Transgender woman 1st to win office in Cuba

Associated Press Modified: November 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012
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Since 2007 the island has been covering sex-change surgery under its free health care system. Last year a gay man and a transsexual woman whose operation was paid for by the state garnered headlines for their first-of-its kind wedding.

The country's most prominent gay rights activist is Mariela Castro, Fidel's niece and current President Raul Castro's daughter.

As director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, Mariela Castro has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community and lobbied parliament to legalize same-sex unions.

Born in a sugar town in central Cuba, Hernandez was disowned by her family and said it was her own father who reported her to authorities, leading to her imprisonment. She had to change towns and defend herself physically from attacks.

Over the decades she found work as a hospital janitor, then as a nurse and most recently as an electrocardiogram technician. She also established herself in the community and as a longtime member of her neighborhood watch committee, which helped her win acceptance and laid the groundwork for her election.

"My neighbors 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 advocate for her constituents' interests, but said she also wants to be a voice for gay rights.

"I represent a community but I will always keep in mind the defense of gays," Hernandez said.

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Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP