In terms of cultural acceptance, Cuba’s relationship with members of its LGBT community has been varied and complex. While the Cuban government and police force have a fraught history with Cuba’s queer population, the Cuban society has been accepting to varying degrees. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have officially been able to be to serve openly in the Cuban Military, though most opt to remain in the closet for fear of the implicit repercussions they might face.
Gender non-conforming drag performers, known commonly as transformistas, have been a common fixture of Cuba’s queer subculture for decades. Self-identified transgender people, however, have been met with significantly more substantial hurdles. Slowly but surely, though, things are changing. In 2005 Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of current Cuban President Raúl Castro and vocal advocate for LGBT rights, proposed sweeping legislation that would allow trans-identified Cubans to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. The bill was signed into law in 2008, and since then transgender people have continued to make inroads.
In 2012 Adela Hernandez became the first transgender woman to be elected to public office as a local representative to the Caibarien delegation of Villa Clara, a Cuban central province.
"My neighbours know me as Adela, the nurse," Hernandez told The Guardian. "Sexual preference does not determine whether you are a revolutionary or not. That comes from within. As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority.”
Though Hernandez’s election was a landmark achievement for trans people in the country, her success was due, in part, to Cuba’s official protocol for recognizing its citizens’ genders. Because Hernandez had yet to opt-in for sexual reassignment surgery, Cuba still officially recognizes her as Jose Agustin Hernandez, a man. Ana Rafaela Díaz Gómez, a transwoman living in Havana, is the subject to a short New York Times documentary, dealing with a similar situation.
“By the time I met Ana, I only had about 36 hours on the ground left, so I knew I had to keep my video very focused,” explained Alexandra Garcia, a visual journalist with the Times. “ She still had to have the legal change of identity so she could be married to her partner of eight years ‘as a regular heterosexual couple,’ so I focused the story on the two of them and their relationship.”
The video is a part of a larger series the Times is running on LGBT lives in Cuba. You’ll need a subscription to access the full article, but watch the video about Ana Rafaela Díaz Gómez AFTER THE JUMP…