HAVANA TIMES – My US friend Cyd and I were having a look at a bookstore in Havana. “I’m looking for contemporary Cuban transgender literature,” he said, without noticing my doubts about a bibliography which, when it does come out, is sold in bulk and sells out quickly.
I recommended some books which I thought would be useful such as: Las manzanas del paraíso, El lobo, el bosque y el hombre nuevo, even though I wasn’t sure whether they were transgender literature or not. “I read the last one, but it didn’t meet my contemporary expectations,” he answered.
I decided to suggest he phone up Daniel Cespedes, who specializes in nude and erotica matters. But, maybe he could help guide curious Cyd too.
This led to the three of us meeting at the Presidente hotel.
Cyd was waiting for us at the hotel’s entrance, I introduced him to my friend and we went to the lobby, then he invited us to sit down.
My friend gave him some Cuban books about transgender literature and Cyd was very grateful. Meanwhile, Cyd asked a lot of questions and even though he knew about CENESEX (the National Center for Sex Education), he was interested in finding out about how trans people live in Cuba, whether they were marginalized by other people and whether sex reassignment surgery was done in Cuba.
I sensed that this wasn’t only about literature, he really wanted to find out about transgender reality in Cuba and other details. Yep, Cyd was curious about lots of things.
After the Cuban Revolution, there was a time of judgement, the so-called Gray Five Years, when homosexuals, among many others, were the subject of the government’s homogenization attack. It was a radical institutional marginalization (at least that’s what they wanted it to look like), which included nearly every sphere of civil society, especially culture.
Today, there is a certain level of social tolerance, while the government is opting for a policy of acceptance and equality, even though this position has many detractors, especially in religious Protestant groups. Living in harmony becomes quite difficult because it’s a very slow process which makes traditional taboos and myths against these “minorities” endure in Cuba’s collective memory.
“I don’t know how regularly sex reassignment surgery is done here in Cuba. But, I know it has been done and a lot more will be done in the future,” Daniel concluded in response to Cyd’s line of questioning and he replied with another question: And what has motivated you to look into these issues here in Cuba?”
“I’m married,” he answered while he showed us the screensaver on his phone of a beautiful girl. “This is my partner,” Cyd said, apparently throwing out our idea that he would be with another man out of the window.
“She changed sex a year ago,” he added. “Ahhh, now we understand. Sex change.”
It was a very interesting encounter because we know very little about this kind of marriage here in Cuba, so we agreed to meet another time to find out some more details.