HAVANA – A transsexual and a homosexual Cuban will marry on Aug. 13 in Havana in the first wedding of this type to be held on the island on a date that coincides with the 85th birthday of former President Fidel Castro, the betrothed said.
Wendy Iriepa, a 37-year-old who underwent a sex-change operation in 2007 on the island, and Ignacio Estrada, a 31-year-old gay man who is seropositive, will marry in an open ceremony that they hope will mark a “before and an after” in Cuba with dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez as matron of honor.
“We met on May 13 of this year and we always intended to get married three months later,” Estrada – who considers himself gay but had fallen in love with Wendy, now a woman – said.
But the couple also decided to tie the knot on the “controversial” date of Aug. 13 to coincide with Castro’s 85th birthday and emphasize the “gigantic” step their union will signify for the island’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual, or LGBT, community.
Castro, in an interview a year ago, acknowledged the homophobic persecution gays and lesbians suffered in Cuba at the beginning of his revolution, and he admitted his responsibility for not paying “enough attention” to the deed that he called a “great injustice,” Estrada said.
“We would like everyone to see the date of our wedding from his point of view and we believe that our marriage will mark a before and an after,” Estrada said.
Ignacio admitted that this wedding can be held thanks to the sex-change surgeries promoted by the National Sex Education Center, or Cenesex.
That institution, headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel, in recent years has headed an insistent campaign to make the political elite and public opinion more amenable to respecting sexual diversity.
Among its achievements is the legalization of sex-change operations by government resolution in 2008.
Cenesex also has presented in the National Assembly a bill to modify the Family Code with elements such as legal unions for homosexuals, but this proposal still has not yet been approved.
Iriepa underwent a sex-change operation in 2007, before the decree, and this year she received official documentation recognizing her sex as being feminine, thanks to the efforts of Cenesex.
Two weeks ago, Iriepa was part of that institution’s working team, but she asked to resign after having “problems” with Mariela Castro because of her relationship with Estrada.
Mariela Castro “favored” Iriepa’s resignation, calling her a “dissident.”
In June, the LGBT group organized an unusual “walking march” for Gay Pride Day, something aside from Cenesex’s policy and working strategy.
Iriepa said that an invitation to their wedding will be extended to Mariela Castro and all Cenesex workers, although she feels that after her resignation the “treatment of her changed.”
“As a transsexual woman, I always cherished the dream of getting married. It’s something that I value a great deal,” Iriepa said, adding that other Cuban transsexuals who have undergone sex-change operations would like to marry but their identity changes still have not been officially recognized.
To date, 16 people have undergone that type of surgery on the island, but only three of those cases have been “resolved” regarding changing their identity documents, Iriepa said.
Yoani Sanchez, who is known for her criticism of the Cuban regime, said that she and her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, will be the matron of honor and the best man at the wedding.
Sanchez said they have been friends of Iriepa and Estrada for only a short time, but they are united by the struggle for “the acceptance of plurality” and she feels it is an “honor” to be asked to be the matron of honor.