Homosexuality Takes a Step out of the Closet

Article excerpt

Even as other countries are legalising same-sex civil unions and adoptions by homosexuals, homosexuality becomes a subject of public debate in Cuba only now.

The daily Juventud Rebelde--the second highest circulation newspaper in this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million--recently surprised readers by publishing the story of a couple's regrets after rejecting their gay son.

The story is a common one in Cuba: the father told the son he would rather see him dead than gay. "He left. I don't know where he went. We haven't seen him for almost a year," the father said.

Although the last discriminatory provisions targeting homosexuals were removed from Cuba's penal code when this was reformed in 1997, homophobia remains widespread. "Machismo" is a predominant feature of mainstream culture.

The article came on the heels of the publication of a study, "Homosexuality in Cuba: The Price of Being Different," by the university magazine Alma Mater in June.

Homosexuality has been a taboo subject for the government-controlled media under the socialist regime of Fidel Castro. It is only mentioned in articles on HIV/AIDS or other health issues, and never before had a report that presented homosexuality as just another sexual orientation been published.

"Normal? ... They've gone crazy," 17-year-old Felix Gonzalez remarked, when asked about the Juventud Rebelde article. But he added that in his school "everyone read the report."

Armando Lopez, a craftsman who decided to divorce his wife years ago and come out of the closet, said, "I hope that what we are seeing is a real opening, and that this isn't just an isolated episode. …