She was 17 in 1988 when she heard that Mavi Susel had become Cuba’s first surgical transsexual. She went to the doctor in the case and was referred to CENESEX (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual). Two years later Wendy was confirmed as transsexual and was officially on hormones. Mayra Rodríguez, a psychologist at CENESEX counselled Wendy’s father that she had a mismatch of body and mind, and that she was not doing this against him or against the dignity of the men in his family.
In 1997 she was issued a female identity card. However she still found it very difficult to get a job. She was given a position as CENESEX. She maintained client records, and finished high school.
Mariela Castro, daughter of the then acting President, and with the guidance of Belgian specialists, started a programme of transgender surgery as part of Cuba’s health system. Wendy was one of the first to have the surgery, and was featured in world’s press as a symbol of the program. She appeared with Mariela Castro at IDAHO and other events.
In 2011, Wendy became a lover of Ignacio Estrada, an opposition gay and HIV+ activists. On 28 June they marched together for the unapproved Gay Pride Day. The next day Mariela gave Wendy a dressing down, and Wendy quit her job at CENESEX.
On 13 August, Fidel Castro’s 85th birthday, Wendy and Ignacio married. Mariela was not invited, but did send her congratulations.
Wendy has worked since with Ignacio in building a gay movement independent of CENESEX.
- Dalia Acosta. “Wendy, una transexual frente al espejo”. Cenesex, Abril 24, 2004. www.cenesex.sld.cu/webs/diversidad/wendy.html.
- “Cuba realiza gratuitamente operaciones de cambio de sexo”. El Commercio, 15 de mayo 2010. http://elcomercio.pe/mundo/478915/noticia-transexual-cubana-agracecio-al-gobierno-raul-castro-cirugia-gratuita-cambio-sexo.
- Juan O. Tamayo. “Cuban transgender woman says she resigned because Mariela Castro accused her of disloyalty”. Gay South Florida, July 2011. http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2011/07/cuban-transgender-woman-says-she-was-fired-because-her-lover-is-with-opposition.html.
- Jeff Franks. “Gay man marries transsexual woman in Cuban first”. Reuters, Aug 13, 2011. http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE77D01E20110814.
- “Gay man weds transsexual woman in Cuba”. The Guardian, 14 Aug 2011. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/14/gay-man-weds-transsexual-woman-cuba.
- Wendy Iriepa & Ignacio Estrada, translated by Maria Montoto. “Let us talk about Homosphobia in Cuba”. Translating Cuba, May 31 2012. http://translatingcuba.com/?p=18798.
There are discrepancies about Wendy's age. In the Cenesex 2004 article it says that she was 17 in 1988, which means that she was born 1970-1. The Associated Press/Guardian article says that she was 37 in 2011, which means born in 1973-4.
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