Hundreds march in the streets of Havana, Cuba as part of the worldwide series of events leading up to International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) on May 17. The event was organized by Mariela Castro, the island's lead campaigner for gay rights and niece of Fidel Castro.
"We have made progress, but we need to make more progress," said Mariela Castro, a campaigner for gay rights on the island and the leader of Cuba's National Sexual Education Center. She is also the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro. Workshops and debates held Saturday dealt with issues such as adoption by gay and lesbian couples and whether to legalize gay marriages, a step Mariela Castro has been pushing for years, so far without success.
There have been some recent changes: Two years ago, the state announced its health care system would cover sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for transgenders.
On the other hand: Although the communist nation has allowed IDAHO events for the past two years, authorities have refused to issue permits for gay Pride. In 2008, police shut down what would have been the nation's first gay pride march.
In related news: The Havana Times publishes an interview with a young Cuban lesbian who discusses what life is like for an openly gay person on the island.
"In the street there’s always someone who says something that isn’t particularly pleasant, mainly men, though there are also women who are homophobic. I have friends who have had problems in the street and have even been stopped by the police. There is still much misunderstanding about homosexuality. It’s necessary to continue working so the problem is brought out into the light. I think the need is for everyone to enjoy their own sexuality, without prejudice. I’m brave enough to conduct myself like I am. So sometimes we walk down the street holding hands and from time to time we show signs of affection."
IDAHO and the United Nations Declaration for the Universal Decriminalization of homosexuality were launched by French black gay activist Louis-Georges Tin. R20 profiled Tin HERE and HERE. Doug Ireland at Gay City News interviews Tin and reports on the global events around IDAHO.