“Last May I had the pleasure of hearing Mariela Castro, daughter of current Cuban president Raúl Castro and niece of the infamous dictator Fidel Castro, speak while she was visiting on her extremely controversial trip to the United States,” writes David Duran on todays’ Huff Post. “ The following night I was fortunate enough to be granted direct access to her at a private event where I was able to hear more about her efforts to change Cuba with respect to human rights issues, particularly LGBT rights”.
“Mariela’s mother, Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois, was a revolutionary who was the head of the Federation of Cuban Women and helped change policy and the lives of women in her country. There’s no doubt that her daughter didn’t fall far from the tree. On her visit to the U.S., she spoke of Cuba’s progress toward LGBT rights and how Cuba was leading the way. She also hinted that she was not as impressed with where the United States currently is with regard to LGBT rights.
“Honestly, it was hard to truly believe what she was saying about her country. When most think of Cuba, they think of repressed people, dictatorship and depression. Some may also recall 1979’s “public scandal” laws that sentenced those who “publicly flaunted their homosexual condition” to between three months and one year in prison. The 1979 penal code also categorized “homosexual acts in public, or in private but exposed to being involuntarily seen by other people” as “crimes against the normal development of sexual relations.” Moreover, hearing her express her support for her uncle and the revolution left a sickening confusion as to who she really is and whether there is an agenda behind her support for the LGBT community in Cuba.
“Being Cuban-American and gay, this topic fascinates me. Before seeing Mariela Castro speak, I had never been to Cuba or endured any of the revolution or its aftermath. I grew up in Southern California, which is conservative, to say the least, but I was never in danger of anything close to what gay Cubans (and many gay Americans, for that matter) have to deal with. Given the stories my family had told me about growing up in conservative Cuba, I was shocked at what Mariela was preaching. Looking back, my Cuban family didn’t take my coming out as harshly as I thought they did at the time. It was mostly just denial and not talking about my life in front of family members. That’s all different now, and I am loved and accepted by my family and am grateful to them. After hearing how Cuba was changing, I finally felt a deep connection to my mother’s homeland and a longing to visit it, so I did.
“This trip was a chance not only to connect with family I had never met but to engage with Cubans and hear what they have to say about all the changes and victories for their LGBT community. Mariela, who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, decided to take her fight in strides, focusing on one issue over the course of a year. She went on national television and educated the population first. With the support of the people, she then took her fight to her father and his government, where, surprisingly enough, she got through to them. First focusing on transgender rights, Mariela broke ground by helping pass legislation to allow gender reassignment surgery to be covered under the basic government health care system. The next year she took on the issues of gay men, followed by those of the bisexual population, and most recently she focused her efforts on HIV services for all, as well as on Cuba’s lesbians. After talking to many of Mariela’s activists and volunteers, I can’t help but think that what’s potentially around the corner could be monumental for Cuba.”
For more of the story, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-duran/is-cuba-taking-the-lead-on-lgbt-equality-in-latin-america_b_