On May 12, Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez, Phillip and I arrived at the Karl Marx Theater, the largest venue in Cuba, and met with our MCC foundering pastor from Matanzas, Cuba, Elaine Saralegui, and many of our Cuban members from our three churches.
I was honored to have a large delegation of American friends present including Mark Segal, owner of the Philadelphia Gay News; Larry Bagneris, Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission of the City of New Orleans, and representing the Mayor of the City; Rev. Dr Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister, and his husband, Rev. Dr Robert Griffin, Executive Minster of the Sunshine Cathedral (a Metropolitan Community Church) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Rev. Dr Neil Thomas, Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope UCC, Dallas, Tx; Pastor Curtis Smith from Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Arlington, Tx. There were many more Americans than I can name here.
By the time the 10th Cuban Gala against Homophobia and Transphobia started, over 4,000 people were present including the U. S. Ambassador; Mr Jean-Marie Bruno the Ambassador of France, who is gay, told Phillip and me that his husband was upset that he could not be with us; the Ambassador of Switzerland, and the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Cuba.
The program started with music and then my introduction was made and I spoke for ten minutes on my journey in America as a gay man and drew a parallel between the GLBTQ community in both of our country’s in the 1960s when gay men were arrested and sent to prison or camps. I also share with those in the crowd, “With Joy in my heart I can tell you as a 77 year old gay man, It Does Get Better!”
A video of my speech, courtesy of Rev Elder Hector Gutierrez:
Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of the President of the Republic of Cuba, Raúl Castro, and a member of the National Assembly of her country, presented me with Cenesex Award, the first American so honored.
What followed next was the most beautiful experience of entertainment from the LGBT community I have ever witnessed!
- Ballet dancers from the National Cuban Ballet Company,
- a Flamenco dancer, who tore down the house!
- Jazz musicians,
- the choir and dancers from the Santeria religion,
- drag performances,
- numerous songs by Spanish vocalist, Falete, and more.
May 13, the March against Homophobia and Transphobia took place. Mariela Castro, Phillip and I rode in a gorgeous red and white 1955 Desoto touring car as thousands of Cubans and visitors from around the world marched.
I have to admit it, I love Cuba! Why my country continues, after over 50 years, to enforce an embargo against the small country, is just beyond me.
After the march we arrived at the Cuban pavilion, where Mariela and I spoke. Later in the afternoon Metropolitan Community Churches in Cuba lead a worship service and blessing of couples. We invited Mariela to attend and to conduct the ceremony for the couples. She graciously accepted and did that. I cannot say enough about the incredible work that this incredible woman, does!
Phillip and I will never forget this incredible chapter in our lives.
Rev. Elder Troy D Perry
Metropolitan Community Churches