by Rex Wockner
Daughter: Raul Castro supports gays in the military
Raul Castro, who is leading Cuba during his brother Fidel’s lengthy illness, supports gays serving openly in the military, says his daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, director of the island’s National Center for Sex Education, CENESEX.
Castro Espin was asked about “gays in the military” in a Nov. 4 interview with the Buenos Aires daily newspaper Clarin.
“I always say where there’s humanity there’s diversity, and in the military world there are gays also, but, of course, they are careful because it’s a milieu that doesn’t accept them,” Castro Espin said. “It is still considered that the conditions to make changes do not exist. Well, my dad, the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, says to me: ‘Look, I think that to the extent the population changes, the army will change, because the population is in the army also. Go on working, raising awareness, doing things, changing Cuban society, and you’ll change everything else, including our institutions.'”
Castro Espin said she has taken a direct interest in gay issues since 2004.
“A group of more than 40 cross-dressers and transsexuals from Havana came to see me at CENESEX to let me know about the difficulties they were having with the police in the central La Rampa zone, where they were meeting and still meet,” she said. “The police were arbitrarily arresting them and then letting them go without charges, just because people were complaining [about them].”
Three years later, Cuba is set to begin offering sex-change surgery.
“There are 27 transsexuals waiting for the operation [and] the medical team is being trained,” Castro Espin said. “As soon as it’s ready … they will start to operate.”
Castro Espin also told Clarin that 80 percent of people with HIV in Cuba are men, and 85 percent of those are men who have sex with men, “often in connection with prostitution.”
She also mentioned that she wants to visit the U.S. “but they won’t give us a visa.”
“I was there once and I’ve been invited back twice since then, but they didn’t give it to me,” she said. “I asked for it and they didn’t respond. … [But] when they want, professional Americans come [to Cuba] via a third country and we have excellent relations and excellent e-mail contact.”
Italian gay leader dies
One of the most important gay activists in Italian history died Nov. 4 of colon cancer.
Massimo Consoli, 61, also was a journalist, writer, playwright, poet, theorist, translator, archivist and historian. He wrote more than 30 books, mostly on gay issues.
Among his many accomplishments, Consoli founded two Italian gay organizations in the days before the Stonewall Riots.
In 1971, he wrote “Gay Manifesto,” which inspired the creation of other gay organizations, including the important Italian Revolutionary Homosexual United Front, FUORI!.
In 1976, Consoli organized the nation’s first pride-related activities. He went on to organize hundreds of other demonstrations, conferences, exhibitions, and intellectual and artistic events.
Later, he also was an AIDS and safer-sex organizer.
“I’ve lived the history of the gay movement. It’s inside me,” Consoli told the International Herald-Tribune last year.
His Web site, http://cybercore.com/consoli, will remain online, maintained by friends.
Irish gays protest for partnership rights
More than 200 people protested outside Ireland’s Parliament Nov. 8 demanding legal equality for same-sex couples.
Parliament recently narrowly rejected a civil-union bill introduced by the Labor Party, but will consider a government-sponsored measure next year that would create civil partnerships for same-sex, opposite-sex and nonsexual couples.
The newer legislation “represents a recognition by government of the many forms of relationships in modern society, and an important step very particularly for homosexual couples,” said Justice Minister Brian Lenihan.
No charges over Swiss political ad
The Swiss People’s Party will not face charges over an anti-gay advertisement because there is no law protecting homosexuals from insults, Geneva canton Attorney General Daniel Zappelli said Nov. 9.
The case involved posters against a voter referendum to grant inheritance rights to same-sex couples, whom the ad campaign called “infertile and well-off.” The referendum passed.
Zappelli said existing law protects Swiss residents from offensive remarks based only on race, ethnicity and religion.
Gay groups said they will mobilize to add sexual orientation to the list.
Jerusalem’s only gay bar closes
Jerusalem’s only gay bar has closed because the owners want to do other things and it wasn’t making enough money.
The Shushan Pub had been in operation for four years.
“Ideology does not pay the rent or municipal taxes,” co-owner and City Council member Saar Netanel told the Haaretz newspaper. “At age 36, I am interested in other things.”
Netanel said Shushan was “the only place in Israel where the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox], Arabs, religious and secular could sit together and have a good time.”
“When they left Shushan, each returned to his own ghetto,” he said.
European parliamentarians criticize Russian patriarch
Forty members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly have reprimanded Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia’s senior religious leader.
In an Oct. 1 address to the parliament, Alexy called homosexuality “an illness [and] distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.”
He also said “no one should force me and my brothers and sisters in faith to keep quiet when we call something a sin when it is a sin according to the word of God.”
In a newly revised declaration, parliamentarians from Albania, Andorra, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom “urge Patriarch Alexi to avoid the use of language inciting intolerance and to respect, rather than seek to deny, the fundamental rights of sexual minorities.”
The Coe, founded in 1949, promotes democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and similar agreements. Forty-seven nations are members.
Swedish Christian school told to stop ‘sin’ teaching
Sweden’s National Agency for Education says a private Christian school’s teaching that homosexuality is sinful violates the national curriculum’s anti-discrimination policy.
The Andreas Gymnasium School has until Nov. 30 to demonstrate how it will comply with the determination.
The Swedish national gay group RFSL (its official name is now just initials) complained to the agency after hearing the school’s headmaster call homosexuality “sinful” on a television broadcast.