That marriage in Cuba

I meant to talk about the marriage in Cuba between a gay man and a transgendered woman a little sooner (after all, it’s been almost two weeks).

I think there are good things and bad things about this story. First, I’m very glad for the couple, and I hope their marriage is happy and successful. Second, it is of course a good thing that the country has liberalised its attitudes to trans people. The problem is that this was reported in all sorts of places as a “gay marriage”, albeit within scare quotes. But it’s not. Marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal in Cuba. This marriage was between a man and a woman; it just happens that the woman has an X and a Y chromosome.

There are two problems with referring to it as a gay marriage. First, it implies that, while her birth certificate now states she is a woman, Wendy Iriepa is “really” a man. Second, I can’t help worrying that this will encourage a dangerous attitude towards homosexuality. In Iran, for example, homosexual activity can be punished by corporal or capital punishment. Sex-change surgery, however, is permitted, and some clerics have apparently encouraged this as a good option for gay people. This approach, obviously, is rather an unhealthy and dangerous one. Homosexuality and transgenderism are not the same thing at all, and confusing the two—as has been done by people calling the Cuban marriage a gay one—helps no one.

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Filed under Sexuality and gender

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