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LGBTQ Cubans participate in July 11 protests

Community members took to the streets to demand their rights

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Adriana Díaz and Analía Escalona (Photo courtesy of Tremenda Nota)

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba. The Blade published a Spanish version of this story on July 16.

HAVANA — Thousands of people took to the streets in Cuba on July 11 to demand, among other things, the government improve people’s quality of life and guarantee citizens’ rights.

The protests took place in cities throughout the country, but violence that had not been seen before broke out in some Havana neighborhoods. Protesters for the first time in Cuba with such magnitude overturned police cars, looted stores and threw stones at police officers.

Parts of the LGBTQ community joined the marches. They had particular reasons for protesting that were in addition to the protesters’ general demands.

“I came because I am tired of the repression that the police inflict upon trans people,” a transgender woman who was marching among thousands of people through Centro Havana told Tremenda Nota. “They don’t allow us to go out on the streets, they ask us for our ID cards, they take us in for prostitution.”

Adriana Díaz Martínez walked with other trans women. They chanted, along with the rest of the protesters, “freedom,” “Díaz-Canel must go” and “homeland and life.” This last slogan, one of the most popular in the protests, is the title of a song from artists Yotuel Romero, Descember Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, El Funky and Gente de Zona. It has in recent months become an anthem for those who oppose the government.

Analía Escalona, one of Adriana’s friends, cited the shortage of basic products as one of the reasons to protest.

“The first thing that has to be in a pharmacy is condoms in order to take care of yourself and not contract any sexually-transmitted infection, and there aren’t any,” said Analía.

Analía also mentioned police harassment of trans people as another reason to march.

“They bring us to police stations for no reason, they put us in ‘danger,’ families are working, bringing sacks to a prison without any need at the end,” she added.   

When speaking of “danger,” she referred to the “dangerous state” provision of Cuban law that allows authorities to impose punishments against anyone who has not yet committed a crime.

“We are mistreated by the same police. It is bullying and abuse. Enough already,” stressed Chanel, another trans woman who participated in the march.

“I have a degree. I have a masters degree in cosmetology. There is no need to detain us, to put us in ‘danger’ without reason,” said Analía. “We are all not prostituting ourselves, damn it! Homeland and life!”

“I come in solidarity with everyone else who is here, because of hunger, necessity,” said Adriana. “There are no medications, there is no food. There is no water. There is nothing. Houses in Havana are collapsing and they are building hotels!”

The economic crisis in Cuba, which the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. sanctions worsened, became extreme in 2020. Official sources say the economy has contracted by 11 percent.

The economic collapse is even worse for trans people. It remains difficult for these women to finish their studies or get a formal job in Cuba.

“We need workplaces for trans people, where we can go dressed as a woman,” said Adriana.

The Labor Code currently bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it does not afford the same protection to those who are fired because of their gender identity.

Analía Escalona, center, Chanel, right, and Maykel González Vivero. (Photo courtesy of Tremenda Nota)

Tremenda Nota journalist Maykel González Vivero was detained during last Sunday’s protests and was transported to “El Vivac,” a provisional jail outside of Havana.

The reporter was held with two trans women. Both of them live in Arroyo Naranjo, a municipality in the outskirts of Havana, and participated in the protests in La Güinera, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Official media described the protests that happened there were among the most violent.

González Vivero told Tremenda Nota that the police from the start treated the trans women as men by addressing them by their legal name.

Both of them told the journalist that courts had previously sanctioned them and Cuban prison regulations ignore their gender identity. They cited, for example, the masculine hair cut they forced them to get.

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Puerto Rico activists condemn police raid on LGBTQ-friendly bar

More than 20 officers descended on Loverbar near the University of Puerto Rico

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Lovebar (Photo via Twitter)

Activists in Puerto Rico have condemned a police raid on an LGBTQ-friendly bar that took place on Thursday night.

Local media reports indicate more than 20 officers with the San Juan Municipal Police Department entered Loverbar, which is near the campus of the University of Puerto Rico, at around 11 p.m.

A video posted to social media shows that some of the officers who entered the bar were armed with what appear to be shot guns.

Media reports cite local authorities who said Loverbar did not have the necessary permits to operate as a bar, and the officers arrived there to fine them. San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero in a statement said officers fined Loverbar and seven other businesses in the city on Thursday for either not having the necessary permits or excessive noise.

“The Municipal Police of San Juan led by Miguel Romero intervened last night with a queer bar,” tweeted Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group. “This reminds us of a time when LGBTQI+ people were prosecuted, criminalized and villified.”

“We won’t tolerate homophobia and transphobia in San Juan,” added Serrano.

Comité Amplio Para la Búsqueda de Equidad (CABE), another Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, has called for an “exhaustive and independent investigation into the excessive use of force and intimidation by the Municipal Police of San Juan last night” at Loverbar.

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Argentina becomes first Latin America country to issue non-binary IDs

Country remains at forefront of trans, gender non-conforming rights

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Argentina on Wednesday became the first country in Latin America to issue ID cards that are specifically for non-binary people.

President Alberto Fernández issued a decree that allows non-binary Argentines to choose an “X” gender marker on their National Identity Document or DNI.

“The recognition of the gender identity of people who identify themselves outside gender binary norms is a big advance for the entire society, because it puts to an end the mandatory imposition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories,” reads Fernández’s decree. “The decree implements the rights recognized under the Gender Identity Law, interpreting its scope beyond binaryism.”

The Gender Rights Law that took effect in 2012, among other things, allows Argentines to legally change their gender without medical intervention. Fernández last September signed a decree that requires at least 1 percent of all jobs in the country’s public sector to go to transgender people.

Marcela Romero, a Buenos Aires-based trans activist who is also a member of REDLACTRANS (The Latin America and Caribbean Network of Transgender People) Executive Board, in a statement said the decree “once again positions Argentina” as a world leader in extending rights to gender non-conforming people.

Mariano Ruiz, another Argentine LGBTQ rights activist, echoed Romero.

“The recognition of the identity of non-binary people by the State leaves no doubt about the interpretation of the Gender Identity Law,” Ruiz told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

Ruiz also noted the public sector employment law is named after two trans activists — Diana Sacayán, who was killed in 2016, and Lohana Berlina, who died in 2012.

“Once again and after the recent approval of the Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berlina Labor Quota Law, the Argentine government has shown its firm commitment to sexual and gender diversity and sets the course for where the Latin America region should go,” said Ruiz. “We hope that this is only the beginning and we will soon have a new law against discriminatory acts, a comprehensive law for trans people and a new law for HIV and viral hepatitis.”

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Chilean Senate approves marriage equality bill

President Sebastián Piñera has urged lawmakers to support measure

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Chilean Senate on Wednesday by a 28-14 vote margin approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The vote took place less than a month after President Sebastián Piñera announced he supports marriage equality and urged lawmakers in the South American country to quickly act on the issue. The bill now goes to the Chilean House of Representatives.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), a Chilean LGBTQ advocacy group, described the vote as a “triumph of justice and equality.”

“The Senate, four years after of processing, finally approves and dispatches (the) marriage equality (bill),” tweeted the organization. “The end of discrimination against same-sex partners and same-sex parents is near. A better path for new generations.”

Lorena Recabarren, undersecretary for human rights in Chile’s Justice Ministry, in a statement applauded Piñera for his position in support of the bill. Recabarren stressed the president will continue to urge members of the House of Representatives to quickly approve it.

“Our goal is that this bill gets done as soon as possible and will be signed into law for everyone in our country,” she said.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions in Chile since 2015.

Movilh in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights in the country. The group entered into an agreement with the Chilean government over marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples, but withdrew from it last October.

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