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Cuba celebrates its first transgender wedding

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Estrada and Iriepa married in HavanaSame-sex marriage banned on island, but bride legally a woman after undergoing first state-sanctioned sex change.

A gay man and a transgender woman have married in a first-of-its-kind wedding for Cuba.

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Ignacio Estrada, 31, and Wendy Iriepa, 37, tied the knot as a transexual couple on Saturday at a government marriage office, where they signed a marriage certificate, exchanged rings and kissed before a state official.

Same-sex marriage is banned in Cuba but the couple's union did not break the law. Iriepa, the bride, is legally a woman after undergoing the country's first state-sanctioned sex change operation in 2007.

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"This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man," Estrada said.

"We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba."

The wedding, held on Fidel Castro's 85th birthday in what the couple had called a "gift" to the former leader, was aimed at advancing homosexual rights in Cuba.

Some of Cuba's best-known dissidents participated and US diplomats attended in a public show of support.

The bride arrived in a 1950s Ford convertible, sitting up on the backseat and holding a gay pride flag.

"I'm very happy and very nervous," Iriepa said as she stepped down from the car. "This is really the happiest day of my life."

More tolerant

Many gays and transsexuals have been fired from government jobs, jailed, sent to work camps or left for exile.

That climate of persecution was famously chronicled by exiled writer Reinaldo Arenas' autobiographical Before Night Falls, later a feature film starring Javier Bardem.

Today, even if deep-seated macho attitudes toward homosexuality have not entirely disappeared, the island and its government are much more tolerant.

The country's most prominent gay rights activist is Mariela Castro, Fidel Castro's niece and President Raul Castro's daughter.

She heads the National Sex Education Centre and is firmly established in Cuban officialdom.

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On arriving, Estrada said he was happy and nervous, but that the day's importance extended beyond him and his bride.

"This is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba," he said.

The couple met three months ago and fell in love, said Estrada, who has AIDS.
(Al Jazeera)