Fidel Castro's Birthday Present: A Big Transsexual Wedding

Fidel Castro turned 85 this past Saturday, and the celebrations were mostly typical. Supporters held a giant concert featuring dozens of musical acts, but Castro himself spent the day in seclusion, which prompted rumors he might have been too feeble for a public appearance. Miami exiles, meanwhile, marked his birthday by hoping he never celebrates another.

But there was perhaps a more historic celebration held in Havana that day: A gay man and a transsexual woman wed -- legally -- the first wedding of its kind in the island nation.

Ignacio Estrada, 31, and Wendy Iriepa, 37 tied the knot with the blessing of the government. Iriepa was the first person to undergo a state-sanctioned sex change operation in 2007. Because the government recognizes her gender as female, the wedding was completely legal. Cuba does not recognize same-sex weddings, but activists and dissidents on the island still viewed the marriage as a score for gay rights and celebrated accordingly.

The couple called the wedding a "gift" to the former leader, who once claimed "maricones" -- a demeaning term for gays -- were agents of imperialism, but has since taken a more accepting stance toward homosexuals.

Noticeably absent, however, was Mariela Castro, Raúl Castro's daughter, who acts as the government's official voice for gay rights.

Instead, the crowd included dissidents such as blogger Yoani Sánchez, who tweeted, "We are very happy with what has occurred today. A big step in a small Cuba."

Sánchez later tweeted that Mariela Castro has recently accused a dissident LGBT group on the island of accepting American money.

The event was the latest rift between dissident LGBT groups and Mariela's official CENESEX organization. Back in June, Havana saw its first gay pride parade, though it wasn't sanctioned by the government.

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