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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 33
Gay man marries Trans woman in Cuba on Castro's birthday
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Gay man marries Trans woman in Cuba on Castro's birthday

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay rights activist Ignacio Estrada married Wendy Iriepa on August 13 in Havana, Cuba.

In a simple civil ceremony conducted by a government official, the couple signed a marriage certificate, exchanged rings, and then kissed.

The official performing the wedding reportedly wished them 'much happiness.'

Estrada and Iriepa then draped themselves in a rainbow flag and rode in an open car through the streets of Havana.

'I'm very happy and very nervous,' Iriepa told reporters as she stepped down from the car. 'This is really the happiest day of my life.'

The date was also the 85th birthday of Fidel Castro, and the informal wedding parade competed with official celebrations of Castro's birth.

The wedding was reportedly a first for Cuba, because the bride is a Transgender woman.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Cuba, although the Cuban government said recently it was considering a civil unions law, but Iriepa is legally a woman after undergoing one of the first state-sponsored sex reassignments in 2007.

Estrada is a noted dissident and Gay rights activist and is openly living with HIV/AIDS.

The wedding was attended by other prominent dissidents and Gay rights activists including bloggers Yoani Sanchez and her husband Reinaldo Escobar, and 'Ladies in White' leaders Laura Pollan and Berta Soler.

The Ladies in White are relatives of Cuban political prisoners who protest government repression by wearing white to Catholic Mass on Sundays and then silently parading through the streets.

In a public statement, Estrada and Iriepa denied their wedding was intended as a political 'provocation.' Instead, they said, it was meant to be a 'gift' to Fidel.

Their comments to reporters after the wedding indicated the timing had a political purpose, however.

'I dedicate my wedding to all those who want to have their own,' Iriepa said after the ceremony.

'This is the first wedding between a Transsexual woman and a Gay man,' Estrada said. 'We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the Gay community in Cuba.'

Same-sex relations were illegal in Cuba from the success of Castro's revolution in 1959 to 1970, and Gay men and Lesbians were regularly sent to 'reeducation camps' for the Cuban version of reparative therapy.

Anti-Gay laws were repealed in 1970, and President Raul Castro has introduced a series of Gay rights reforms since taking over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

Last year Fidel himself apologized for persecuting Gay Cubans, calling it a 'great injustice.'

Raul's daughter Mariela Castro is one of Cuba's leading LGBT rights advocates and heads the National Center for Sex Education, where Iriepa had her sex reassignment surgery and where she worked until her wedding.

Mariela told reporters she had not been invited to the wedding, but said she congratulated the couple.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who acted as a godmother at the ceremony, said that while the marriage was not technically a Gay wedding 'it is the closest we have come.'

'We are very happy with what happened today,' she tweeted from the scene. 'It was a big step in a small Cuba.'

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