QUEER VOICES
05/12/2017 12:25 pm ET

Transgender Pastors Celebrate A Joyous, LGBTQ-Friendly Mass In Cuba

“God’s love is radically inclusive.”
Trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S., trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada and Alexya Salvador from Bra
Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
Trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S., trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada and Alexya Salvador from Brazil, and lesbian pastor Elaine Saralegui sing during a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017.

There was a time when religious believers and LGBTQ people were sent to “correctional” labor camps in the Communist-ruled Cuba. The country has come a long way since then.

In a sign of progress, three transgender pastors recently celebrated Mass in the western Cuban city of Matanzas. The pastors, who had flown in from Brazil, Canada and the United States, preached a message of God’s love and inclusivity.

“Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people, marking a new era for Cuba,” said Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, according to Reuters.

“God’s love is radically inclusive.”

The May 5 Mass was part of a three-day conference on trans theology organized by the Cuban branch of the international Metropolitan Community Church.

“This is not only a first of its kind event for Cuba, but certainly one of the very first ever to be held anywhere in the world,” Allyson Robinson, a trans Baptist reverend from Washington, said.

The pastors told Reuters they were impressed with Cuba’s progress toward inclusivity of the LGBTQ community, including providing state-financed sex reassignment. Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro and niece of the late Fidel Castro, is among those who have championed transgender rights in the country.

But trans-identified people still experience discrimination in the workforce and in Cuban society at large. And the pastors noted that same-sex couples in Cuba still cannot marry or adopt children.

“Everyone should have the right to have a family,” said Salvador, who has adopted two children, including a trans girl. “I believe this touch of God will also happen in the Cuban community.”

Scroll down to see photos of the celebratory Mass below:

  • Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, retouches her makeup before a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, retouches her makeup before a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • Trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S. (L), trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (2nd L) and Alexya Salva
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S. (L), trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (2nd L) and Alexya Salvador from Brazil (2nd R) and lesbian pastor Elaine Saralegui sing during a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • A rainbow flag decorates a chapel before a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    A rainbow flag decorates a chapel before a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • Alexya Salvador (C), a Brazilian trans pastor, walks during a mass in a church in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Alexya Salvador (C), a Brazilian trans pastor, walks during a mass in a church in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • Trans pastor Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S. (R) listen to trans pa
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Trans pastor Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S. (R) listen to trans pastor Alexya Salvador from Brazil during a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. Picture taken on May 5, 2017.
  • Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, holds a leaflet with an image of Jesus Christ during a mass in a church in Matanza
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, holds a leaflet with an image of Jesus Christ during a mass in a church in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • Trans pastors Alexya Salvador from Brazil (L) and Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Trans pastors Alexya Salvador from Brazil (L) and Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from U.S. listen to sermons during a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017.
  • Trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and Alexya Salvador from Brazil listen to trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robins
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    Trans pastors Cindy Bourgeois from Canada (C) and Alexya Salvador from Brazil listen to trans Baptist reverend Allyson Robinson from the U.S. during a mass in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
  • People embrace each other during a mass in a church in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
    Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
    People embrace each other during a mass in a church in Matanzas, Cuba, May 5, 2017. 
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