The theme was the focus of a virtual forum held the day before as part of the 13th edition of the Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The delivery of food and hygiene products, as well as the accompaniment of vulnerable people such as trans women, those with HIV/AIDS and those over 60, are actions of the LGBTI community to mitigate the effects of the covid-19 in Cuba.
In this, it has been essential the articulation of initiatives led by lesbians, gay, bi, trans and intersexuals (LGBTI) with community actors and institutions of the cities of Havana and Matanzas.
This was the case the day before during the virtual panel Initiatives of LGBTI activists in view of the social impact of covid-19 in Cuba, organized by the EntreDiversidades.cu platform on its Facebook page.
The initiative is part of the program of the 13th edition of the Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia, organized every year by the state-run National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), and which on this occasion only held online debates and conferences due to the new coronavirus.
Malú Cano, national coordinator of the TransCuba Network; Elaine Saralegui, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church (ICM), and Yoelkis Torres, coordinator of the Afro-Atenas socio-cultural project, the latter two based in the western city of Matanzas, participated in the virtual exchange.
Listening to people
Saralegui explained that after the first decisions were taken in this Caribbean country regarding the pandemic, the church community set out to respond to these circumstances and to impact the environment where the MSI, an evangelical denomination that is inclusive of LGBTI people, is located.
At the beginning, with the help of community actors such as the nurse, a survey was carried out to detect the most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people, the elderly living alone or with physical motor disabilities, said the leader.
At first, they were given masks donated by seamstresses and basic necessities.
However, the pastor added, “we realized that these people needed not only to take a bag of products, but also to listen to them, talk about memories of their lives, update them with some news (…) Their eyes light up, even though the help was not all we wanted; but also because of the visit, the concern and being able to assist them.
He stressed that the initiative “was never meant for the LGBTI community alone, but for the community as a whole”.
“It has been a great experience, as Christians it puts us in the way of Jesus, as a church that goes out to the community to dialogue and be with the most needy people”, valued Saralegui.
Very vulnerable trans people
In addition to the strong discrimination that often accompanies transgender people, a pandemic such as covid-19 makes them more vulnerable because economic sustenance is usually found on the streets through transactional sex.
When discussing the issue, the national coordinator of the TransCuba Network, Malú Cano, explained that for these people, mainly trans women, it is much more complex to stay in their homes.
For this reason, she added, “several people from the network met and decided to support them, providing them with a daily ration of elaborated food. We determined that, specifically, it would be for a group of elderly trans people in Havana, as well as for others who were socially disadvantaged and living in rented accommodation.
According to Cano, “For 31 days we delivered meals to 81 people. It included the purchase of the wells so they could move the food around. Although the initiative ended recently, at some point we hope to resume it.
Yoelkis Torres said that Afro-Atens began by supporting trans people in their immediate environment, in the community of Pueblo Nuevo, which is one of the districts of Matanzas most affected by the covid-19.
“We served 15 trans people, as well as 20 people living with HIV/AIDS. Then we added vulnerable groups such as children with intellectual disabilities and others with vulnerability or rare diseases, as well as adults and older adults, some of them without mobility,” he expanded.
According to the activist, the assistance included the delivery of cloth nasobucos, canned food and cleaning supplies. In addition, they have just started sending filtered water to avoid diseases during the rainy season.
In their opinion, it was essential for this aid to include a diagnosis of the community’s main problems, based on a survey that AfroAthens carry out every six months, the last of which was in February.
He also highlighted the coordination with people and institutions such as the Platform for Gender and Equity-Cuba of the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, “as well as friends of AfroAthens who have helped us with resources inside and outside the country.
According to Torres, the main problem has been in accessing and acquiring resources.
He also considered that the pandemic surprised many institutions, State or not, so he called for necessary articulations for moments like these and thinking about “how to face possible crises that could come in the future, creating, for example, spaces to produce their own food.
The participants in the forum agreed on the favorable reception of such initiatives in the population, beyond the people directly benefited.
As part of the 13th edition of the Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia, several conferences and virtual panels have been held. On May 28th, a debate forum is planned on the website of the state newspaper Juventud Rebelde.
The conference will conclude on May 31st with a virtual concert. (2020)