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After the surgery, they had no problem getting married.

Ana's finally happy in her own skin, but something is still missing.

After the surgery, they had no problem getting married.
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The Atlantic Philanthropies

From the secret smiles, effortless laughs and public displays of affection, Ana and Abel don't hold back.

Watching them interact, there's no doubt they're in love.


But they weren't always this free.

Although Ana and Abel dated for nearly a decade before getting married, holding hands in the middle of Havana is brand new to them.

You see, Ana Rafaela Díaz Gómez was born in 1979. Her legal documents put her gender as male.

"In that time not much was known about this. Society rejected it, homosexuality and the like." — Ana

Date night wasn't always fun.

"We were more or less marginalized. There were many people who treated us badly ... the police. We could go out and it wasn't good because I was dressed as a woman." — Ana

Socializing wasn't the only problem. Finding a job was rough too.

"Society didn't see me in a good light when I was dressed as a woman but officially a man. So I'm a homemaker. My husband is the one who works." — Ana

But in 2008, things shifted for Ana and lots of Cubans who weren't living fully as themselves.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, is a huge supporter of LGBT rights. She saw the movement gaining momentum in Havana. In order to kickstart change, Mariela "persuaded the government in recent years to offer state-paid gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender people," according to the New York Times.

Castro's new initiative gave Ana an opportunity to have the surgery she'd always wanted.

"There's no going back on it. You have to be sure it's what you want. I had the operation two years ago." — Ana

Although the Cuban government supports gender reassignment surgery, it doesn't allow same-sex marriages. Still, Ana's ability to legally become a woman was life-changing for her and Abel.

"A few years ago, this didn't exist. There was a lot of discrimination. Now I feel much better. I see that she feels good. So I do." — Abel

"When I was able to change my identity, we were legally married. Like regular, heterosexual people. It was complicated, but we did it. ... I met him eight years ago, before I had my surgery. He liked me how I am, like a person." — Ana

Now that Ana and Abel are living the newlywed life, babies are on the brain.

"I have my husband. I have my house. I think I have the right conditions to have a kid. But in terms of adoption, no. That's something we're still not able to do ... it is something that is still new in this country."

Out of 23 select Caribbean and Latin American countries, only 5 allow LGBTQQ people to adopt kids.

Although some change is happening in Cuba, like plenty of other places, they've still got miles to go.

To watch Ana's full story, check it out below:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."