Fighting homophobia is a right


There has been a social trend to separate, segregate and reject "strange" or "different" people in Cuba.

It is a fact that non-heterosexual people have often been made fun of, excluded and persecuted.

"We do not need to change words, but meanings," said Mariela Castro, director of the National Sex Education Center (CENESEX).

She delivered a lecture along these lines at a panel (Humanity Means Diversity) last May 4, at the Dulce M. Loynaz Cultural Center in Havana.

"Associating lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals (LGTBs) with Satan has deprived them of their rights," she emphasized.

Speaking at the event, Cuban writer Víctor Fowler said that the term homosexuality had been developed in 1866.

Castro indicated that medicine has made significant contributions to the study of human beings, but has often used stereotypes to deal with sexuality.

"Homosexuality was for long considered a mental disease. It was only in 1990 when the World Health Organization endorsed the criteria of the American Psychiatry Association and removed homosexuality and bisexuality from its list of mental diseases," she recalled.

There were numerous attempts to "cure" homosexuals here. "A local psychiatrist told me once that I needed to have sex with animals to overcome my confusion," said Bernardo, a 62-year-old retiree.

"That was in the early 1970s, when I had not come out of the closet yet," he told SEMlac.

Those were really difficult years for homosexuals on the island. They were not allowed to take certain jobs and were taken to work camps along with religious people and any other people who did not share the ideology of the revolution.

"I suffered a lot repressing my sexual urges. I got married and had kids. Years later, I got divorced, came out of the closet, had a boyfriend, and was really happy," he commented.

"Over-control and repression always have an extremely negative impact on people," Fowler stressed.

CENESEX and some social organizations have based their educational strategies on respect for and recognition of LGTB people.

"We have moved from a biomedical to a rights-based approach," Castro said.

"It is very difficult to fight dogmas that are taken as science," she added.

Local experts favor the idea of no longer considering transsexuality as a disease, as recommended by the Cuban Society for Multidisciplinary Sexuality Studies (SOCUMES) last year.

"Ignoring the needs of these people does them harm, but trying to meet such needs from a power position is even worse," she added.

"We are fighting not only homophobia, but also other forms of discrimination," she noted.

"They include forms of discrimination based on gender, race, origin, language and religion," she added.

"We strongly oppose the idea of depriving some people of opportunities and granting privileges to others," she concluded.

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