Cuba has elected its first transgender politician following municipal elections earlier this month.
Adela Hernandez, 48, who has lived as a woman since childhood, was elected as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the Cuban province of Villa Clara in a vote of 280-170.
Hernandez told the Associated Press that her election was symbolic of the country’s about face on LGBT issues as she herself had spent two years in prison during the 1980’s after being denounced for being transgender by her own father.
‘As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are [becoming] the minority,’ Hernandez told AP, adding that becoming a delegate was ‘a great triumph.’
Hernandez’s election to a position equivalent to a local councillor also makes her eligible to be selected to become a representative in the Cuban national parliament.
In the decades following the 1959 Cuban Revolution attitudes towards homosexuals hardened under the regime of Fidel Castro, with LGBT people sent to work camps to straighten them out, including on the notorious Isla de Pinos.
However the country has been advancing in strides in recent years, with President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro leading the country’s government funded LGBT advocacy group the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).
Since June 2008, Cubans have been able to have sex change operations for free. However the government will not recognise a transgender person in their chosen gender unless they undergo full gender reassignment surgery.
Hernandez has not undergone surgery, so in the eyes of the government she is still a man named Jose Agustin Hernandez.
‘My neighbors know me as Adela, the nurse,’ Hernandez said.
‘[Being LGBT] does not determine whether you are a revolutionary or not. That comes from within.’