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Cuban LGBT rights advocates arrive in D.C.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Díaz remain critical of island’s government

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Cuba, Ignacio Estrada, Wendy Iriepa, Gay News, Casa Ruby, Washington Blade
Cuba, Ignacio Estrada, Wendy Iriepa, Gay News, Casa Ruby, Washington Blade

Cuban LGBT activists Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Diaz visit Casa Ruby on Monday, July 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Two Cuban LGBT rights advocates who are visiting the United States for three months on Monday arrived in D.C.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Díaz on Monday met with staffers of Us Helping Us, an HIV/AIDS service organization, and Casa Ruby, a multicultural LGBT community center. Estrada and Iriepa are also scheduled to meet with Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Capitol hill on Wednesday before they return to Miami.

Estrada, who founded the Cuban League Against AIDS in 2005, told the Blade while at Casa Ruby that he and Iriepa, a transgender woman who used to work for Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) — which is directed by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro — want to “show how we live, how we work” in Cuba while they are in the U.S.

The couple, who married in a high-profile wedding in Havana, the Cuban capital, in 2011, said Mariela Castro presents what they described as a distorted reality of the island’s LGBT community to the world.

“Mariela totally manipulates the LGBT community,” Iriepa said.

Estrada and Iriepa arrived in D.C. less than three months after Mariela Castro traveled to the U.S. to accept an award from Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group.

Mariela Castro’s supporters note she successfully lobbied the Cuban government to begin offering free sex-reassignment surgery under the country’s national health care system in 2010. Iriepa herself had SRS in 2007 while she worked at CENESEX.

Observers have credited Cuba’s condom distribution campaign and sexual education curriculum with producing one of the world’s lowest HIV infection rates. Cubans with the virus also have access to free anti-retroviral drugs.

CENESEX in May scheduled a series of events across Cuba to commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Mariela Castro has also spoken out in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the country.

“I am very proud of how we have advanced [LGBT rights in Cuba,]” she said during an Equality Forum panel in Philadelphia.

Estrada and Iriepa and other Cuban LGBT rights advocates remain critical of Mariela Castro and her father’s government.

Leannes Imbert Acosta of the Cuban LGBT Platform claimed authorities last September detained her as she left her Havana home to bring materials to CENESEX on a planned exhibit on forced labor camps to which the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military services during the 1960s. Estrada said that las fall during a New York City panel organized by Cuba Archive – a group that documents human rights abuses on the island –  more than 500 people with HIV/AIDS remain in prison for what he described as the crime of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”

When the Blade attempted to address criticisms from Estrada and other LGBT rights with Mariela Castro during a press conference before she accepted the Equality Forum award, the group’s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin interrupted, preventing the questions from being asked.

“You work for the community but you aren’t really from this community without rights,” Estrada told the Blade. “And without rights nothing can be achieved.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Humberto Capiro

    July 30, 2013 at 5:34 am

    YOUTUBE : CUBA DOCUMENTARY – "Conducta Impropria" – (Improper Conduct) – Part 1 of 12 –
    Este documental de Néstor Almendros y Orlando Jiménez Leal trata sobre la persecución de homosexuales e intelectuales en la Cuba castrista desde los inicios de la Revolución Cubana hasta los primeros años 80. En él se entrevista a varios nombres relevantes de la cultura cubana (Lorenzo Monreal, Reinaldo Arenas, Jorge Ronet, Luis Lazo, Rafael de Palet, Jorge Lago) y se demuestra la existencia de campos de concentración para gays en la Cuba de Castro.
    Mauvaise Conduite or Improper Conduct is a 1984 documentary film directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal. The documentary interviews Cuban refugees to explore the Cuban government's imprisonment of homosexuals, political dissidents, and Jehovah's Witnesses into concentration camps under its policy of Military Units to Aid Protection. The documentary was produced with the support of French television Antenne 2 and won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 1984 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcF5ubWiy5k

  2. Humberto Capiro

    July 30, 2013 at 5:36 am

    GAY RIGHTS GO ALONG WITH HUMAN RIGHTS, MARIELA CASTRO! DUH!

