Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Castro's Daughter Helps Cuba's Transgender Community Come Out Of The Shadows

Cuba is famous for its cigars, its passion for baseball, the long list of great major league ballplayers from the island, great Olympians and a certain cigar smoking bearded gentleman who was its long time leader.

But I'll bet you didn't know is that like everywhere else on the planet, Cuba has transgender people on the island as well.

Thanks to having a powerful friend in internationally renowned sexologist Mariela Castro Espin, who is President Raul Castro's daughter and Fidel Castro's niece, transgender people have been able to come out of the shadows. She's the head of the National Centre for Sex Education or CENESEX, and since 2004 has pushed for more humane treatment of Cuba's GLBT people.

Not so long ago, being GLBT was a disqualifying factor for upper echelon positions in Cuban society and anti-gay witch hunts were conducted in the 1960s and 1970s that would have made the Religious Reich proud.

In 2005 CENESEX created the National Commission for Integral Care of Transsexual People, and last year announced on June 6 that free SRS would become available for Cuban transsexuals that wish to have it. They would commence when the Cuban surgical team designated to perform the operations finished being trained by international experts was ready to begin the procedures. CENESEX also hosts a transgender support group that meets weekly in Havana.

Cuba performed its first and only sex reassignment surgery in 1988 and so far 28 Cubans have been diagnosed by the government as transsexual, and 19 wish to have gender reassignment surgery.

Castro's mother is the late Vilma Espin, who was an internationally recognized champion of women's rights. For her, it is the rights of gay and transgender people that need to be fought for.

She's pushing the Cuban National Assembly to adopt what would be the most liberal gay and transsexual rights law in Latin America.

It would if passed officially recognize same-sex unions and inheritance rights among same-sex couples, along with giving transgender Cubans the rights to obtain free sex-change operations. Transgender Cubans would be permitted to change their gender on their identity cards without having genital surgery as a precondition for doing so.

It's ironic that a nation reviled by conservatives for being repressive is more compassionate and tolerant towards its transgender citizens than my own country.


Dale said...

It's ironic that a nation reviled by conservatives for being repressive is more compassionate and tolerant towards its transgender citizens than my own country.

Yes, it is. But perhaps we shouldn't be counting those chickens quite yet. last March it was reported that Ms. Castro was pressuring the legislature to make the changes. Has she had success? I hope she so, I am wondering about how much resistance she is encountering.

And if there hasn't been any SRS since 1988, that says something, too. Granted, Cuban surgeons went for training three years ago, but a surgeon from British Columbia was able to be trained in Belgium in six months. This BC surgeon has since been denied the ability to use his skills, which speaks to the roadblocks that government can create.

Still, I hope for the best and look forward to the day when Cuban transsexuals can get the care they deserve.

Monica Roberts said...

Anytime, anywhere that our transbrothers and transsisters can come one step closer to having their human rights respected and protected is a win for all of us on the planet.

genevieve said...

Ms. Castro has really done much for the trans community in Cuba. We need her here in the states. Cuba is more progressive than the states about transgender.