Cuba hosts first transgender religious ceremony

The Caribbean nation has a dark history of LGBT discrimination 

Andrew Buncombe
US Editor
Monday 08 May 2017 11:30
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For years, Castro brutally discriminated against the LGBT community
For years, Castro brutally discriminated against the LGBT community

For many decades, members of the LGBT community in Cuba were rounded up, jailed and otherwise oppressed.

“We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant,” Fidel Castro told an interviewer in 1965.

So, a mass performed in the Cuban city of Matanzas by three transgender pastors, underscored the slow, but still incomplete progress made by activists in the Communist-ruled country.

Reuters said rainbow flags decorated the chapel, while the pastors, who had flown in from Brazil, Canada and the United States, wore blue, pink and white.

The event in the city located 60 miles from Havana, was the first time a transgender pastor had carried out a Holy Communion in the country.

“Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people, marking a new era for Cuba,” said Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian transgender pastor wearing a black dress with a white clerical collar and lacy sleeves. She added: “God's love is radically inclusive.”

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The news agency said the mass last Friday, came at the culmination of a three-day conference on gender identity and theology organised by the Matanzas-based Cuban branch of the international Metropolitan Community Church.

“This is not only a first of its kind event for Cuba, but certainly one of the very first ever to be held anywhere in the world,” said Allyson Robinson, a transgender Baptist pastor from Washington DC

The conference took place ahead of the 10th anniversary of Cuba celebrating the global day against homophobia. It reportedly included a lively “transformist” party as well as a variety of panels on theology and personal experiences.

In one, Ms Salvador argued God was transgender, given the Holy Trinity was made up of the Holy Spirit, which she views as feminine, the Father and the Son.

Elaine Saralegui, a lesbian pastor who founded the Cuban branch of the MCC nearly two years ago, said she hoped the conference would foster greater inclusion.

A 26-year-old Cuban trans woman called Malu Duardo, said: “I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other trans.”

Castro's daughter, Mariela, has been a campaigner for LGBT rights, and currently heads Cuba's National Centre for Sex Education.

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