Pin It

Gay Pride Parade in Havana

As countries around the world roll back human rights for the LGBT+ community, socialist Cuba stands as a beacon of hope. It has enshrined the most progressive Family Code in the world in its own constitution and works tirelessly to fight reactionary sentiment towards LGBT+ people in its own country through the legal system and education.

In September 2022, the people of Cuba voted in the country’s new Family Code. This revolutionary law recognises and legalises all expressions of families within Cuba, including LGBT+ and other nontraditional families. It also updates other aspects of Cuban society that campaigners from across the island thought were lacking in the original Family Code introduced in 1975. The new Code ensures greater LGBT+ rights, strengthens the rights of children, expands adoption rights, allows surrogacy births, gives more protections for seniors and grandparents' rights and ensures stronger protection against domestic violence. At a time when trans rights are under attack in both Britain and the US, Cuba continues to provide free access to all types of trans healthcare: hormone therapy  transition surgery, and in-depth psychological & social preparation not just for the person transitioning, but for family members too. Although access to hormones and surgery can be delayed due to shortages imposed by the ongoing US blockade of Cuba, there is virtually no wait time for referrals whilst mental health and well-being support is available immediately on demand.

Cuba goes beyond any other country and has revolutionised the very definition of family. It has done this with the popular consent of its people as well. In the vote to approve, out of 6,251,786 eligible Cuban voters, 74% turned out to vote. Of these, a majority of 67% approved the Family Code despite the petitions and propaganda of Cuba's sexist and homophobic evangelical churches.

Building on the success of its new Family Code, Cuba held its 16th annual Days Against Homophobia & Transphobia from 3 May to 20 May 2023, initiated by CENESEX, Cuba's National Centre for Sex Education. Due to the new and historic Family Code, this year's motto was: for all families, love is law.

To celebrate, a range of activities took place across the island: drag shows, academic dialogues, social and artistic activism, music and dance concerts, and more. The Days began in 2008 with the purpose of developing comprehensive sex education and guaranteeing the sexual rights of all people without discrimination. This continuing tradition demonstrates Cuba's dedication to educating and upholding the rights of Cuba's most vulnerable populations.

In Cuba, trans people’s rights are not only represented in law; they are enacted in public life as well. From 4 May to 6 May 2023, Cuba hosted the VII International Colloquium on Trans Identities, Gender, and Culture in Havana. This annual event, also organised by CENESEX, brings together experts, medical professionals, and academics from several countries to discuss the latest research on gender-affirming care and the social challenges facing trans communities. This year there were participants from Mexico, Italy, Argentina, the US, and other countries, as well as Cuba. Several issues were discussed including the rise of US anti-trans propaganda that is rippling through Latin America and Europe as well.

One session focused on the medical challenges of gender-affirming care, from hormone therapy to surgery to mental health and treatment for trans youth, led by a panel of doctors and researchers. The audience included a group of trans women from Cuba, Uruguay, and Mexico. After the final panelist spoke, the women consulted among themselves, took the floor. They objected to the tone and perspectives of some of the experts, who focused entirely on clinical research and standards of care divorced from the actual lived experiences and needs of trans people. In response, Mariela Castro Espín, director of CENESEX and convener of the colloquium took the floor to support the trans activists, emphasising how Cuba’s approach to all kinds of health care, and trans health in particular, can never be divorced from the social conditions of the people it serves. The trans women’s perspectives were not just heard but integrated into the discussion, demonstrating Cuba’s dedication to true democratic free speech.

Cuba is not limiting its world-class policies for integrating trans people to just its own country. On 14 June, Cuba presented its policy on the integration of trans people at a seminar focused on the LGBT+ community in Mexico. Cuba’s policy, which includes training and professional training actions, as well as greater citizen participation, based on the explicit recognition of gender identity in multiple laws and policy documents, was well-appreciated by Mexican activists, recognising the progress made on the island to overcome stigmas and prejudices towards trans people.

The new Family Code and Cuba’s attitude to trans people is not just among the most progressive in the world – it reflects the consciousness of the Cuban people. Six million Cubans participated in tens of thousands of meetings in workplaces, neighbourhoods and mass organisations to discuss and debate the first draft of the Code. Understanding revolution as an ongoing process, Cubans continue to actively participate in discussions about trans and LGBT+ issues. This proves the ever-forward direction of Cuba’s socialist revolution in reflecting and defending true people’s democracy.

Soma Kisan