Few people know much about LGBT life in Cuba, like the role that cabarets have played in effecting change or that the Cuban government covers all the costs associates with gender reassignment.
A new book, ¡OUT! The Transformistas of Havana, is a celebration of the performers in Havana’s LGBT cabarets, ranging from female impersonators to trans women and everything in between. Just as gender-nonconforming individuals have played a critical role in furthering gay rights in the United States as highlighted most dramatically by their role in the Stonewall riots, so too Las Transformistas have been at the forefront of advancing LGBT rights in Cuba.
Gay cabarets have fulfilled the role of community centers in Cuba in the absence of any other gay-owned or gay-friendly establishments, such as bars, clubs, bathhouses, restaurants, etc. These cabarets have offered safe and welcoming places for LGBT people to gather and develop a sense of community.
The cabarets and the performances that take place there have played a fundamental role in pushing for gay civil rights and promoting AIDS awareness. And since the cabarets are popular with mainstream society, they have been the one place where LGBT and straight people have come together in mutual acceptance and respect. ¡OUT! explores a unique and compelling juncture where gender identity, politics, community mobilization, and artistic expression intersect in Cuban culture.
The book, with beautiful photographs by Eric Politzer, may be purchased online at EricPolitzer.photoshelter.com/#!/p/buy-book. The book and enlarged prints will be available for sale at RuPaul’s Dragcon May 7 and 8. A solo exhibition is planned in Havana to coincide with Havana Pride in mid-May. Images from ¡OUT! also will be on display at the 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography in Berlin in October and November. Take a look at some of the book's gorgeous images on the next pages.