SAN FRANCISCO - The daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro brought her fight for gay rights to a US forum on Wednesday, stressing the need to secure social equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation.
Speaking in Spanish through a translator, Mariela Castro addressed about 50 medical professionals and transgender advocates at San Francisco General Hospital.
She has an international reputation as an outspoken gay-rights advocate and lobbied her father's government to cover sex reassignment surgery under the national health plan, which it has since 2008, and to legalize same-sex marriages, which it has not.
"If we don't change our patriarchal and homophobic culture . . . we cannot advance as a new society, and that's what we want, the power of emancipation through socialism,'' she said. "We will establish relationships on the basis of social justice and social equality. . . . It seems like a Utopia, but we can change it.''
Castro, director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, or CENESEX, spoke about transgender health care in Cuba. Wednesday's speech was part of her multiday visit devoted largely to meeting with gay and transgender rights activists and an academic conference where she is scheduled to chair a panel on sexual diversity.
She was one of at least 60 Cuban scholars who were granted US visas to attend Thursday's meeting of the Latin American Studies Association.