Being Gay in Cuba

When I first came to Cuba, Gayness wasn’t discussed. It was disapproved of and people rarely talked about it. Yamilia whispered to me in 2001 that Raul (Castro) was gay; José asked me if I could find him a book on gayness, but beyond that it was never mentioned, acknowledged – it just didn’t exist (openly). Prostitution existed, but to me it was never that open or that common. Sure there are women who will sell themselves, some, a few, to anybody, while others are more fussy, more opportunist. The rest of the world makes a big deal about Cubans selling sex, but in reality, I would bet that any English, European, American town or city – worldwide probably – has more prostitutes per square mile than Cuba. Cuban attitudes to sex are different too. It is not very important; it is fun but they do not mistake it for love or take it too seriously. They take it seriously while they’re doing it, but it’s just a bodily function, quickly forgotten.


I noticed things were changing in 2006. Mine and Yuri’s room had been double booked, so we were temporarily sent to another house. It was run by three gay men and populated mostly with gay travellers. The main man of the house spoke English and for the few days that we were there he spoke to us frequently. He was jovial and friendly, but afterwards Yuri always gave me a look, a isn’t he strange look; she wasn’t comfortable with it. If we stopped in the street to talk to someone (always male), she would afterwards say

‘he’s gay’

and give me that look.


It’s different now. Gays are everywhere.  And Yuri never mentions anyone’s gayness. It’s so common she has just accepted it. About gay prostitution I’m not sure. Yuri did set up a meeting with a gay friend but it fell through. I know they congregate around the Capitol building (which is being restored) and in Vedado. Beyond that I know little about it. Actually, I take little interest. To me it’s just a sexual preference. If that’s the way you are – fair enough – do what you like. I don’t agree with Gay Pride marches or advertising yourself too much, but I dare say that will settle down.


If you’re not gay, then there is little to notice. You may notice an apparently obvious gay person wandering around, but that’s about it. As far as I can see, whatever gay community there is, keeps itself to itself. If I hadn’t been told about the gay culture, I would certainly barely notice it. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps it is more overt and I just don’t see it, but I don’t think so. In ten years Cuba has gone from not even acknowledging gayness, in fact persecuting open gayness, to accepting it quite openly. Not bad going.