HAVANA -- Adela Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served 2 years in prison in the 1980s for "dangerousness" after her own family denounced her sexuality.

This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.

In a country where gay people were persecuted for decades and sent to work camps in the countryside, Hernandez, 48, hailed her election as another milestone in a gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.

"As time evolves, homophobic people -- although they will always exist -- are the minority," Hernandez said. Becoming a delegate "is a great triumph," she added.

Because she has not undergone sex-change surgery, Hernandez is legally still a man in the eyes of the Cuban state: Jose Agustin Hernandez, according to the civil registry. Hernandez said she hasn't made a decision to seek an operation but doesn't rule it out either.

Hernandez won office earlier this month by taking a runoff vote 280-170. Her position is the equivalent of a city councilor, and her election makes her eligible to be selected as a representative to Parliament in early 2013.

For years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, authorities hounded people of differing sexual orientation. But there have been notable changes in attitudes toward sexuality. Since 2007, for example, the island has been covering sex-change surgery under its free health care system. -- AP

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