Cuba slowly accepting LGBT community
Being gay in Cuba means many still have to live a double life
Will Ripley, CNN
Published: December 10, 2015, 1:30 am Updated: December 10, 2015, 1:30 am
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HAVANA (CNN) – As Cuba opens its doors to American visitors, the
government is encouraging more gay tourism.
After decades of persecution, new laws to protect LGBT rights mark a
dramatic turnaround for the Castro regime.
The show goes on at 2:00AM. Havana's drag queen cabaret. Lip syncing six
nights a week as cocktails flow and crowds grow. Cuba's underground gay
scene slowly becoming mainstream. A new club, the latest to openly cater
to LGBT customers.
"Now there's a boom. All the bars want to have drag queens," says
Kiriam, who began performing in secret 21 years ago. She takes us to a
tiny dressing room packed with female impersonators. Some do drag full time.
"Ten years ago," she says, "we might have been scared to perform or even
to meet in certain places."
A decade ago, Cubans could still go to prison for public displays of
homosexuality. In the 1960's and 70's, the Castro regime persecuted
sexual minorities, sending some people to labor camps. In recent years,
Fidel Castro himself has admitted responsibility for the quote, "great
Today, President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela Castro runs the national
center for sex education, Cuba's only state agency advocating for LGBT
rights. Cuba offers free sex change surgery and has among the world's
lowest rates of HIV and AIDs.
Kiriam says she's a "health promoter." However, critics say the Cuban
government overlooks a huge problem in the LGBT community. Prostitution
is rampant at gay cruising spots like the Malecon here in Havana. It
really surged during the Cuban economic crisis around 20 years ago and
continues today. The reason? Money.
Sex workers catering to foreigners can earn more in a single night than
a Cuban doctor makes in a month. Several men we spoke to say "gay for
pay" is one of many issues ignored by Cuba's mainstream LGBT activists.
Raiko Pin Nuñez, a Cuban blogger, says it's still complicated to be
openly gay on the communist-run island, "For example, if I walked down
the street right now holding my partner's hand it would not be taken
well. People would stare, make comments."
The topic is so sensitive, pin asks us to interview him away from his
friends at the public wi-fi hotspot where he runs his own YouTube
channel. He says his family accepts him but all of his ex-boyfriends
have left Cuba. He says those who stay are still forced to lead "una
doble vida" – a double life.
"My dream is to get married, to have kids. To have the same rights as
someone who is straight. But here it's complicated," said Nuñez.
He dreams of equality. And the end of homophobia that still permeates
Cuban society. A dream even the most optimistic LGBT advocates say is
likely decades away.
Source: Cuba slowly accepting LGBT community | WWLP.com -