Mariela Castro, 55, spoke exclusively to Local 10 News in Havana as Cuba gets ready to celebrate month-long activities surrounding an anti-homophobia and transfobia campaign.
Since 2000, Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro, has been the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).
When it comes to gay rights, Mariela is a rock start. Her profile tends to climb around this time of year because of the festivities.
"I was scared," she said of walking the streets of Havana the first time she and some transexual friends celebrated the same eve.
SPANISH-LANGUAGE VERSION OF HATZEL VELA'S INTERVIEW:
She clearly remember the inquisitive looks and the disapproval from people. That's when she knew what it felt to be in their skin.
It's been 10 years since that day and now Mariela Castro looks back and feels good about the advances she and her group have made when it comes to gay life in Cuba.
But she admits there she feels some sadness for the amount of work that there is left to do, like gay marriage.
In 2014, Mariela was the only member of Cuba's National Assembly to vote against a discrimination ban because it didn't include protections based on gender identity.
But critics said she hasn't done enough the gay marriage movement.
It's a task they have been working on for a long time, she said.
When she was criticized for not pushing legalized same-sex marriage on the island, Mariela Castro said it was because Cubans are still battling homophobia and transphobia, and legalizing same-sex marriage wouldn't change that.
In Cuba, legalizing same-sex marriage would require her father's administration to change the country's constitution. Mariela Castro said she is focused on making sure that Cubans get the type of education that would promote the uprooting of discrimination on the island.
Mariela Castro is also a member of the Cuban parliament. Most recently, she hosted actress Jodie Foster and her wife, Alexandra Hedison. They were interested in learning more about CENESEX. She also made headlines after she insulted a reporter in Madrid.
She is married to Paolo Titolo, an Italian executive for Corticeira Amorim, the world's largest cork company. Titolo is also a photographer. His images of members of the Cuban transgender community have been on exhibit in Havana and Paris last year.
In part two of Local 10's exclusive interview, Mariela Castro talks about her father, political ambitions and U.S.-Cuba relations.
Local 10 News' Andrea Torres contributed to this report.