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      The Worldwide Women's & Queer Liberation Movement
      Must Join Revolutionary Cuba

      By Alison Bodine

      Women and the international movement for queer rights need Cuba. Yes, Cuba also needs the work of the international solidarity movement, especially at this time of the escalating U.S. blockade against Cuba and the Covid-19 pandemic, but I think it's important that we flip the narrative. It's not only that Cuba needs our solidarity, but we also, as women and queer people, need Cuba to become stronger and arm ourselves with a revolutionary vision. We must join Cuba to build the better world that we all are fighting for.

      Cuba is an example of the gains that are possible in a revolutionary society. An example of the accomplishments that women can make is when society sets the elimination of inequality based on gender as a real goal. And then that society works to achieve that goal in laws and government policy, but also through actions to carry out those laws and work in communities.

      That is why we must recognize our responsibility as women, as 2SLGBTQIA+ people in the U.S., Canada and beyond, to fight against the criminal U.S. blockade on Cuba. The women who spoke earlier today on this panel have already given us so much important information about the gains of women in Cuba during the revolution. They have also told us about the new revolutionary Families Code and encouraged us to learn not just from the Families Code but from the entire process that went into passing the Families Code into law.

      The Importance of Cuba for Women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community

      Today I wanted to talk about how we can bring Cuba to the women's movement and to the queer community. I'm glad that Cindy Domingo from the US Women and Cuba Collaboration went before me on the panel because we've already learned about some of the ways that we can do this work. I especially want to highlight the important people-to-people exchanges that happen when we travel to Cuba, when U.S. citizens travel to Cuba, despite U.S. laws that prevent them from travelling there, and despite the criminal blockade. When we travel to Cuba, we learn from Cuban women, trans women and men, and queer people on the ground about their experiences. When we return to the U.S. and Canada, we can use this experience to build our solidarity with Cuba but also to build our own movements for women’s and queer liberation in these capitalist and imperialist countries.

      In our work, we must educate people about the reality of women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Cuba. We must organize events about the gains of women and queer folks in the Cuban Revolution. We must discuss at these events about how abortion in Cuba is free and on demand, especially at a time when women's rights to choose are being eroded in the United States. We must talk about how a majority of Cuba's National Parliament (the National Assembly of People’s Power), 53.4%, are women. This places Cuba second in the world for the most women in a national parliament, and in Cuba, there is no required quota. It is not a law for at least 50% of the national parliamentarians to be women, but Cuba has achieved this because of how Cuban society is organized and the space that the Cuban revolution has opened for women’s leadership. In Canada, only 30% of parliamentarians are women, in the United States, only 27% of congresspeople are women.

      We must talk about the progress of Cuban women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community on social media and in media at every chance we get.

      And lastly, we need to talk about Cuba not only at events for Cuba but also at other events and actions in the women's and queer rights movement.

      Viva Cuba! Viva Queer Liberation!

      One important event that we, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver, attend every year are the Pride events and actions in Vancouver and surrounding municipalities. At these events, we bring our campaigns against the U.S. blockade on Cuba and our educational campaigns about the gains for women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Cuba. This year, we will have the new “Cuba is Not a State Sponsor of Terrorism! Remove Cuba from You List” international postcard demanding that U.S. President Biden remove Cuba from the list of the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” with us too. We will have the postcards there, alongside signs, banners, and other materials, and we will be talking to people about revolutionary Cuba.

      Pride is an excellent opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of people with our message for Cuba. 400-600,000 people attend the Pride Parade in Vancouver each year. They are from all walks of life, from the working class to the middle class, from minimum wage working people and poor and unemployed to unionists and union members, and from oppressed nationalities to immigrants and refugees. These hundreds of thousands of participants in Pride see the banners and signs, and if people are interested, they come to our table, and we talk to them about Cuba and why Cuba is important, and what we can learn from Cuba.

      When people approach us to talk about Cuba, we can tell them about the gains Cuba has been making, despite the difficulties in this criminal blockade imposed upon them by the U.S. We can share about how in 2012, Adela Hernandez was the first openly trans person in Cuba to be elected to a public office. She was elected to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara. We can talk about how in 2007, Gender Affirmation Surgery has been made available for free to trans people in Cuba under their universal health care system and how people can change their identification as they need to without surgery.

      Pride is an excellent opportunity to have all of these important conversations and more, and I encourage people to participate in local Pride events and actions. We must work harder to bring Cuba solidarity and the Cuban revolution to the women’s and 2SLGBTQIA+ movement.

      We Have a Lot to Learn from the Cuban Revolution

      Let me emphasize again we, as women, queer people, and poor working and oppressed people in the U.S. and Canada, have a lot to learn from Cuba. Many of us have been in this process of learning for many years, and some of us are just starting. But one thing is sure, the cruel U.S. blockade on Cuba prevents countless opportunities for exchange and learning.

      I'd like to end with a quote from Mariela Castro, who is the president of the Cuban Center for Sexual Education, or CENESEX, and also the daughter of Vilma Espin, the founder of the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC). Mariela Castro was interviewed by the Toronto Star in 2015 because she was in Canada as part of the World Pride Festival. The Toronto Star reporter asked her, "What can we learn from Cuba?" And she answered, “One of the things Canadians can learn is Cuba is a country that has done a lot for their population with very little. Solidarity is a process that has been instituted as a result of the revolution. Those are the resources I am using to bring more opportunities to LGBTQIA+ communities in Cuba. If the revolution has taught us to be just and have solidarity in many things, the revolution must also be responsible to demonstrate and teach the same themes related to LGBTQIA+ rights. Cuban society has to be interested in what needs to be changed. As Fidel said, revolution is everything that needs to be changed. And I think here we have a very good idea of what needs to be changed. We're ready to unite and to fight it.”

      Viva Cuba!

      This article is based on a talk given by Alison Bodine at the 2023 International USCuba Normalization Conference, held in New York City on March 11 & 12, 2023, at the workshop "Women's Rights in Cuba Today." This workshop also featured Osmayda Hernandez, Director of Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) International Relations, Nancy Valiente, President of the Union of Cuban Jurists in Matanzas province, and Cindy Domingo, Chair, US Women and Cuba Collaboration and Co-chair, WILPF's Cuba and the Bolivarian Alliance Issues Committee. It was chaired by Erin Feely-Nahem of the International US-Cuba Normalization Conference and New York-New Jersey Cuba Si Coalition, and Anushka Sarkar from the Fordham University National Lawyers Guild.

      Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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