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NEWS

San Francisco queer group headed for Cuba


August 01, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — On December 27, 2007, a group of North Americans will make history by flying to Havana on the first ever Queers to Cuba Tour. They'll spend eight days experiencing the island's rich cultural heritage and meeting representatives of Cuban organizations working for sexual dignity. Activists from CENESEX (the National Center for Sexual Education), the Cuban organization advancing queer reforms and AIDS awareness, will brief tour members on the island scene.

The tour is being conducted by Sonja de Vries, co-founder of San Francisco-based Queers for Cuba, the first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) group to be officially invited to Cuba. Ms. de Vries studied race and gay issues in Havana from 1993 to 1994, and her groundbreaking documentary "Gay Cuba" remains the last word on the subject.

"The Queers to Cuba Tour comes at an exciting time for LGBT equality in Cuba," says Sonja de Vries. "The Cubans are drafting legislation to allow same sex unions, lesbian adoption and insemination, and transgender reassignment surgery. These changes are being broadly debated by the population, yet North Americans hear very little about this kind of popular democracy."

The tour is being organized by Cuba Education Tours of Vancouver, Canada, whose coordinator, Marcel Hatch, insists, "The image of Cuba as a gulag for LGBT people is false. It's a myth invented by opponents of revolutionary Cuba. As a gay, I feel safer in Cuba than in Canada or the States. Soon island queers will enjoy greater rights and freedoms than their counterparts in the USA."

Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly, has said, "We have to abolish any form of discrimination against those persons. We have to redefine the concept of marriage. Socialism should be a society that does not exclude anybody."

Sonja de Vries recalls, "When I visited Cuba last December with a group, we met with CENESEX president Mariela Castro Espin and she told us about the concrete work being done with transgender people, with lesbians, and with families to encourage support of their LGBT kids. Several members of my group were in tears. To see these efforts being carried out in a way that is so respectful and compassionate is not something most of us have experienced with institutions, much less government!" – Issued by Gay Link Content


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