In paying for sex changes, Cuba breaks from past

Published: March 10, 2010

In paying for sex changes, Cuba breaks from past

(Havana) Looking in the mirror used to make Yiliam Gonzalez sick to her stomach.
“I would see myself, and my body didn’t match who I was,” said the 28-year-old wedding pianist, who went by William before receiving a sex change under Cuba’s universal health care system.
Gonzalez is living proof of a small but remarkable transformation for the rugged revolution of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and a band of ever-macho, bearded rebels, who long punished gays and transsexuals – but now are paying for sex changes.

Standing six feet (183 centimeters) tall, with shoulder-length blonde hair, heavy makeup and an ID card still bearing a man’s name, Gonzalez underwent the procedure in 2008. She was one of eight Cubans to do so through a program begun in 1988 – then suspended for two decades, after many complained the communist government had better ways to spend its scarce resources.

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