    ALJAZEERA VIDEO: After 53 years of revolution, Cubans ar increasingly exasperated by the restrictions imposed on them by the country's change-averse communist regime. In spite of, or perhaps because of, recent modest economic reforms, activism is growing as the government's opponents overcome their fear of arrest and take to the streets. But it is not easy. Today, even the church based Ladies in White — a group of women relatives of imprisoned activists – say they are routinely spied on and arrested. Nevertheless, inspired by the Arab Spring, the Ladies are determined to keep up their protests, sensing that the regime's grip on power is fading and that sooner rather than later it will be forced to give way.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XgylqDUh5-I

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL VIDEO: Routine repression in Cuba – Harassment and detention of political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists and bloggers across Cuba has risen sharply over the past 24 months. – Mar 22, 2012.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyWLTbHMHmc&feature=youtu.be

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D.C. ends funding for Casa Ruby LGBTQ homeless shelter

Group scrambles to raise private donations to prevent Oct. 1 shutdown

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Ruby Corado, gay news, Washington Blade
Ruby Corado is hoping to raise private donations to keep the shelter open. (Blade file photo)

The D.C. Department of Human Services on Sept. 24 informed the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby that it will not renew its annual $850,000 grant that, among other things, funds Casa Ruby’s emergency “low-barrier” shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults.

Casa Ruby founder and CEO Ruby Corado said DHS informed her of its decision to discontinue the grant less than a week before the end of the current fiscal year when the funding is set to expire, which could result in the shutdown of the shelter on Oct. 1. 

Corado has since launched a GoFundMe appeal seeking help from the community so that the 50-bed shelter and 24-hour drop-in space located at the Casa Ruby headquarters at 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W. might continue to serve LGBTQ people in need of emergency housing. 

“After 9 years of serving thousands of homeless LGBTQ youth & adults, we are forced to close the doors to our most important program @Casa Ruby (Our Low Barrier Housing) on October 1st, 2021,” Corado states in her GoFundMe appeal. 

“This is also a terrible loss of 30 jobs that will impact the lives of Trans & Gender Non-Binary & other employees who now may face homelessness themselves – A HORRIBLE TRAGEDY,” the GoFundMe appeal states. 

Corado told the Washington Blade on Monday that she and the Casa Ruby staff were hopeful but uncertain whether emergency contributions from members of the community might be able to prevent a complete shutdown of the shelter. 

“We appreciate the work that Casa Ruby has done to serve homeless youth in the District of Columbia,” said DHS Interim Deputy Administrator Sheila Strain Clark in a Sept. 24 letter informing Corado of the decision to discontinue the funding. 

“Under Article VI. A. of Grant Agreement #DHS-FSA-HYRA-006-18 LGBTQ Homeless Youth Low-Barrier Beds (Grant Agreement), DHS at its discretion, and subject to the availability of funding, may extend the Grant Agreement for additional terms,” Strain Clark says in her letter. “At this time, DHS has decided not to extend the Grant Agreement for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022,” she wrote.

Strain Clark didn’t provide a specific reason for the DHS decision to discontinue the funds in her letter to Corado. In response to a request from the Blade for the reason why the grant was terminated, a DHS spokesperson sent the Blade a statement from DHS Director Laura Zeilinger commenting on the DHS decision, but that also did not provide a specific reason for the funding cutoff. 

“DHS is committed to the safety and well-being of youth, including LGBTQ+ youth, who we know disproportionately experience homelessness,” Zeilinger says in the statement. “We are not decreasing funding for LGBTQ+ youth services which will continue to be offered through the Continuum of Care,” the statement says.

“Covenant House Washington and True Colors will now provide LGBTQ+ specific services for youth in the Deanwood community of Ward 7. These are new services in this community,” the statement continues.

“Grant renewal decisions are based on ensuring accountability and continuity of quality services and the safety of our residents,” the statement says. “We value the community organizations who deliver these services and honor the contribution of Casa Ruby.”

