In what is thought to be a first for the country, a man and a transexual woman married in Cuba on Saturday, also the day of Fidel Castro’s 85th birthday. The media, however, seems to be struggling with the particulars.
The bride, Wendy Iriepa, 37, arrived at the wedding hall in Havana in a full white gown, with flowers in her hair and holding a rainbow flag. Inside, a public notary joined the couple in a brief civil ceremony and the newlyweds kissed to cheers from friends and family.
“This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man,” said the 31-year-old groom, Ignacio Estrada. “We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba.”
Estrada, in recent comments to the US-based Radio Marti, called the marriage a “birthday present to Fidel Castro to remind him of the atrocities he committed against the Cuban gay community, above all in the 1960s.”
Castro, who turned 85 on Saturday, has expressed regret in recent years for the treatment of gay people during that period.
Does Ignacio and Wendy’s wedding deserve to make the news given that it is effectively just another heterosexual wedding? In one respect yes. As noted above, their wedding is believed to be the first time a woman who was birth-assigned male has married a male partner in Cuba, so it is notable as a quiet milestone in terms of marriage equality for Cuba’s transexual population.
A linked area of interest may also be that same-sex marriage is still not legal in Cuba, so while this may be seen as a small step toward acceptance for the LGBT community, heteronormative restrictions still persist.
It’s also notable in one other regard: certain elements of the media can’t quite seem to fathom the details of this wedding.
Many have labeled this Cuba’s first gay wedding. It is not. Under Cuban law Wendy Iriepa is legally recognized as a woman after having state-backed gender reassignment surgery in 2007 under the pilot scheme that saw gender change treatment incorporated into the country’s universal healthcare program. Also, despite the fact that Ignacio is a prominent dissident gay rights activist, the fact that he has previously identified himself as a gay man doesn’t change the fact that this is a heterosexual wedding.
Wendy, interviewed here for Euronews, says she’s very much in love and isn’t enjoying the politicization of her happy day. The fact that she arrived in a top-down car waving a gay rights flag may perhaps suggest otherwise, but there’s no reason the event can’t be both.
Congratulations to the happy couple!