Adela Hernandez made history this month as Cuba’s first transgender elected officer. Hernandez, 48, was elected delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.
Hernandez’s journey was a trial and triumph story. Born genetically male, she has lived as a transgender woman since childhood. Her transparency resulted in familial and legal repercussions. Hernandez was incarcerated in the 1980s for “dangerousness.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights have travelled a long road in Cuba. Although the nation has included same sex health care since 2007, the country was not always progressive regarding LGBT issues.
Following the 1959 revolution, which ousted Fulgencio Batista and installed Fidel Castro, openly gay people were punished for their homosexuality.
Gay people were jailed, fired from their employment and sent to “re-education camps.” These practices continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Then homosexuality was technically decriminalized in 1979.
The nation appears to be evolving in its handling and perceptions of homosexuality. If acceptance is a first step in problem solving, former Cuban president Fidel Castro publicly took that step in 2010, when he took responsibility for the persecution of gay people in the nation.
Calling the treatment of gay Cubans an “injustice,” Fidel Castro said, “… In the end, after all, if someone must assume responsibility, I offer my own. I cannot blame anyone else.”
Current Cuban president, Raul Castro, is inextricably linked to LGBT issues, as his daughter, Mariela, is a visible LGBT activist.
As LGBT issues gain civil rights momentum globally and more LGBT people take positions of leadership, traditional familial and sexual models become more inclusive. This transformation holds promise for Hernandez, while also cementing her political protocol.
The Guardian reported that she said, “I represent a community but I will always keep in mind the defense of gays.”
Although sexual orientation is important to the history-maker, Hernandez alluded to far more. She implied that political identity and purpose aren’t directly tied to who one lies with and loves.
“Sexual preference does not determine whether you are a revolutionary or not. That comes from within.”