give the world the appearance of liberalism”.

Recently, on the program “Passage to the Unknown”, conducted by the journalist Reinaldo Taladrid, Cuban Television broadcast a documentary debate on the subject. It was titled “Taboo”, and was preceded by an interview with Mariela Castro Espín, daugher of the Cuban president and director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).

The documentary gave its viewers a rash and unleashed a full interchange of opinions among average Cubans, who reproached the docile position of the journalist vis-a-vis his interviewee.

In international forums, Castro Espín is the promoter of legal and public initiatives, from instituting the 17th of May as Gay Pride Day, to asking for a repeal to the regulations that impede homosexuals from enlisting in military service, legalizing gay marriages, allowing gays to adopt children and to have sex change surgery.

Oscar, a 32 year-old professor, resident of Santa Clara, understands that gays have legal rights and should be tolerated by the populace, but considers it unacceptable that they spend millions of pesos on media campaigns in favor of homosexuals, when the country has broken its budget and decreed policies of saving.

He also sees as a contradiction that one would want to fill different clinics with sexual surgeries, when in actuality the majority of Cuban hospitals present a desolate sight, with bad food and dangerous conditions, which oblige relatives of admitted patients to bring buckets, blankets, and fans.

According to Oscar, that money should be spent in the repair of hospitals or expanding in vitro fertilization services. For him, procreation among infertile couples is more useful than having homosexuals change their sexes.

The 30 questioned agreed that the gay subject is a secondary concern. There are more urgent freedoms, such as how to elect one’s leaders in free elections; eliminating the requirement to have a travel permit to enter and leave the country, and the ability to buy and sell houses and cars.

Renato, retired, 72, asks for a harder hand against homosexuals. “They shouldn’t go to jail for being queer. But the government and the authorities should isolate them from public spaces they’ve taken over. Children and neighbors don’t have to look at the indecencies of those perverts”.

A full segment of the populace grew up listening to homophobic and repressive talk. Forty-five years have passed from the era in which gays were incarcerated or sent to forced labor camps for having a different sexual orientation — to today, where the homosexual tide occupies places and parks, they show themselves off cross-dressed and organize spicy parties in the open air.

It might seem like a long time. But in Cuba there exists a nucleus of ideological Talibans who won’t adapt to the acrobatic rhetoric of the Castro Brothers.

Yesterday, they say, they were talking of severity towards queers, emigrants, and private workers. Today, they permit the self-confidence of gays, applaud private businesses, and adulate the old ‘worms’ (exiles), a principal source of hard currency coming into the country.

The old revolutionaries, fighters in the African wars and defenders of “socialism or death” think that the Castros have changed shirts. They’re raising buzzards, and they’ll pluck your eyes out.

Foto: Laritza Diversent. Gays and transvestites have turned the Malecon into a nighttime meeting spot.

February 18 2011