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05 June 2012

Wendy Iriepa (1971 –) office worker.

Iriepa was the only child of a working class family. At 10 she had a crush on a teacher at school, which led to her having to leave school. Her cousin lent clothes and swimming costume so that Wendy could pass as a girl. At 12 she left home, but continued to take her sister’s pills and grew breasts.

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.

In 2007 CENESEX, led by 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.

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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