Being homophobic no longer politically correct in Cuba

[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for May 3, 2011. See original here, and related articles here and here. See an article on the UN resolution on extrajudicial executions here.]

By Gerardo Arreola

Havana, May 2 – Journalist Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, writer of a blog about his life as a homosexual in Cuba, believes that “in professional and ruling circles it is no longer politically correct to be homophobic.”

Within those red circles “homophobia has come to be incorrect, to be frowned upon,” Rodríguez tells La Jornada, describing a new phenomenon on the island.

But he points out that in the average population and in public institutions “there is still much resistance,” which keeps the government from moving forward in its policy of respect for sexual diversity, which it has promoted in recent years. “It is not a question they want to cause annoyance over.”

Just last October, Rodríguez stirred up an intense debate on Facebook by defending legal unions between persons of the same gender and by refuting the postion of the Catholic church.

His adversary was Luis Luque, a catholic and a commentator for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, who argued, “Let’s not confuse caprice with rights. There are moral values, forged from a correctly formed conscience, that are intangible, and that have insured a certain order in our imperfect societies. Respect for homosexuals? Yes, I vote for that definitely. But don’t ask society to violate what, with greater or less success, with its more or less orthodox variants, has been shown to work.”

Rodríguez wrote that this was “an advance in a public debate that, in my personal opinion, will spread sooner than later to the rest of Cuban society.”

Communist and gay

Forty years old and playing a role in an experience difficult to imagine in the Cuba of a few short years ago, the blogger believes that his journal changed his life, leading him to an activism he was not expecting.

As a journalist, he deals with economic and social matters. He is a commentator for Radio Rebelde and in charge of news for the labor weekly Trabajadores. He came out almost ten years ago, but it was only in December of 2009 that he took his personal life to the web.

His blog ( has a striking presentation: “I am Paquito, from Cuba; martiano [follower of José Martí] and journalist; a communist and gay; firm atheist and occasionally superstitious; father of a son I adore and partner for seven years of a sero-negative man who loves me; living with AIDS since 2003 and a survivor for more than five years of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; a university professor and a student of life…”

Despite the considerable difficulties, he stresses that Cuba is far from its former official homophobia, “that part of history I fortunately did not witness.” Within the Communist Party, in which he is an activist, no one bothers him or argues about his homosexuality. The same happens at the University of Havana, where during the ‘70s they would have “marginalized” [“parametrado”] him, as the anti-gay purges of the period were called.

With the police and with the foreign minister

His activism has taken unexpected turns, like the one that put him in contact with the police, first as a criminal, then as a plaintiff and finally as an interlocutor.

Last November, together with other homosexuals gathered in a public place, Paquito was fined by a patrolman who, among other verbal offenses, accused him of an “indecent exhibition.” He contested the charge, complained through legal means and managed to have the charge dropped. They told him the police officer had acted improperly and would be punished, although he never learned how the punishment was applied.

Just last week, together with other activists and Zulendrys Kindelán, an attorney with the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX – National Center for Sexual Education), he disputed with the police the practice of large indiscriminate fines against gays. The police admitted the persistence of prejudice in its ranks and offered to “review” is practices.

Also in November, in the United Nations, Cuba supported a motion by Benin to remove sexual orientation as one of the motives for extrajudicial executions to be condemned.

A scientific society and CENESEX protested publically and Paquito joined the protest. The basis of the criticism was that the vote put Cuba on the side of countries that punish homosexuality, in some cases with death sentences. Most of Latin America voted against the change, including allies of the island like Ecuador and Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez spoke with the protestors and told them the vote was an exceptional case. On the basis of the conversation, contacts were repeated in which the country’s positions concering sexual diverstiy were dealt with.

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