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New book explores LGBT gains in Cuba

Published Jun 24, 2009 4:16 PM

Type the words “Cuba Day against Homophobia” into Google’s search engine and you will find video clips and news stories about a festival on May 16 of this year in Havana and many other Cuban cities that raised public consciousness about the rights and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Mariela Castro Espín, director of the National Center of Sex Education (CENESEX), presided over the opening of the day’s events with a parade, followed by a panel on “Sexual Diversity in the Cuban Family.” Castro is the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro and of Vilma Espín, who headed the Cuban Federation of Women until her death.

Many of the marchers waved rainbow flags—a universal symbol for the beauty of sexual diversity.

Further evidence of the support that Cuba’s Communist leaders are giving the campaign against homophobia came that day from Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly, who told Prensa Latina, Cuba’s national press agency: “The essence of socialism is the inclusion rather than exclusion of people for their sexual orientation or religion.”

The ceremonies started at the headquarters of the Union of Writers and Artists and the Pabellón Cuba, in the center of Havana. Talks, book displays, expositions, film showings and concerts were held throughout the day, all free and open to the public.

In Cuba the campaign against homophobia has access to all the mass media and is an ongoing educational effort, not just a one-day affair. This information may surprise many people in the United States, who get very little news from the corporate media here about the great social progress that has been made in Cuba as a result of its revolution.

However, readers of Workers World newspaper were fortunate enough to learn a great deal about Cuba’s campaign to rectify old prejudices through the series of articles called Lavender & Red. Appearing in these pages over several years, it was written by the widely read Marxist and transgender author Leslie Feinberg. Feinberg is also a managing editor of this newspaper. A total of 25 articles in the series dealt with the development of Cuba’s enlightened position on LGBT rights.

These articles have now been edited into a new book, “Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba,” which is being released this month by World View Forum.

The book is divided into sections: Pre-revolutionary Cuba; Early Years of the Revolution; Dealing with the AIDS Crisis; Popular Education; and Unfettered Thought. It draws on many sources, from early conquistadors to modern-day chroniclers of the LGBT movement in Cuba, to show how far the Caribbean island has come in the struggle against colonialism, imperialism, exploitation and all the forms that oppression takes.

It deals with Hollywood’s false images of gay life in Cuba; the Mariel boatlift; CENESEX and sex education; Cuba’s successful and humane treatment of the HIV-AIDS epidemic; “Strawberry and Chocolate,” “Gay Cuba” and other ground-breaking Cuban films; the campaign in the U.S. for Rainbow Solidarity with the Cuban Five, and much more.

Feinberg concludes the book with an appeal to the LGBT movement in the United States, where the government has tried to strangle the Cuban Revolution from its very first days:

“In order to move forward toward their own liberation, the LGBT and other progressive movements in the U.S. and other capitalist countries have to combat anti-communism—which is, in the long run, a loyalty oath to capitalism—and develop a powerful anti-imperialist current that can extend its solidarity to Cuba and all countries fighting for their sovereignty and self-determination against finance capital.”

“Rainbow Solidarity” can be ordered online from www.leftbooks.com. It will be widely distributed to bookstores and libraries by the Independent Publishers Group.