The decision by DHS to discontinue the Casa Ruby homeless shelter grant came just under six months after Casa Ruby filed an administrative complaint against DHS, charging the D.C. government agency with ignoring and failing to stop one of its high-level officials from allegedly engaging in anti-transgender discrimination and retaliation against Casa Ruby.

The six-page complaint, which was prepared by Casa Ruby’s attorneys and signed by Corado, says the DHS official in question, whose name is redacted from the publicly released copy of the complaint, had acted in an abusive and discriminatory way toward Corado and other Casa Ruby employees. It says the targeted employees were overseeing three DHS grants awarded to Casa Ruby that funded shelters providing emergency housing for homeless LGBTQ people.

DHS has declined to comment on the complaint, saying it was investigating its allegation.

Corado told the Blade at the time Casa Ruby announced it had filed the complaint that the DHS official named in the complaint appeared to be retaliating against Casa Ruby, among other reasons, for a decision by Corado to decline a request by DHS that Casa Ruby move its main homeless shelter to a site on Division Avenue in Northeast D.C. Corado said she believed the location would be unsafe for Casa Ruby’s transgender clients. 

Corado points out that the location to which the DHS official wanted the Casa Ruby shelter to move was near the site on Division Avenue where transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, 22, was shot to death during a July 4, 2006, armed robbery in which D.C. police said a group of male suspects were targeting transgender women. 

Corado said that as of Tuesday, members of the community and supporters had contributed about $75,000 through the GoFundMe appeal, raising hope that an immediate shutdown of the shelter could be averted.

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Comings & Goings

Umana named associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

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Wolfgang Umana (Photo courtesy of Umana)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to Wolfgang Umana on being named an associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN). He has been with them for more than five years and is currently its D.C. studio’s office manager. 

“I am honored to become GGN’s newest Associate,” Umana said.I have the glorious privilege of supporting GGN’s continuing dedication to progress, inclusion, social justice, sustainability, and beautification of the world we live in.”

Umana also works with NBR Computer Consulting as an LLC Computer Technician consultant. He has experience in social media, communications, outreach, and technical services, and provides a dynamic approach to the fast-changing world of technology. NBR Computer Consulting, LLC is a gay-owned business. 

Umana has also served as D.C. Army National Guard Director of Environmental Affairs and with EMS Consultation Services. 

He has his bachelor’s in Environmental Science & Public Policy, Human and Ecosystem Response to Climate Change, from George Mason University. 

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Capital Pride bids for D.C. to host World Pride 2025

International event draws thousands of visitors

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. D.C. organizers hope to host the event in 2025. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, announced on Sept. 21 that it has submitted a bid to host 2025 World Pride, the international Pride event that draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city.

The announcement by Capital Pride says its bid to host the event in D.C. notes that the event, among other things, would commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

World Pride is licensed and administered by the international LGBTQ organization InterPride. The World Pride events themselves, which usually take place every other year, are organized by InterPride’s member organizations such as Capital Pride Alliance.

The Capital Pride announcement notes that World Pride “promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on a global level.” The announcement adds, “World Pride events include parades, marches, festivals and other cultural activities often enjoyed at Pride celebrations, along with other components such as a human rights conference and large-scale opening and closing ceremonies.”

The InterPride website says the deadline for submitting a bid for the 2025 World Pride has passed. It says D.C.’s Capital Pride and Kaohsiung Pride, located in the large Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, are the only two remaining cities in competition for hosting the 2025 World Pride.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director, said InterPride was expected to make its decision on which of the two cities to select sometime in November of this year.

“A recent study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that the annual Capital Pride Celebrations, during normal years, result in approximately $371 million in positive economic impacts to the region, a number that may be doubled if the organization is awarded the prestigious event,” the Capital Pride statement says.

The 2021 World Pride took place earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2019 World Pride was held in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, which many activists consider the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

InterPride says the 2023 World Pride will take place in Sydney, Australia.

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