Cuba's first daughter Mariela Castro told a forum in the US we can't advance as a society unless we tackle homophobia.
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro made the comments during an address to about 50 medical professionals and transgender advocates at San Francisco General Hospital yesterday (23 May).
'If we don't change our patriarchal and homophobic culture...we cannot advance as a new society, and that's what we want, the power of emancipation through socialism,' she said, reported The Associated Press.
She added: 'We will establish relationships on the basis of social justice and social equality...It seems like a Utopia, but we can change it.'
The prominent LGBT activist and sexologist is also chairing a panel on sexual diversity at the Latin American Studies Association International Congress, taking place 23 to 26 May in San Francisco.
However, her visit to the US, though of an academic nature, has ignited outrage from some politicians, with Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, slamming the decision to grant her a visa and calling Mariela Castro 'a vociferous advocate of the regime and opponent of democracy'.
Castro has long-been an advocate of sexual rights in Cuba. She has praised Obama's endorsement of marriage equality and spearheaded Cuba's gay-rights campaign associated with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on 17 May.
She was instrumental in the passing of a 2008 law in Cuba that allowed free sex-change surgeries into the island's universal healthcare policies.
As the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) in Havana, Castro campaigns for effective AIDS prevention and the acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestitism and transsexualism human rights.
Though CENESEX presumably receives state funding, Mariela Castro has no official link to the Communist government. It is not know whether she is a member of the Communist Party.