One conga, one march

“I was virgin by that side. I had never dressed like that before. It was not my intention at all to draw attention. But I wanted to express myself completely, finally at my 55 years”, says Henry Dougherty, a Cuban-American who participated in last Saturday’s conga for tolerance, on the 10th Day against Homophobia in Cuba.

“I felt I would have a better chance of doing it here, that it would be safer being me, without any limitations. I do not know why. I just felt it was something more real, it feels very real to me. I have been in many gay pride parades everywhere, and this one is very beautiful”, he said under his rainbow wig and wearing a red dress that exposed the hair on his legs.

Henry Dougherty and Luis Rondón. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.
Henry Dougherty and Luis Rondón. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

“I’m going to make your Facebook viral today with this photo,” a transgender joked with another while taking a picture of her next to Mariela Castro, just before the conga began, which started from the Piragua to the Pabellón Cuba with a carriage and a pair of convertible cars included.

“Yes to socialism, not to homophobia” was one of the slogans of the front line. An activist would complain about the politicization of the parade; another would do it about its depoliticization: “It was a march before, now it is a conga”, he said. “It is a little party yet”,a third person complained, on the contrary. “They spend the entire year suffering from discrimination, homophobia, lesbophobia… today is the day for them to make up and celebrate”. Mariela Castro, directress of CENESEX and representative to the Cuban National Assembly, has concerned about the representation of this “carnival”group, in detriment of her dignity and legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of society.

In what almost all the participants of the conga seem to agree is that here remains a legal vacuum regarding the instituted rights. Yet not a simple not heterosexual Cuban couple can get married in Cuba. Neither adopt nor taking any form of assisted reproduction a resort. In 2014, Act No. 116 Labor Code was approved, which included non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, the Cuban Parliament has not approved a reform of the Family Code that allows same-sex marriages, so far.

Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexual Education, during the conga for tolerance, at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.
Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexual Education, during the conga for tolerance, at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

In an interview with Tiempo Argentino, Mariela mentioned that “We talk about a law of equal opportunities, because the word marriage still generates many emotions”. It was November, 2015. She said about the same theme during the Guadalajara International Film Festival in March,2017: “We do not like copying, we want to have creativity and look for what truly fits the possibility of social formation and our reality”.

“The main goal is not marriage, it is one of the goals. For us the main goal is to achieve equality of opportunities as it was achieved in the working process with discrimination against women”, she insisted.

However, there are many activists who consider more legal support indispensable. “Campaigns should not be only in the world scheduled days against homophobia, it must be a constant work throughout the whole year, to achieve much faster progress in guaranteeing the rights to the collective of sexual diversity. We are talking about human rights, a real equity. Not have those guarantees seems to me incoherent. It should have happened long ago”, says Luis Rondón, who takes part in the parade alongside with the Bears, with his own flag for the first time.

Conga for diversity, from La Piragua to the PabellónCuba at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.
Conga for diversity, from La Piragua to the PabellónCuba at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

“I came from the United States to show my support to all Cubans, the sex-diverse community and also to all its allies, and those who are learning and choosing to become allies of gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people”, says Henry. “I pay close attention to what is happening here. The first news I read every morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are about this country’s”. He wait for good news, better ones.

Conga for diversity, from La Piragua to the PabellónCuba at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.
Conga for diversity, from La Piragua to the PabellónCuba at the 10th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

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