Bean Robinson, PhD, had the rare opportunity to travel to Cuba recently. After a difficult two-year application process, a group of 24 people from Temple Christ Church received approval to travel throughout the country to meet with religious, artistic, cultural, and social services organizations. The group traveled to Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, and Santiago.
Appointments that directly related to Robinson's research and clinical work included meetings with the director of the Christian Institute for Gender Studies, a visit to the Women's Settlement House (Casa de Orientacion de la Mujer), and time at the Federation of Cuban Women (Federación de Mujeres Cubanas - FMC). The group also attended a seminar by local specialists treating individuals living with HIV and AIDS and visited a School of Social Work.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1990, Cuba lost billions of dollars of direct financial support and trade. Today the country is still suffering from the loss. Robinson noted, "Although the country is extremely poor there are fascinating progressive reforms in place, and some of them are decades old. The work of the Federation of Cuban Women is impressive. Nearly 80% of Cuban women belong to the federation and they have been a strong force for gender equality in education, employment, and society. There is an official family code that states that men are to share equally in house work and child care. It goes to show that solidarity can be powerful."
In addition to the group itinerary, Robinson met with Mariela Castro Espín, director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and president of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for Sexuality Studies (SOCUMES). Castro is the daughter of current president Raul Castro and Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois who was a feminist, revolutionary, and the founder of the FMC. Mariela Castro is a tenacious activist for GLBT rights. She was instrumental in improving access to care for transgender individuals including the resolution passed by the Cuban government in June 2008 that provides fully integrated health care for transsexuals including government subsidized chest/breast and genital reconstruction surgery to patients who qualify. Robinson's visit came days after the Cuban Congress of Sexual Education, Orientation, and Therapy where SOCUMES proposed to their General Assembly of Members the adoption of the "Statement on Despathologization of Transsexualism" recommendations that are based on a proposal made by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People of CENESEX (see statement below).
During the 10-day trip the group had the opportunity to visit various churches throughout the country and to meet leaders from the Cuban Council of Churches, the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Churches, and the Matanzas Seminary's Women Knitters Group. They also visited museums including the Museum of the Revolution, Frank Pais Museum, Guanabacoa Museum of Afro Cuban Religions.
Hernub Roderic Southall and Ernest Bryant of Obsidian Arts were on the trip and made arrangements to meet Cuban artists including painters, sculptors, and musicians. In Santiago the group visited the Luis Diaz Eduardo Cultural Workshop and met artist and center director Isreal Tamayo Zamora, and metal sculptor Julio Carmenate. (See a full list of Cuban artists that the group met below.)
Before they departed the group met with the Haitian Cultural Association to discuss ways to help the Haitian people in the aftermath of the January earthquake. Many members of the group made monetary donations in convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) toward relief efforts.
Watch a video (11:25min) interview from January 1, 2009, with Mariela Castro Espín and Anastasia Haydulina of Russia Today Television in Havana Cuba.
STATEMENT ON DESPATHOLOGIZATION OF TRANSSEXUALISM
Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for Sexuality Studies
5th Cuban Congress of Sexual Education, Orientation and Therapy
The Sexual Diversity section of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES) proposed the adoption of the following Declaration in its General Assembly of Members on 18 January 2010 in Havana, based on a proposal made by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People, of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).
Recalling the current inclusion of transsexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) published by American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) of the World Health Organization (WHO);
Recalling also that the Standards of Care adopted in Cuba by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People rely on those published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which also includes the classification of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Classification of Diseases E-10;
Considering that the American Psychiatric Association will publish in 2012 the fifth version of the above mentioned manual and that the chief and other specialists of the working group responsible for the review have recently proposed the non-removal of this category, as well as the application of corrective psychological therapy to children, to the sex assigned at birth;
Taking into account the concern expressed by individuals and human rights groups at the international level regarding this issue,
Considering that all transgender people -including transsexuality, transvestites and intersex people- may be vulnerable to marginalization, discrimination and stigma, based on the socially regulated binary approach that recognizes only two gender identities: male and female;
Considering also that the above classifications perpetuate and deepen social discrimination against these groups, causing irreversible physical and psychological damage that can lead these people to commit suicide;
Considering in addition that transsexuality and other transgender expressions are not an option for a lifestyle and that the modifications to their bodies have no cosmetic intentions. It is a right and an inner need to live with the gender identity which the person feels to belong;
Recalling the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, especially Principle 18 on "Protection from Medical Abuses" which, among other things, make States and governments responsible to "ensure that any medical or psychological treatment or counseling does not, explicitly or implicitly, treat sexual orientation and gender identity as medical conditions to be treated, cured or suppressed";
Considering that the right to public health and universal free access to its services are guaranteed by the Cuban government for all, but still requires additional laws to fully protect the rights of transgender people;
Recalling Resolution 126 of Public Health Ministry, of 4 June 2008, which regulates the procedures involved in health care for transsexuals;
Recognizing that multidisciplinary care provided by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People, since its foundation in 1979 until today, has led to a remarkable improvement in the quality of life of transsexual people and their families.
Express our support for the removal of transsexuality from the international classification of mental disorder, especially in the DSM-V update to be published in 2010.
Reject the application of psychological therapies for transgender people, in order to reverse their gender identity, as well as sex reassignment surgeries performed to those under 18 years old.
Reaffirm that transsexuality and other transgender identities are expressions of sexual diversity, to which it must be ensured all psychological, medical and surgical treatments required to alleviate alterations to the mental health of these individuals, as a result of stigma and discrimination.
Also reaffirm that the implementation of these procedures respects sexual rights of each person, and are consistent with bio-ethical principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice.
Reaffirm in addition that transgender care should be comprehensive, beyond just medical and psychological care, to ensure recognition and respect for their individual rights.
Reiterate the need to consider all necessary legislations to ensure recognition of these rights, especially the Gender Identity Bill, which includes the identity change regardless sex reassignment surgery performance.
Call for a broader implementation of educational strategies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity at all levels of education and to the general population, as stated in the National Program for Sexual Education.
Reaffirm the need to include the attention to transgendered people in comprehensive social policies of the State and Government of Cuba, in correspondence with the "Declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations, condemning the violation of human rights based on sexual orientation and identity gender ", supported by Cuba on 18 December 2008.
Havana, 22 January 2010
Cuban artists visited by the Temple Christ Church group
Agustin Jimenez Chacon
Carlos Antonio Para
Danis Montero Ortega
David Grinan Gonzalez
Estela Estevez Dieppa
Eyder Garbey Rodriguez
Franklin Gomez Gonce
Jorge Luis Chaves Games
Jose Luis Berenguer
Jose Rene (Bola)
Jose Rolando Montero
Jose Armando Medina
Julio Cesar Carmenate Laugart
Jorge Juan Knight Vera
Miguel A. Lobaina
Maryenis Lláser Díaz
Mauricio Reyes Aranda
Pedro M. Vazquez F
Xiomara Gutiérrez Valera.
Mearson Daniel ZaFra Pérez
PHOTO: CENESEX staff with Walter Sawicki (US, third from left), Bean Robinson, PhD (fourth from left), and Mariela Castro Espín (fifth from left), Alberto Roque, MD (sixth from left)
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