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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:

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I'm a bit of a pen snob. Even if I'm just making a list, I look for a pen that grips well, flows well, doesn't put too much or too little ink into the paper, is responsive-but-not-too-responsive to pressure, and doesn't suddenly stop working mid-stroke.

In other words, the average cheap ballpoint pen is out. (See? Snob.)

However, Oscar Ukono is making me reevaluate my pen snobbery. Because while I'm over here turning up my nose at the basic Bic, he's using them to create things like this:

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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