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Cuban Government Hosts International Day Against Homophobia, Broadcasts Brokeback Mountain

By L.K. Regan

There were signs this weekend that Cuba may be ready to rethink its legacy on gay rights, as the government backed a campaign against homophobia on Saturday, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Cuba is famous for having broadly tested for HIV in the 1980s, and quarantining its positive population in "sanitariums" (where many of them still voluntarily live). It's a new day in post-Fidel Cuba, however, as the dictator's pro-gay-rights niece is running the country's Center for Sexual Education. This weekend, Mariela Castro headed up a conference to honor the International Day Against Homophobia. Hundreds of gay activists gathered to discuss the future of homosexuality in Cuba and abroad (insider's tip: The consensus was that homosexuality is likely to continue), and enthusiasm ran so high that there was talk of an impromptu Pride Parade. Cooler, more conservative heads prevailed on the parade topic, but the state itself may have set the stage for a gay wildfire by prefacing the conference with a showing on national state-sponsored television of the official movie of gaydom: Brokeback Mountain. As go the gay cowboys, so goes the nation—Cuba is evidently ready to consider same-sex civil unions.

The depth of change in the country is best marked, perhaps, by a single fact: The conference this weekend included a booth with free blood testing for STDs. That people would voluntarily use such a service in a country where a positive test could, until recently, get you imprisoned is nothing if not a good sign.