First transgender elected official makes history in Cuba
HAVANA, Cuba, Friday November 23, 2012 – The landmark appointment of Adela Hernandez as Cuba’s first transgender elected officer has made history in the Caribbean communist country.
Forty-eight-year-old Hernandez was elected delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien, in the central province of Villa Clara, earlier this month.
Hernandez, who was born genetically male, has travelled a rocky road to reach her destination, bearing the brunt of discrimination and harsh punitive measures along the way.
She has lived as a transgender woman since childhood, with her openness drawing familial and legal repercussions. In the 1980s she endured incarceration for “dangerousness.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights have come a long way in Cuba, where openly gay individuals were punished for their homosexuality following the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
Gays were fired from their jobs, jailed and sent to “re-education camps” until homosexuality was technically decriminalized in 1979.
The country’s perceptions of homosexuality appear to have gradually evolved over the past 30 years, and in 2010 former Cuban president Fidel Castro publicly took responsibility for the persecution of the nation’s gays.
Calling the treatment of gay Cubans “an injustice,” Castro said, “In the end, after all, if someone must assume responsibility, I offer my own. I cannot blame anyone else.”
Castro’s successor, his younger brother Raul Castro, is closely linked to LGBT issues via his daughter Mariela, who is a prominent LGBT activist at home and abroad.
With LGBT issues gaining civil rights momentum globally and more LGBT persons assuming leadership positions, Adela Hernandez fits right into the new equation.
“I represent a community but I will always keep in mind the defense of gays,” she was quoted as saying in The Guardian.
But while sexual orientation is important to Hernandez, she implied that political purpose is not directly tied to who one lies with and loves.