Gay Cuban man, transsexual to wed on Fidel's birthday

Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:26pm EDT
 
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban gay rights activist and his transsexual bride plan to marry on former President Fidel Castro's birthday next month in a move aimed at advancing homosexual rights on the communist-ruled Caribbean island.

Wendy Iriepa, 37, who became a woman in Cuba's first state-sanctioned free sex change operation in 2007, and Ignacio Estrada, who is 31 and suffers from AIDS, will tie the knot on August 13, the 85th birthday of the veteran revolutionary.

Estrada said the wedding, which the couple called "a gift" for Castro, would be a first in Cuba's once-persecuted gay and lesbian community which has gained more space in recent years.

Same-sex marriages are not covered in Cuba's current marriage legislation, but Iriepa is now legally registered as a woman following her sex change.

The couple has scheduled their free, state-authorized nuptial ceremony at an official "wedding palace" in Havana, complete with cases of beer courtesy of the socialist state.

Cuban homosexuals, persecuted in the 1960s and 1970s by the communist authorities who sent many gays to military-run work camps, have gained more freedom in recent years thanks to a campaign of sexual education by Mariela Castro, the daughter of current Cuban President Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro, who fell sick in 2006, was formally replaced as Cuba's president by his younger brother Raul in 2008.

Iriepa, who used to work with Mariela Castro in the National Sexual Education Center (CENESEX) headed by the latter, said the wedding was not intended to be political.   Continued...