In Cuba, the trans community is waiting for a law to finally protect them

Kiriam, Malo, and Victoria come from three different generations, but these transgender women are all hoping for the same thing: to see Cuba’s gender identity law finally protecting them, beyond family law, to be put to a referendum soon.

This text, which will replace the law in force 47 years ago, is intended to be progressive by introducing same-sex marriage in Cuba, the possibility of recognizing multiple parents, as well as biological parents, or even surrogacy.

It was discussed during popular consultations, district by district, between January and April, and would be approved by referendum in the second half.

“It’s an important step, because in this law we’re talking about marriage for everyone,” which is “very revolutionary,” rejoices Kiriyam, the 45-year-old transgender actress.

But Kyriam, who is about to shoot Spanish director Carlos Arazabal’s new “Malecon,” wants more: a “gender identity law” that “criminalizes homophobia and transphobia” and ensures “truly transgender people have a protected education. And decent jobs. “.

Because, in the family bill, there is not a single reference to the trans community.

– “be strong” –

Malo, 58, originally from the center of the island, arrived in Havana eight months ago, wanting to leave behind a past marked by family rejection, abuse, police harassment and two jails for “dressing a woman,” in 1980 and 2003.

“He who was born (a trans woman), let us accept him thus, without rejecting him,” says this slender woman full of hope in her modest Havana home, without furniture and with a sheet-metal roof. She lives on the salary she receives in a club in the capital where she imitates the Spanish singer Isabel Pantoga, her idol.

Victoria still skeptical: gender identity law or not, “the newspaper says one thing and people do otherwise,” she sighs.

Victoria, 77, is Malo’s neighbour, and she hides her white hair under a brown wig. She wore a tight skirt, blouse, and high heels and regretted waiting until 11 years ago to “dress” the woman.

Trans and bisexual, she says, she “opened her eyes” thanks to TransCuba, a support network of 3,700 members. “My life has changed,” she smiles as she puts on makeup.

In still macho and homophobic Cuba, where the communist government persecuted and marginalized homosexuals in the 1960s and 1970s, Karim has not forgotten her harassment as a “different girl,” nor how she was forced in the clinic to “do combat sports.” to remind herself.

“But I knew how to control the pain and became strong,” adds the actress, who shows off her luscious breasts on Twitter, as a result of “illegal” surgery.

“At some point,” she thought about sex reassignment surgery, which the country has been practicing since 1988, but gave up. These operations are currently suspended due to the economic crisis.

– reluctance –

For more than a decade, the National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex), led by Representative Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raul Castro, has been an advocate for gay rights.

But in vain, the center tried to include marriage for all in the new constitution adopted in 2019. The center hopes it will succeed with the family law.

The first results of the popular consultation showed that Cubans seem ready to take this legal step, according to Mariela Castro. But they are more conservative about surrogacy and adoption by same-sex couples.

“Marriage doesn’t interest me much, I want other rights,” says Victoria, who recounts that she spent three months in prison in 1983 for defending homosexuality during the trial.

For Ivon Calaña, deputy director of Cenesex, “it is not necessarily necessary” to wait for the gender identity law because some aspects such as a name or gender change, which is already legally possible in Argentina, Chile or Mexico, could be incorporated into other Cuban laws in the pipeline.

But she understands that “one law alone will not have enough power to force this change” in mentalities in Cuba, because “sex education is one of the most powerful tools.”

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