The media, politics, and the "first gay wedding"

News from Cuba | Friday, 19 August 2011

by Camilo García

Media from all over the world had a field day around August 13, the day when Wendy -formerly a man who had sex-change surgery and is now "legally considered a woman"- and Ignacio -an out-of-the-closet homosexual"- allegedly had Cuba's "first gay wedding".

Much has been said and "proved" about the media's role in creating an image for a given event? and many lies have been spun too around this one. You see, this has neither been a "gay wedding held by a man and a woman in the loudest style of true-romance magazines" nor is it the first time a transgender woman has been married in Cuba.

As a label, "first gay wedding" happens to be rather relative, as the act is symbolic at best. Unfortunately, since same-sex marriage is still illegal in Cuba, many people are likely to have organized theirs, with more or less fanfare, in the privacy of their own homes. I remember the much-talked- about, if symbolic, ceremony Elizabeth and Monica held at CENESEX in 2007, sponsored by the lesbian and bisexual women's group Oremi.

On the other hand, the first transsexual woman who had surgery in Cuba in 1988 (Mavi Susset) has been married twice already without getting any press coverage, managing to keep a low profile "until a couple of years ago, when Marilyn Solaya made a documentary film about her, called En el cuerpo equivocado (In the wrong body).

At any rate, the much-trumpeted wedding would have made a lot less noise if Ignacio had not proclaimed himself a Cuban "dissident". Small surprise, then, that the list of special guests included Yoani Sánchez and her husband, the Ladies in White, and some officials from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

It's no less worth mentioning too -all ingenuousness aside- that the announcement by the U.S. government itself that $300,000 dollars have been approved to organize an "independent" LGBT movement in Cuba played a key role in all this... independent from whom? Mark my words: its only purpose is to bring into disrepute the institutional work made by CENESEX under the direction of Mariela Castro Espín.

It was right around those days, on August 12 to be precise, that the Center hailed an important date: the 10th anniversary of the Group TransCuba, whose members have systematically and courageously worked to fight prejudice against and rejection of transsexual people, in a celebration attended by prestigious artists and professionals from all over the world? as well as by foreign journalists accredited in Cuba. However, except for a mention here and there, and only on the occasion of the highly publicized wedding, the event went unreported.

Putting to one side the thirst for prominence behind this story, the fact that a transsexual individual who had sex reassignment and her legal identity changed gets married in a most traditional wedding ceremony proves that the Cuban Revolution, and CENESEX in particular, have deployed a systematic and successful effort to increase respect for and the recognition of LGBT people's rights. That the wedding day chosen was August 13, Fidel's birthday, is nothing but an acknowledgment of such a special date.

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