Visiting the quiet LGBT revolution in Cuba
For members of the LGBT community who love to travel, the prospect of visiting Cuba may seem far-fetched given that country’s past history of persecution and social exclusion of its own LGBT people.
But surprisingly, Cuba is reportedly opening up to a quiet LGBT revolution.
In Yahoo’s series of web articles exploring the thawing relationship between Cuba and the US one year after the two countries opened up to each other, it noted that Cuba is also opening up not only to its own LGBT community but also to those outside.
Is it safe for LGBT to visit Cuba?
Writing for Yahoo, Kenny Porpora asked the important question in mind: is it safe for LGBT people to visit the supposedly gay-friendly Cuba?
“Yes, the same Cuba that once imprisoned the gay poet Reinaldo Arenas and others just like him is reportedly opening its doors to the gay community. With that said, if I were a gay traveler, I’d be wary,” Porpora said.
Porpora noted that with the country undergoing ideological transition, the Cuban government began to support gay rights at the United Nations in 2010 and even elected its first transgender politician in 2012.
Moreover, in 2015, Cuba’s tourism offices started to offer LGBT-focused press trips by flying in journalists from mainstream gay travel magazines.
“With all the progress, members of the LGBT community visiting the country would be wise to curb their expectations. The land of the Castros is still a far cry from the land of the Castro– San Francisco’s gay neighborhood and ultimate gay mecca,” Porpora said.
“It’s important to remember that for all its political gains and evolved, progressive LGBT policies, it’s still difficult to be gay in Cuba, and Americans should proceed with caution,” he added.
He did point out areas where LGBT people could go, like the Vedado in the most modern part of Havana and a popular gay beach in Mi Cayito. In Santa Clara, there is also Club Mujunje, a gay club that holds drag shows one night a week.
However, there’s not much of a night life in Havana as most bars close at midnight. There are also no official gay bars in the Cuban capital.
The reason behind Cuba’s LGBT revolution
There is basis to hope that Cuba’s transition involves the LGBT. Namely, the niece of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is leading the change: Mariela Castro, Cuba’s first daughter and its most vocal political activist for the LGBT community.
Mariela Castro is also the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), as well as a member of parliament.
Talking with Yahoo’s Garance Franke-Ruta, Mariela Castro said, “We have had significant change. The Communist Party has established the fight against homophobia as a guideline. This is quite different from what there was before.”
“There is a dialogue within Cuban society. Even in the LGBT community, which was set apart, people have acquired skills to work better as activists, to become a power and promoters of change,” she added.
With regard to how the Cuban government had treated its LGBT people, she said: “In those years, homophobia was worse in society, when it came to studying, to getting a decent job or a place to live. And there was the fantasy of the perfect revolution. But we were inventing socialism, not a utopia.”
“But because hopes were so high, any mistake was judged harshly. The rest of the world was as homophobic as we were, or worse,” she added.
“The most important thing for me is banish homophobia, [to foster] the sense of personal independence that comes with emancipation. That’s what we’re trying to do in this experiment of creating a just and fair society,” she said of trying to change the perspective of Cuba in relation to the LGBT people.