(Caribbean 360 News) MATANZAS, Cuba, Wednesday May 10, 2017 – History was made last weekend when Cuba held its first transgender mass in a trailblazing move for the Caribbean communist country.
The groundbreaking mass marked a startling change from the early years after the 1959 revolution when both religious believers and homosexuals were sent packing to “correctional” labour camps.
But in this weekend’s service, which was led by three transgender pastors in the western city of Matanzas, there was genuine hope that the nation was shifting away from its radical policies of the past and towards a more inclusive society.
Rainbow flags decorated the chapel, and the three pastors, who had travelled to Cuba from Brazil, Canada and the United States, wore stoles in the trans hues of light blue, pink and white, according to a Reuters report.
“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, the first openly transgender minister, from Washington, DC.
Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, born Alexander, added: “Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people, marking a new era for Cuba.”
The mass 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 (MCC).
The conference was held ahead of the 10th anniversary of Cuba celebrating the global day against homophobia, which will take place this weekend.
Highlights of the conference included a spirited “transformist” party, as well as several panels on theology and personal experiences.
In one panel, 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.
Lesbian pastor Elaine Saralegui, 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 would prove that being trans and Christian were not exclusive.
Saralegui has a personal congregation of around 35, but said she is asked to hold masses 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, such as providing state-financed sex reassignment.
Cuba still lags behind many parts of the world, however. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry or adopt children, and a promised update to Cuba’s family code has been slow to materialize.