Olivia / Yoani Sánchez

My friend Miguel left, tired of waiting for a sex change operation, and knowing full well that he was never going to get a better job. He left the red wig to a friend who worked in the same hospital and sold, illegally, the room he had in Luyanó. The day he asked permission to leave he put on a suit and tie, which made him roar when he looked at himself in the mirror. At the immigration office he tried to keep his hands off the fold of his trousers, so that the last gasp of homophobia wouldn’t spoil his departure.

He escaped before they closed the river of Cubans which, for a brief time, flowed to Ecuador. His was one of some 700 marriages contracted between citizens of both countries, many of them with the sole objective of obtaining residency in that South American nation. Miguel paid the equivalent of $6,000 and in return got a wedding in Havana with a woman from Quito he’d known for barely a couple of hours. He faked pictures of the honeymoon, paid an official at the Ministry of Public Health so he would give him his “release”and even handed over a little cash so that his white card — the exit permit — wouldn’t be too delayed. He pretended to be what he was not which was easy for him, because those of us born on this Island are good at putting on a mask.

Now he expects difficult times because the Ecuadorian police have started to investigate the 37,000 Cubans who entered that country in recent years. He doesn’t seem scared, however. He is gay, one of those they loaded into police trucks under a rain of blows, and for years he was also monitored for his critical views. After experiencing both edges of the blade of censorship, nothing frightens him. When called to testify — if he is called — he will go wearing the red dress he always wanted to wear here. Nobody is going to stop him from gesturing while they interrogate him, because already Miguel has escaped that Miguel he once was, to become — happily — Olivia.

September 13, 2010