Human Rights in Cuba

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Communist-ruled Cuba hosts first transgender Mass
By Sarah Marsh and Anett Rios | MATANZAS, CUBA

For decades belonging to a religion and being anything but heterosexual
was stigmatized in Communist-ruled, macho Cuba, making the Mass held by
three transgender pastors in the western Cuban city of Matanzas all the
more groundbreaking.

Rainbow flags decorated the chapel, while the pastors, who had flown in
from Brazil, and the United States, wore stoles in the trans hues
of light blue, pink and white and the congregation swayed to Caribbean
beats.

Friday was the first time a trans pastor held a Holy Communion in Cuba,
highlighting how much the island nation has changed since both religious
believers and homosexuals went to “correctional” labor camps in the
early years after the 1959 revolution.

“Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people,
marking a new era for Cuba,” said Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans
pastor, born Alexander, wearing a black dress with a white clerical
collar and lacy sleeves she made herself.

“God’s love is radically inclusive.”

The Mass on Friday was the highlight of a three-day conference on
transsexuality and theology organized 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 trans Baptist reverend from Washington.

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

In one, 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 of trans people and prove that being trans and
Christian were not incompatible.

“I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other
trans,” said one participant, a 26-year-old Cuban trans woman called
Malu Duardo, “in particular that there is a God for everyone.”

Saralegui’s congregation numbers around 35 but she said she also gets
asked to hold Mass at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) activist
events around the rest of the island nation of 11 million inhabitants.

“Nearly always they ask me to hold a liturgy there, so we have to
improvise wine, bread and hold a (Lord’s) supper anywhere,” she said.

The trans pastors said they were impressed by Cuba’s progressiveness in
some respects, for example providing state-financed sex reassignment.

The country was clearly lagging the rest of the Americas in other ways
though, they said. Same-sex couples may not marry or adopt children and
a promised update to Cuba’s family code has been slow to materialize.

“Everyone should have the right to have a family,” said Salvador, who
has adopted two children, including a trans girl. “I believe this touch
of God will also happen in the Cuban community.”

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: Communist-ruled Cuba hosts first transgender Mass | Reuters –
www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-lgbt-church-idUSKBN1830EZ?il=0

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