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In Cuba, theTranssexuals are Ordinary People who Only Need Societys Recognition of their Gender Identity.
Mayito looks at the noisy line and grabs his teachers hand tightly. With the schools homeroom period just minutes away, no one even suspects how much suffering these first few steps holds for him every single day in his life as a student.

He knows he will have to get into line in the end, a daily humiliation his psyche seems to accept no more than the pain of wearing boys clothes and short hair and coping with the prohibition of playing with girls. He must bear the way the others make fun of his gestures, his fathers disapproving stance, the anguished look in his mothers eyes, and his own feelings of guilt.

A few years from now, Mayito will probably be a high school graduate for whom an application to the university or a good job is likely to be out of the question. By then, his undeniable female identity attached to a mans body might very well be cause for derision, so much so because, at his own risk, he will have adopted a womans name, taken nonprescription hormones, and challenged the world with his attire. He will dream of undergoing surgery to rid his body of those manly traits that force him to behave as someone hes not.

But it could happen that by that time Cuban society will have decided to shake off those prejudices, as it has many others, and managed to understand that transsexuals are not sick but ordinary people who only need society to recognize their gender identity -as a male or a female- even if it mismatches their sex organs.

Should that be the case, the new Family Code and other legal standards could prove to be a transsexuals best allies and a basis for different names, widespread acceptance, understanding and love. Between science and prejudice.

From the scientific viewpoint, transsexualism has been defined as the lack of consistency between a persons genital anatomy at birth and the construction of their identity as a man or a woman, a process which starts since childhood but can only be confirmed at the end of puberty, when the individual is at least 18.

In conversation with JR, Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), assured that attempts to alter gender identity have always been part of human history.

«Its not a mental disorder. There were treatments in the past to adjust a persons mind to his/her body, but since research has proved beyond any doubt that those procedures were highly traumatic, todays health strategies are focused on making the individuals outward aspect and gender identity agree with each other,» she points out.

Ignorance often leads up to transsexuals being deemed transvestites and/or homosexuals and called amoral, antisocial, weird, maladjusted, transgressive, etc., but theyre actually human beings whose particular characteristics distinguish them from most others.

«Our lack of knowledge makes us reject and disqualify what we dont understand, and we do it from a hegemonic position which we think entitles us to look down upon and feel above whats different. We are thus prone to humiliate, mistreat, blackball and discriminate against people.»

Transsexuals may be homo-, hetero- or bisexual, as the expression of our erotic desire has nothing to do with our identity as men or women. Since they project an image consistent with the gender they identify with, they are usually confused with transvestites, who have a quarrel with their image, not their gender identity.

Throughout time, and not only in ancient history, some cultures have not only held a place for transsexuals within their societies but even see them as a good omen. For instance, recent research in French Polynesia has it that they are received with love and respect both by family and the community.

Making them feel at home

In order to welcome these individuals and give them new hopes of happiness, a National Multidisciplinary Commission was set up in 1979 with the Ministry of Public Healths endorsement. In 2005, it went under CENESEXs coordination and became the National Commission for Integral Transsexual Health, charged with designing a strategy to help implement social policies based on proper care for and full respect to their dignity.

Ninety-two applications have been received since then. Of them, 27 were confirmed as cases of transsexualism, two are transvestites, another two are effeminate male homosexuals, and the rest are still under study.

Of those confirmed, 24 are undergoing a change-of-image process (so-called «Real-Life Test»), based on the requirement that they live as members of their target sex and receive customized hormone treatment and psychological therapy.

Unlike other countries, no transsexual has ever committed suicide in Cuba, a fact greatly influenced by the emotional and professional support available to them by request since the 1970s.

Q: Are the Cuban people prepared to understand the social treatment transsexuals need?

«They will be as they get to learn more. Thats why the commissions strategy includes media support through news, educational and cultural programs we already have in place.»

Q: Has this issue been discussed by the National Assembly? And if so, whats the plan?

«Its yet to be discussed. Our strategy has been submitted to three standing committees between 2005 and 2006, and the deputies have contributed valuable questions and suggestions to be included in the draft.»

«At the same time, and as suggested by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), we took up an old idea concerning the amendment of the Cuban Family Code. The issue of sexual orientation and gender identity are hardly mentioned among all of the proposals to strengthen the humanistic ethics of family relations and make the bonds between generations more democratic and fair.»

Q: Who may a family contact if they believe one of its members is emotionally affected by other peoples rejection of his or her gender identity or sexual leanings?

«CENESEX and its municipal or provincial Sex Education committees, or some polyclinics and hospitals where there are qualified specialists.»

There is also the municipal Womens and Familys Guidance Houses.

«We must bear in mind that a toy or a game has no specific gender, nor does any kind of human activity for that matter. The opposite is just stereotyped sexism. A boy who plays with dolls is only symbolically reproducing what grownups do with children. Its whatever they absorb from human relations, including parents tenderness towards their offspring. Thats how they start learning to express parenthood.»

«Its by no means a sign that the childs sex, gender identity or sexual orientation is changing. The same happens when a girl engages in anything traditionally labeled as 'boys-only.

«Very often, a boy plays with girls when he feels attracted to one of them and wants to get her attention, and vice versa. Not even putting on the opposite sexs clothes and attributes for fun is a sign that their gender identity is all messed up.

This is a quite frequent and permanent conflict during childhood when the psyche-body inconsistency becomes obvious. Thats when parents and teachers must seek professional advice and respect the childs identity as they feel it rather than forcing them to feel it as we want.

«The schools role regarding the attention to presumed transsexual minors who are under study is paramount. We know some teachers who still harbor a great deal of prejudice do unjust things and wound the child deeply as a result.

«Their school must protect them and, above all, teach the rest of the students and the community to love and support these children as well as to respect their peculiar characteristics.»


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