You're standing in front of your Family and Friends prepared to make your dreams of a lifetime come true. It's at that moment that you are grateful that you have a professional guiding your ceremony. The Supreme Court has finally ruled upon this issue. Now is the time to plan your perfect LGBT Wedding. I have been performing Commitment Ceremonies since the beginning, and I am so pleased this has opened up for everyone to marry the one they Love. Contact Reverend Jacqui Weiks, Your LGBT Wedding Officiant
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The Emerging LGBT Community in Cuba
As international relations between the United States and Cuba evolve, the island nation’s LGBT community has started to come into focus. Taking advantage of relaxed travel restrictions, several American LGBT groups have begun to tour the country and share their impressions of the country’s LGBT community, and even beyond these American views of the country, it’s clear that times are changing: in May, a mass blessing was conducted for gay couples, despite the country’s remaining ban on gay marriage, and the LGBT community’s rights are seeing more and more protection under the law.
Mariela Castro: LGBT Community Advocate
It wasn’t long ago that Cuba was known for its conservative and misinformed views of the LGBT community. For decades sexual minorities were ostracized and even brutalized. But when Raul Castro took office, Cuba’s LGBT community gained a powerful advocate: the president’s daughter Mariela. Mariela Castro heads Cuba’s Center for Sex Education and is also a member of parliament, and has used her positions and influence to:
- Advocate for the inclusion of transgender individuals in a bill to protect gay employees from workplace discrimination
- Organize and lead marches to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
- Introduce progressive, inclusive reforms, such as covering gender reassignment surgery under the country’s nationalized health system
Castro is not without her detractors, however: many LGBT community activists argue that her work is not addressing the LGBT community’s lack of voice and visibility or advancing LGBT causes enough.
LGBT Community Activists
Outside of the government, LGBT community activists are working to establish safe spaces where members of the community can congregate and openly discuss LGBT issues. Juana Mora Cedeño, who runs the group Proyecto Arcoiris (Spanish for “Rainbow Project”), met with Nancy Pelosi in February 2015 to raise awareness of LGBT issues in the country, including the impact of Cuba’s economic situation on the LGBT community.
Community activists face an uphill battle in a country still led by a totalitarian government: while the LGBT community in the United States is able to organize, protest, and encourage elected officials to pass legislation, any change in Cuba must come through official government channels. This means community activists can still be viewed as dissidents, and even demonstrations and shows of solidarity must be government-sanctioned or risk being raided by police.
LGBT Community Arts and Culture
Cuba’s LGBT community has been active, both in Havana and beyond, for decades. In the city of Santa Clara, the nightclub El Mejunje (“The Mixture”) has long been a fixture of the LGBT community, with a 20-year history of hosting discos and drag shows. The club has also held outdoor drag shows that have attracted crowds of thousands.
America’s cultural ambassadors are also creating opportunities to connect to the country’s LGBT community through art:
- In July, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC toured the country to promote LGBT rights and exploring the Cuban LGBT community
- Coda Tours, an international tour group, organizes a tour of Havana that focuses on the city’s LGBT art community
- The Americas Media Initiative (AMI) is organizing a trip to Cuba that will focus on independent films, including a screening of a documentary about Cuban transformistas (drag queens)
Advancing Cuba’s LGBT Community
While progress has been made for Cuba’s LGBT community, there’s still a lot of work to do. Open access for American visitors might go a long way toward advancing the conversation on LGBT rights in Cuba, and a better diplomatic relationship between the two countries could improve the economic outlook for the country’s LGBT community. It’s not yet possible for an American tourist to hop on a plane and visit Cuba, but it probably won’t be long before the country’s LGBT community begins to see an influx of out and proud visitors. Do you have interest in visiting Cuba?