It is a worldwide fact: due to the sharp increase in the number of transgender or trans * people, the waiting lists for sex reassignment surgery are rising enormously. The hospitals can no longer cope with the registrations. This is not only the case in the Netherlands, where hundreds of sex changes take place every year, but also in Cuba, with more than 11 million inhabitants, not even that much smaller than our country. With the difference that in Cuba just five trans * people are operated on every year …
In ‘Transit Havana’ we follow three trans * people in their daily activities. Each of them has already had the necessary hormonal treatments and are now going through life as Malú, Odette and Juani. All three of them – like many of their fellow sufferers – are waiting for an operation. But the surgeons flown in from the Netherlands and Belgium only have a few days in which they can only perform five sex reassignment operations.
Malú is the youngest of the three, but has been through more than many peers. The twenty-eight-year-old Joel woman has always acted like a girl, but that was not accepted by her father. She left home at the age of eleven, entered prostitution and is now the leader of the Cuban trans community. She comes to the aid of fellow sufferers with word and deed, but sometimes has to stand by and watch how someone else who has applied for surgery less often than she is, is given priority. Odette is in her late thirties and still lives with her mother and grandmother. Previously, she worked in the military, but she has always kept her identity hidden. Now she works as a goatherd. She does not have to count on support from her strict religious family, it is after all not “God’s will”. Odette herself also remains loyal to the church. Very loyal, as it turns out… Juani is the oldest of the three main characters in ‘Transit Havana’. The sixties lives with his brother. As with Odette, money (or rather, the lack of it) plays a major role in his situation, he much preferred to live independently, or, with a lovely wife. But no one wants him so far. Juani is Cuba’s first official transsexual. He has already undergone penile surgery, but a penile implant should solve his erection problems. But no one wants him so far. Juani is Cuba’s first official transsexual. He has already undergone penile surgery, but a penile implant should solve his erection problems. But no one wants him so far. Juani is Cuba’s first official transsexual. He has already undergone penile surgery, but a penile implant should solve his erection problems.
A fourth important role in ‘Transit Havana’ is reserved for Mariela Castro, daughter of Raúl Castro (and niece of Fidel). For years she has been championing the LGBT community in her country, which had a rather sexually conservative reputation. As head of CENESEX, the National Center for Sex Education, she is responsible for a real sexual revolution, under the slogan ‘homofobia no, socialismo sì!’. Thanks to her, the treatments and operations are free.
Transit Havana is a telling, entertaining and beautifully shot documentary. The intimate recordings of a waxing Malú, Odette’s conversations with her ancient grandmother and the candid stories of Juani, it will stick to your retina. With their film, filmmakers Daniel Abma and Alex Bakker provide as complete a picture as possible of the daily life in Cuba of various trans * persons. The problems they face, their hopes for a better future and their fears and insecurities do not differ much from transgender people in other countries, but due to the unique situation in Cuba ‘Transit Havana’ rises above the topic and is so interesting for more than just the limited target group.