Lifestyle & Belief

Cuban gay activist marries transgender bride on Fidel's birthday


Cuban transsexual Wendy Iriepa arrives for her wedding on August 13, 2011, in Havana.


Adalberto Roque

Noted gay Cuban gay rights activist Ignacio Estrada has married a transsexual bride in what is being seen as the country's first "gay wedding," attended by prominent dissidents and members of Cuba's gay community, as well as U.S. diplomats.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Cuba, but the bride — Wendy Iriepa, 37 — is legally a woman after undergoing Cuba's first state-sanctioned sex change operation in 2007.

The couple said the wedding was timed to coincide with Fidel Castro's 85th birthday, was a "gift" for the former leader, the BBC reports.

After the wedding, at a government marriage office in the Havana suburbs, the couple reportedly draped themselves in rainbow flags symbolic of gay pride and rode through the streets of Havana in a 1950s Ford convertible.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people faced official discrimination for years in communist Cuba.

According to Reuters:

The wedding signaled changing attitudes on the island, where homosexuals were placed in camps in the 1960s for being "counterrevolutionary" in a part of history that prompted a mea culpa from Fidel Castro last year.

Estrada, a prominent gay rights activist and AIDS sufferer, said he was happy and nervous, but that the day's importance extended beyond him and his bride, whom he met three months ago, Reuters reported.

"This is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba," he said.

While prominent dissident like bloggers Yoani Sanchez and husband Reinaldo Escobar, and Laura Pollan and Berta Soler, leaders of the dissident Ladies in White, attended the wedding, notably absent was gay marriage proponent Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Mariela Castro, who heads Cuba's National Center for Sex Education — where Iriepa worked until recently — said she was not invited to the wedding but congratulated the couple.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, has reportedly offered financial aid to gay Cuban dissidents as a way of promoting political change in Cuba.