by Njabulo Masuku
Accessing treatment for a transgender person in South Africa is frustrating. Although we are almost 2 decades into the democracy in South Africa not all of us are enjoying the benefits of the Bill of Rights. The standard right of transgender persons to receive primary health care at their local clinic or hospital is nonexistent in 7 of 9 provinces of the country. The only provinces that offer services are in Gauteng and Cape Town.
I live in Mpumalanga, about 150 km away from Johannesburg.
Travelling to and fro Johannesburg costs about R200- depending on where in Joburg you are going.
If one is blessed enough to be employed in this country where unemployment rates are escalating abnormally and currently teetering at 30%, travelling to and fro Joburg is doable. To get started with your transition is possible, if a therapist recommends 10 sessions worth about R700- per session.
If the therapist agrees to see you 3 times a month then one must be prepared to part with R2 700 – a month which is a pricey sum for an unemployed or under paid transgender person living in Mpumalanga.
Seeing that I could not afford the fees, I explored some options in Emalahleni where I am from. I was so devastated to learn that a third of doctors in this industrial capital of Mpumalanga aren’t even aware what Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is.
A local doctor, Dr ??? referred me to a plastic surgeon who in turn referred me to a gynecologist. It was a sad realization for me to see that our doctors were not equipped with handling people like me. I even googled to see if there was an Endocrinologist in Emalahleni, but it was in vain.
I decided to seek help from one of the most prominent transgender organization in the country by petitioning them for help. I got no response but persisted through on Facebook. I contacted a second organization as well, seeking funding for my medical assistance. One organization said they did not have an allocation in their budget to assist transgender persons in my province and the other advised me to come over to their offices but I did not have the requisite bus fare.
It is such a bleak reality for women and men like me, who live in remote areas like myself. We are sentenced to living a lie and those that are supposed to help seem to not be able to do so.
Two months ago I contacted an organization that deals with lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to see if I could access their free therapy program.
I wanted to at least be able to get a referral letter in order to get started on hormone therapy.
They promised to get me an appointment with a therapist but I am still waiting.
I joined an online support group and interacted with someone who was going to advocate on my behalf, but they met the same silence.