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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.

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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:

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