LGBTI activists against religious homophobia

Non-heterosexual people are often accused of being sick, depraved and sinful, and continue to be rejected by the Church.

Noemí Vázquez (60), whose partner has for decades been another woman, speaks of her love of Christ with the same conviction she defends her legitimate sexual orientation.

They have both been questioned by the Board of Directors of the Baptist Church in El Calvario, on the outskirts of Havana, where they had lived together for years and were forced to move away.

«My partner sang in the chorus and I used to accompany her to rehearsals at night. We were so much looked down on that we decided to leave the temple for good,» Vázquez told SEMlac. She is now going to the Baptist Church in Marianao (Havana), where sexual diversity is most welcomed.

Her testimony is quite similar to that of other Christian lesbians and gays who also participated in the 3rd Social and Theological Meeting that was held last April 29-30 at an Evangelical Seminary in Matanzas, 105 kilometers east of Havana.

The multidisciplinary event was attended by over 80 LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) activists and specialists from Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, and Havana. They discussed issues like sexual citizenship, homo-parental families, and feminist and queer theologies.

Protestant leaders highlighted the need to put an end to discriminatory practices on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity at the church.

«I was trained by a Baptist Church of the Western Convention, which is a very conservative institution. When I first realized I was gay, I thought God could make me straight,» Abdiel González (25) told SEMlac.

He is one of the coordinators of a project that was undertaken a year ago to raise awareness among Christian leaders on the need to respect free sexual orientation and gender identity.

«I was 20 when I decided to accept what I was. I understood that God loves me as I am and did no longer think I was being sinful,» he added.

«Most Protestant churches do not support LGBTI people and urge them to resort to heterosexual marriage,» he stressed.

«Religious homophobia is mainly based on slanted interpretations of the Bible and on patriarchal traditions,» said Raquel Suárez, a lesbian who is a Baptist leader.

«There are fundamentalist groups stigmatizing non-heterosexual people and rejecting women’s autonomy on the island,» she emphasized.

«Other churches see homosexuality as a sin, thereby violating human rights,» she noted.

«Evangelical groups are now using new audiovisual media to promote homophobic messages and stories of homosexuals who have been redeemed or transformed by Christianity,» stressed theologian Elaine Saralegui. She founded an LGBTI support group in Matanzas in 2012.

«Theological studies should incorporate feminist and queer approaches to deal with biblical censorship of sexuality,» she remarked.

Neither Christianity nor Protestantism finds it appropriate to accept multiple sexual identities.

«While some denominations have made progress towards gender equity, especially the Baptist and Presbyterian churches, the Cuban ecumenical movement as a whole has issued no official declaration on the inclusion of LGBTI people,» recalled Ary Fernández, a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Matanzas.

Founded mainly by American missionaries in the late 19th century, these theologies endorse Anglo-Saxon Puritanism over sexuality.

Protestants continue to question LGBTI demands such as legal marriage, adoption, and assisted reproduction for same-sex couples, as well as the acceptance of transsexuals and transvestites.

By the time Cuban meetings against homophobia are held, fundamentalist groups strongly criticize the presence of same-sex couples in the streets.

Social scientists recognize that the main problem does not involve religious faith, but dogmas and prejudices.

Psychologist Adriana Agramonte said that religions can be very instrumental in reducing violence against and supporting non-heterosexual people.

LGBTI representatives highlighted the important role played by some Christian groups in defending sexual diversity on the island.

They are currently planning to participate in the 8th Cuban Meeting against Homophobia, which is scheduled for May 5-17 in several provinces and is expected to include ecumenical worship to bless non-heterosexual couples.

Translated by Adolfo Fuentes

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