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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Kissing in Cuba: A Political Action

July 2, 2012 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — On June 28 (Gay Pride Day internationally), we the young LGBT men and women of “Proyecto Arcoiris” (the Project Rainbow) decided to kiss in a public setting and to invite whomever wanted to accompany us to join in that adventure. We wanted to demonstrate the affection that we feel towards each other and to recall the events of Stonewall.

And so we did, this time only with the least amount of pressure exerted by the authorities. I assume this “permissiveness” was because they see the act of kissing as being legitimate, innocent, and beautiful.

Notwithstanding, there were two terms that just popped into my mind: “apolitical” and “legal,” but I had to instantly dismiss them both because I don’t feel they accurately describe that gesture of love to which I’m referring.

When two males or two females kiss each other on the lips here in Cuba, it’s unclear whether it’s legal or not. I remember 15 years ago, when I kissed my partner — a male like me — while on a virtually deserted public beach, a policeman gave us a 60-peso fine.

The officer accused us of “public exhibitionism,” a term so meaninglessness that it made the situation almost ridiculous. Still, I didn’t lose my composure; I wrote down the badge number of the police officer, asked where I could go to file a complaint, and that was it.

At the police station, under the disapproving gaze of the officer who attended me, I expressed my right to kiss whomever I wanted, wherever I wanted. She didn’t accept my arguments, but given my youth (I must have been just over 20) she agreed to drop the fine – but not before warning me not to let that happen again.

So if these laws haven’t changed, any police officer can still accuse me of “shameless exhibitionism” (that’s the legal term) for something so beautiful and essential as a kiss.

That’s why the “kiss in” in which I participated had a profound political character, demanding a right denied to Cubans whose sexual orientation or gender identity is different from the majority.

This also served to test the right to free association that the Granma newspaper and the United Nations recently defended, going so far as to highlight Cuba as an example – though I imagine that the readers of that officialist newspaper didn’t even understand the meaning of that unbelievable piece of news.

For my part, I’ll continue working to bring attention to this sensitive and very real sector of human beings who live and work side by side with others, unashamed of who we are or of the ways we express our love.

Forty-three years ago at the Stonewall Inn bar — after a violent attack by the New York City police — gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of that country decided to remain silent no more. Nor will we remain silent in Cuba today.


What's your opinion?

  • Hubert Gieschen

    Isbel, well done! |I admire your courage!