For Women’s History Month, GO is celebrating LGBTQ women we wish we could have learned about in high school history class.
Adela Hernández was the first transgender person to be elected to public office in Cuba. In 2012, she was voted into the municipal council of Caibarién in the Villa Clara Province, where she represented the wants and needs of 2,000 residents. Having transitioned young, Hernández was once imprisoned for two years in the 1980s because she was living as a woman and her father turning her over to police. (The charge was “social dangerousness.”)
After being released, Hernández moved to Caibarién where she became a nurse and eventually an electrocardiogram technician. Well-liked by neighbors and part of the community’s neighborhood watch, she won their hearts, trust and votes when she was elected, winning against her opponent in a run-off vote 280-170.
Becuase Cuba has a long history of homophobia and transphobia, Hernández’s win was hailed as revolutionary and widely covered as a sort of sea change for the country’s shifting opinions. One year after she was put into office, Cuba lawmakers passed legislation protecting lesbian and gay employees from workforce discrimination. And while she acknowledged her role was to serve a community of varying identities, queer Cubans will always be a priority to her.
“I have opened the door,” Hernández told the New York Times in 2013. “Behind me, there is a space now that others can walk through.”