Cuba is considering a new family code that could allow marriage equality for the first time in the communist nation. In the last year, the Cuban health ministry unfurled an enormous rainbow flag to mark International Day Against Homophobia, and former president Raúl Castro declared that confronting homophobia remained one of the government’s chief goals. To some Americans, these developments might seem to fly in the face of the country’s communist history. After all, Fidel Castro’s government interned gay people in camps in the 1960s and sent HIV-positive individuals to government sanitariums in the 1980s. As one columnist wrote of the American left in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “it is remarkable that any [liberal] could look at the Castros’ history on race and sexuality and conclude they had shared values.” It has been common for U.S. commentators to use queer people to discredit socialism — a kind of pinkwashing in reverse. But doing so flattens the historical relationship between queer politics and communism. Centering only the homophobic elements in communism, this rhetoric ignores the truly impressive advances made by some communist regimes on queer rights (and papers over long histories of intolerance of LGBTQ people in non-communist countries). A more careful examination of this history shows us that communism and queerness might actually belong together.

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