by Sbu Kheswa
This piece is inspired by Njabulo Masuku’s article: Frustrations of a transgender man.
Boy, I can really feel your frustration.
The challenge is that there are many other transgender people in Njabulo’s shoes.
In fact, the wide gap between the promises of our Constitution and the reality is the daily experience of many South Africans. Think of the high unemployment, the service delivery protests, people living in shacks during the rainy seasons etc.
I agree this is unacceptable.
As a transsexual man, who works for a transgender organisation, Gender DynamiX, I feel like sharing a bit of my personal story when it comes to the challenges of choice to transition.
Sure – I believe I was born transsexual but I had to make a choice to transition or not. That required a lot of research, considerations and calculations.
Sadly, the general experience of many people who chose to transition is that of loss.
Family members, friends, comrades can divorce you and even worse, employers can make your life very hard.
On top of it all to transition can be extremely expensive.
The services are not yet readily available and that means only people who have the means for cash can do this with less pain.
As I had a job when I chose to transition I could afford a private psychologist.
Thank God for the Standard of Care as those sessions with a psychologist are no longer a requirement. I would still recommend that people have someone they can talk to about the decision to transition as there is a lot to consider. So the visit with your psychologist or social worker or your prophet or sangoma or whoever you chose might be very beneficial. Later on I could afford hormonal therapy through private doctors.
Getting employment with Gender DynamiX really opened my eyes. I got better understanding of the work of the transgender organisations here in South Africa. These organisations are there to advocate for the human rights of transgender people. Given the available resources it is highly impossible to serve individual needs of transgender people. These organisations do their best to direct people to available services and to provide people and service providers with information.
Like everyone I had heard that Cape Town is the best for transgender health services. So I was so happy when I got the job with Gender DynamiX and moved to Cape Town. Shortly after that I made my first appointment with the transgender clinic in Groote Schuur Hospital. I made sure the surgeon knows that I work for Gender DynamiX and he even sent his greetings too some of my colleagues.
He patiently explained to me how the system works and he was willing to put my name on the list.
Before I could even leave the building I had already made my decision to approach the bank for a loan as waiting for 25 years before my first op was going to be impossible. My colleague tells she has been on that list for full 12 years.
I wish people could know that there is no special funding that is reserved for individuals’ hormonal therapy or for surgeries.
Donors give organisations money to change systems for the benefit of all.
As an activist who is directly involved in fighting systems I’ve also had to realise that things are not going to change at my pace. There are meetings and meetings and processes and processes that are involved. The only thing I can do is to keep keeping on.
Maybe this piece will not give you much hope but I really hope it makes you realise that your transition is in your own hands.
About the author
Mr S. Kheswa has been working in the South African LGBTI sector since 2002, where he has held positions at Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), and the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project.
He is a passionate advocator for the most marginalised in society with a strong history in advocacy in a number of human rights based organisations.
He has keen experience in an array of gender based work within South Africa and more widely.
He has worked on various research projects, public education and oral history projects.
He is also a skilled audio-visual historian.
He has presented on different local and international platforms.
His works includes co-writing a chapter in a book: Tommy Boys Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives: Female Same-Sex Practices in Africa.
He also co-directed Breaking out of the box, a documentary film on black lesbian lives.
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