SORAYA SANTIAGO SOLLA, born on this date (d: 2020), was the first person in Puerto Rico to change the gender designation on their birth certificate following sex-reassignment surgery.

A native of Puerto Rico, she had sex-reassignment surgery in 1975 at age 28 while living in New York City. On returning to Puerto Rico, she successfully petitioned in 1976 to change the gender listed on her birth certificate. Her memoir, “Hand Made: Gender Dysphoria, Soray”, was published in 2014. She was also featured in the 2014 documentary “Mala Mala”

For decades, Ms. Santiago owned Soraya Hair Design, a popular salon for politically-connected upper-class women. She hobnobbed with powerful people and became an idol in the transgender community, even though she rejected being associated with the term “L.G.B.T.Q.,” explaining that she identified as a heterosexual woman.

In 1986, Ms. Santiago married a man from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, Héctor Mejía Santana, and used her birth certificate to petition immigration services to allow him to take up residence with her in Puerto Rico. Some officials questioned whether someone who was legally born male should be allowed to sponsor another man’s immigration application, but she won that battle, too. The marriage ended in divorce a few years later.

Soraya on being a woman, “My throat has gotten dry from trying to explain that the only difference between a woman and me, is that one comes straight from the factory and mine was made by hand in the United States of America,” she wrote in her book