Your sexual orientation can have a huge impact on where you decide to go on holiday. In many parts of the world including most of Africa, the Middle East and some of the Caribbean, homosexuality is illegal, and cultural perceptions may also make your journey less than comfortable.
Luckily all is not lost for those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community who dream of enjoying rum cocktails on pristine beaches and sampling exciting Caribbean culture.
Is Cuba safe for gay tourists?
Cuba is an eclectic and inclusive destination and we saw lots of openly gay couples when we were last there, smiling and enjoying freedom on their travels. As a hub for the creative community, discourse on the subject is quite advanced in Havana and in 1994 the hit movie Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) sparked a national conversation about homosexuality.
Obviously in any destination you can experience incidents of prejudice, but on the whole Cuba is a safe country where people will not bother tourists. On the other hand you can’t currently compare the land of Castro with the neighborhood of the same name in San Francisco. Discretion is generally advised as being the better part of valor. You are unlikely to find many bars or clubs which specifically cater to the LGBT community (though some do exist), or hotels which fly the rainbow flag. That is just because tourism is still in its infancy in Cuba – and the general standard of facilities is quite basic.
LGBT rights in Cuba
Culturally Cuba has a mixed relationship with gay rights. On the one hand the gay poet Reinaldo Arenas was imprisoned by the regime, on the other Mariela Castro, the daughter of president Raul Castro, has recently championed gay rights (indeed she is the head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education). In 2010 there was an visible progress in the shape of an International Day Against Homophobia which was held in Havana, and Cuba began supporting gay rights through the United Nations in the same year.
Today the app Grindr claims it has around 4,000 Cuban active daily users – though the lack of easy access to the internet does affect this.
Cuba still has a long way to go, but can consider itself much more progressive than many other countries when it comes to LGBT rights.
Hello Cuba Life! This is a key topic for many travellers – thanks for talking about it. Here’s a take on LGBT matters in Cuba, directly from Baracoa (a charming town and amazing natural region at the easternmost tip of the island). It’s a blog entry by an LGBT ‘casa particular’ (Cuban guesthouse or bed & breakfast) in Baracoa… 🙂