By Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — A few hours after having displayed my pride for being different in a public space, I was faced with one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever had in my life. But I must admit that the outcome was very insightful for me and educational for the other person involved in this encounter.
I’ll tell you how everything happened.
On May 13th, it was the day when every member of the LGBTI community here showed their vast diversity to Cuban society and the world with pride, as was to be expected. They demanded the authentic right to exist, under protection of all the same laws that the majority of heterosexual population enjoys.
I was running short of time that day, I rushed off half-way through the parade to go to university; I had classes that day and my studies are sacred to me.
Unfortunately, I wasted my time because once I got there I found out that the teacher hadn’t shown up that day. “What a fiasco”, I said to myself and I hurried off to find the quickest way to get home and return to the city.
So I chose to hitch-hike a ride or “hacer una botella”, like we say here in Cuba.
At noon, I was asking people to let me catch a ride on the corner of Tulipan and Boyeros. After having received several “No’s” in the first 10 minutes, a private-owned car pulled up, which was strange, because private cars normally only give rides to women, and I don’t really think I look like one.
I must add that the man who told me to jump in was very handsome, an older man, maybe 50-something years old but in very good shape. We quickly struck up a conversation until the Fontanar neighborhood in Boyeros.
As the ride went on, I could confirm that he had given me a ride once before, but at the beginning of our conversation he hadn’t recognized me because of how long my beard was.
“You know what, I think you’ve given me rides before, of course I didn’t have such a long beard back then.”
“Well, to be honest, I let you jump into my car because you seemed like somebody different.”
“You don’t know how different I am,” I said to myself and I flashed him a smile.
“Well, it’s obvious that you weren’t going to recognize me with this beard.”
“Are you a baseball player?”
“Because in the major leagues baseball players let their beards grow as a promise to win the championship? Doesn’t that long beard bother you?”
“No, not at all. Plus it has its charm.”
“But women won’t look at you if you go around looking like that!”
“Well compadre, that doesn’t worry me right now.”
“Wait till you’re my age and you have grey hair.”
“If you look really closely, you’ll see that I already have some but you can’t see them clearly because my beard is very thick, plus, there’s someone for every taste in this world, so there will always be someone who likes my beard just as it is.”
“With the amount of faggots there are in this country, I’m sure that you’ll catch onto something.”
“And what does that have to do with anything?” I thought to myself, but I decided to let the subject flow to see where this man would go with it.
“Because this country is full of faggots right now, I don’t understand this craze to be gay!”
“What you say has always existed in Cuba, just people are now coming out of the closet more.”
“I’m a homophobe homophobe homophobe! If there was a political party against these people here in Cuba, I would be the first one to join them.”
“Damn, but what’s got into this guy?” I thought to myself. I thought about telling him my sexual orientation, of getting out of his car and sending him to hell, but I quickly reflected on the situation and took it all in. I was being faced with a challenge and as an ambassador of the LGBTI community, I decided to act like a diplomat, introducing my educational messages into his reality.
“If it wasn’t for Mariela [Castro], all of these queers wouldn’t have anything, and now to top it all off, there are gay teachers at schools who openly speak about the subject. Can you imagine?!”
“The thing is that the sexual orientation of a person has nothing to do with their job or human values,” I replied and ignored his claim about the daughter of Cuba’s president.
“I have nothing against faggots, you can make your ass a drum, but do it discreetly! What’s this whole business of walking down the street holding hands? And transvestites?! How disgusting?! When I was a young man at university, they used to kick them all out!”
“That was very wrong,” I answered. I’m convinced that a person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with your values as a professional and a human being. In fact, there are many researchers who are proving the fact that homosexuality isn’t a disease.
“And what do you have to say about this gay trend on TV? When I was a young man, they never used to put on anything of the sort, now they’re teaching you how to be a faggot.”
“Firstly, maybe the kind of promotion homosexuality receives in Cuban media is being shown from an inappropriate angle. I don’t believe that this is contagious. What doesn’t go in through the eyes…”
“Doesn’t go into your ass.”
“Plus, if it were contagious, how many friends and twin siblings would be gay? I know lots of men and women from your generation who have been brought up with homosexuals and aren’t gay.”
“Yes, but when I was a kid, this kind of trend didn’t exist on TV.”
“You see it as a trend because it’s something you aren’t familiar with, and like you told me not too long ago, you believe it is something that is private, and I agree with you to some extent on it being a private matter, there’s no doubt that a person’s sexual orientation shouldn’t bother anyone. However, unfortunately here in Cuba, a person’s sexual orientation has been used to persecute and discriminate against this group of people, which by the way, is at a disadvantage legally-speaking. That’s why I believe it’s a subject that needs to be dealt with by the media. I insist, you can’t catch homosexuality, instead you are living proof that it isn’t contagious, you don’t like men.”
There was a brief silence, and as by magic, the subject of conversation changed and the man was now talking about erections and man’s ability to please a woman.
“I believe that when I can’t get it up anymore, my life will have lost all sense, up until today it works quite well, not everyday because my wife doesn’t come looking for me as much anymore, but when we do it, I screw her twice in a row.”
“When I was 20 years old, the only thing I could think about was sex, but that has changed now, sex for me begins from the moment I start courting to sex, which by the way only lasts 5 seconds. Sometimes, the pleasure two people experience together doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to those five seconds that an orgasm lasts.”
“You’re right,” he said after a brief pause.
“Let me out here please, this is my stop.”
“Look after yourself out there lad.”
“Thanks for the ride and the conversation. Ahh! I’m gay, have a good weekend!”
His face wrinkled up for a second but he followed it up with a smile.