Mariette Pathy Allen
Laura and Lady at the Las Vegas Club, Havana, Cuba
Laura at Home, Havana, Cuba
Rapunzel at Night, Havana, Cuba
Charita with Piglet, Camagüey, Cuba
Malu Visiting Family, Cien Fuego, Cuba
Malu in Bed, Ciego de Avila, Cuba
Ale with Lover and Friend, Camagüey, Cuba
Nomi's Boyfriend in the Barbershop, Havana, Cuba
Amanda at Home,Havana, Cuba
Arsola, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Mariette Pathy Allen
I have been involved with "the transgender community” as a photographer, writer, advocate, ally, and friend for over 30 years. My focus remains the same as when I started: the de-freakification of gender variant people. Just in the process of living their lives, people who are gender nonconforming make visible profound questions: What is the relationship between body and mind? What does “man” or “woman” mean? Finally, what is the essence of a human being? Although most of my work has been in the United States, I have photographed gender non-conformists from other countries as well. By great good fortune, I was introduced to transgender people in Cuba, where I found a warm welcome.
Cuba is a country transitioning from strict communism to a more relaxed form. At the same time, sexual minorities in this macho-inclined country are becoming more visible and less despised. A lot of credit for this transition belongs to Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, a sexologist, who is making her own revolution by actively working on programs to change conditions and attitudes towards transgender and homosexual people. The changes that the Cuban government makes are reflected in the transitions of these people.
In 2012, I met Amanda and Nomi at the Las Vegas Club, in Havana. I was drawn to Amanda by her charm and openness. Nomi attracted me with her energy, goodwill, and ability to speak English, which she taught herself. I also met Malu in 2012 at the Las Vegas Club but didn’t get to know her until 2013 when Amanda became her roommate. Malu is a natural leader, organized, determined, and generous. As “the best known transgender person in Cuba”, she introduced me to most of the people I met. I am moved and very grateful to these three women for offering me entrance to their lives, without embarrassment or resentment for the difficulties they encounter.