Born in a small sugar town in Cuba, Adela Hernandez, 48, has become the island country’s first transsexual elected official. Hernandez, who was born a male but lived as female since childhood, faced insurmountable hardships growing up. In those early years, Cuba treated different sexualities the same way it treated free-thinkers, priests, and other radical individuals – by putting them in jail. Hernadeze’s own father reported her for “dangerousness” in the 1980′s, which lead to prison and a life on the run.
Hernandez recovered and grow from her struggles. She found odd jobs as she could, before working her way up to a nursing position. It was in this job that she became comfortable, and before long, she was active in community issues – establishing herself in the local neighborhood watch program.
“As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority,” Hernandez said by phone from her home town. Becoming a delegate “is a great triumph”, she added.
Because she has not undergone sex-change surgery, Hernandez is legally still a man in the eyes of the Cuban state: Jose Agustin Hernandez, according to the civil registry. Hernandez, who switched back and forth between feminine and masculine pronouns when referring to herself during an interview, said she had not yet decided to seek an operation but had not ruled it out.
Hernandez won office in early November by taking a runoff vote 280-170. Her position is the equivalent of a city councillor, and her election makes her eligible to be selected as an MP in early 2013.
“I would like to think that discrimination against homosexuals is a problem that is being overcome,” Castro told an interviewer some years ago.
Gender re-assignment surgeries have been allowed under Cuba’s national free healthcare system since 2007. Castro’s own Niece, Mariela Castro, has become the county’s leading activist for LGBT issues, even pushing for same-sex marriage rights.
She told the Guardian:
“My neighbours know me as Adela, the nurse,” Hernandez said. “Sexual preference does not determine whether you are a revolutionary or not. That comes from within.”
As an elected official she promised to campaign for her constituents’ interests, but said she also wanted to be a voice for gay rights.
“I represent a community but I will always keep in mind the defence of gays,” Hernandez said.