Transphobia Versus Homophobia

Cuba is once again paying for sexual reassignment surgeries. The government began a program to fund the operations in 1988, but in response to complaints the program was suspended—until now.

The new program is a direct result of the advocacy of Mariela Castro. She runs the national sexual education center and also happens to be the daughter of Raul Castro, the current president of Cuba (and brother of Fidel Castro, the former president, who although ill is still alive).

Here’s an excerpt from the AP story on it, which seems to be everywhere:

Mariela Castro says the government is moving cautiously, doing only a few per year.

“There has been a lot of resistance because homophobia remains strong in our culture,” she said at a recent conference on sexuality.

In the 1960s, Cuba was ferociously anti-gay, firing homosexuals from state jobs, imprisoning them or sending them to work camps. Many fled into exile. Transsexuals, though not gay, were considered the same.

That last sentence is critical to making the AP story fair and accurate. Without that sentence, the reader would be left with the false impression that homophobia and transphobia are the same thing, which of course they are not. The classic sin of omission.

There are many examples of that false impression in other stories, including a story from NBC Miami. It includes the same Mariela Castro quote from the AP story, then cites a quote from Fidel Castro:

Fidel himself has said gays have a place in Cuba.

“I’d like to think that discrimination against homosexuals is a problem that is being overcome,” he said during a series of interviews between 2003 and 2005. “Old prejudices and narrow-mindedness will increasingly be things of the past.”

Fidel may or may not be equating homosexuals and transsexuals, but the article should not leave that distinction unclear.

An article by the European LGBT news source Pink News does include such a disclaimer, so to speak:

Sexual diversity was seen by Fidel Castro as a corrupt consequence of capitalism and trans people were treated with the same suspicion and prejudice as gays.

Some may argue that inclusion of such explanatory sentences are not necessary, but I obviously would disagree.

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2 Responses

  1. This begs the question: Since we define “homophobia” in our Stylebook, why haven’t we done the same with “biphobia” and “transphobia”?

  2. Excellent question, I’ll make sure to refer to the stylebook committee…

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