Cuba/Homophobia: It's Never Too Late
May 14, 2013
By Yusimí Rodríguez
HAVANA TIMES — Though chiefly devoted to celebrating joy and freedom,
the gathering held at Havana's Cuba Pavilion (Pabellon Cuba) every year
as part of Cuba's Campaign against Homophobia activities has more than a
fun time to offer.
This past Saturday, a small corner of the pavilion became the venue of
the Liberation Theology Forum organized by Cuba's Martin Luther King
Center and the Arnulfo Romero Study Group. Chaired by Pastor Daylin
Rufin, the forum holds debates on issues related to sexual diversity.
Jane Hardin, a woman from the southern United States – where, in her
words, "there are no gays, or so I thought" and was on hand to
participate in Saturday's parade – was among the invitees who shared
their experiences with forum participants.
Hardin told us that, after thirty years of marriage (during which time
she had two daughters), "I found myself, got a divorce and moved in with
my partner. I've been a declared lesbian for eighteen years. It's never
too late to come out."
I can't begin to describe how moved I was by this woman's courage. If
it's difficult for a young woman struggles to overcome social prejudice
and family pressures, to assume her sexual orientation, I imagine how
difficult it must have been for a married woman with two grown
daughters. It wasn't hard for her daughters to accept it, she later told
me, precisely because they are younger.
I tried to hold on to this woman's words later, when the forum came to a
close and people began to leave the pavilion, to return to a world of
mockery, prejudice, discrimination, male chauvinism and patriarchal
I tried to tell myself that it might not be too late for society as a
whole, even when it's a question of changing deeply-rooted and age-old
ways of thinking. But it is hard to do this when I hear and read
frightening opinions; some published in Havana Times, like the statement
that same-sex marriages should not be permitted because they would lead
to the extinction of the human race.
Such statements would be funny were they not ultimately so
disheartening. We've become so used to the idea of war, so accustomed to
famines that ravish entire populations around the globe, that we barely
flinch when we see news of these things on the TV. Or we simply ignore
such news. We care little about the issue of global warming.
But the idea that a group of people should be able to exercise the right
to marry whoever they please is horrifying for us. How many people die,
or are killed before they are even born, as a result of wars, natural
catastrophes, hunger? How many died in fascist concentration camps? Does
anyone seriously believe the world would be a safer place without
Homosexuality does not preclude the wish to start a family.
Homosexuality is not responsible for the drop in births Cuba has
experienced. Many homosexuals want to make use of artificial
insemination to procreate, or adopt children.
Many still affirm that marriage is a religious institution. I think even
heterosexuals should start to worry. What I mean to say is that there
are some who believe not even they should have the right to marry, that
only Christians should be entitled to this. I am terrified by those who
invoke God to curtail a person's rights.
But I am even more bemused by those who affirm that legalizing same-sex
marriages and accepting homosexuality as "normal" sets a bad example for
young generations. I wonder if they are just as worried by the violence
in the movies these young generations are watching. Aren't they worried
about the example these films could be setting for them?
Fears are so rampant that some have expressed they are concerned that
homosexuality could become the norm, when a norm is precisely what we
should not have for something as personal and intimate as our sexuality.
Months ago, a friend told me that she, her husband and son had watched
the American film "If These Walls Could Talk." The first story in the
film is about a couple of old women who have lived together their entire
lives. When one of the two dies, her nephew shows up and claims all of
her properties, including her house, as her closest relative.
The woman she had spent most of her life with, who is a mere friend
before the Law, is left out on the street. At the end of the movie, my
friend's son said: "That's why we need same-sex marriages."
Just so you know, my friend's son is a perfectly heterosexual teenager.
Homophobia, prejudice, blinkered mindsets, these things are very hard to
uproot. It takes society years to get rid of them. Not even the Cuban
government, which, over the last few years, has undertaken a breakneck
campaign aimed at changing (and, if possible, effacing) its former
attitude towards homosexuals, cannot change things overnight.
I wonder if those who govern us secretly conserve their prejudices and
their intolerance, at a time when the struggle against homophobia seems
part and parcel of their attempts to rejuvenate socialism.
Looking back, I do recognize that nothing remotely resembling a campaign
of activities against homophobia or a Liberation Theology forum would
have been thinkable in the seventies or eighties, not even in the nineties.
This retrospective look, teenagers like my friend's son and the words
Pastor Rufin shared with us during the forum, where she invited us to
see God in everything and everyone, to be inclusive, to broaden our
circles, leaves me with the hope that it may not be too late for our
society to change.