People's Weekly World
March 29, 1980

from the staff
To be gay in Cuba


Perhaps the second most frequent question asked of at least this visitor to Cuba. upon returning is: What about gays? (The first usually is: Are the Cubans really happy?) Assuming that the questioners are well disposed toward the struggling socialist country (I hardly ever meet the other kind), those questions are hard to answer without first going into the political-historic background of Cuba itself.

Male supremacy, the heritage of capitalism and the Catholic church, pervades with its attitudes of intolerance toward homosexuals and - still - towards women. Such male supremacy, not a peculiarly Latino problem, dies hard.

Questioned about the Cuban Communist Party's attitude, a spokesperson -- Manuel Lee -- told a visiting lesbian lawyer, Patti Roberts (Guild Notes. January 1979), that "the Party could not go faster than the people and (he) expressed the idea that it simply hadn't become a priority yet...This seemed to be based on the assumption that gay oppression was not directly connected with the productive capabilities of an underdeveloped country."

Although Roberts said Cubans look upon homosexuality as a psychological aberration, this is not the view of a doctor at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, according to a recent gay visitor. He was told that, no, homosexuality is not treated as a disease.

"Everyone agreed that the situation now is much more tolerant," he said, recalling that "the worst period for gay people was in the late '60s. Many people lost their jobs, many were put in prison and in work camps." Gay or not, he said. everyone has benefited from the revolution.

Now, he said, however restricted things may be they're much better than 10 years ago. "Cuba's fairly large gay population runs the gamut from revolutionary to those who hate Cuba (or at least the Cuban government) and count the days until they can leave."

The main complaints of the (gay) people I met," he told me, "were: hypocrisy in government (a double standard for officials): un-stylish clothing; poor food; no nightlife," but primarily, "the incredible difficulty they have in meeting each other. There is almost no place to go."

Heterosexual couples have that problem too in Cuba. Because of the housing shortage and Cuba's understandable concern about the possible revival of pre-revolutionary corruption, assignations are extremely difficult.

My friend concluded, "The Communist and Moslem revolutionaries call homosexuality 'capitalist decadence' and the reactionaries call it 'Communist perversion'. It is neither. Homosexuality is a legitimate sexual expression toward people of the same sex, nothing more ...Because gayness is not tolerated and gay people are not integrated into society, we are forced to remain on the outside wherever we are and are therefore pushed into individualistic, 'anti-social' solutions. The answer is to develop ways to integrate gay people into an (enlightened) society..."

Meanwhile, the Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas, the powerful Cuban women's organization, struggles - and with notable success - against the traditional stereotypes that keep women "in their place."

Even more than the recent, widely-distributed Cuban film, "Portrait of Teresa," another, not so well known, dramatizes the changing man-woman concepts Cubans are grappling with. It is "One Way or Another" (De Cierta Manera). Directed by Sara Gomez, "One Way" is set in the early '60s and concerns itself with the lives of "marginal" people, those out of the mainstream of productive life, castoffs of' the previous, corrupt government. The hero, Mario, struggles with his own traditional machismo and that of' his buddy; the heroine, Yolanda, is a middleclass teacher who has trouble understanding the problems of workingclass mothers.

Childcare centers and the need for more of' them are what the FMC fights for. Those are the priorities for now. The struggle for gay rights would seem to be quite far down the list.
        --PELE DE LAPPE

Scanned from the original and edited
by Walter Lippmann, May 2006
(fixing a few typos, nada mas)