2015 May 5: My journey so far in life

by Nosipo Solundwana

My name is Nosipo Gloria Solundwana, also known as SPHOLA. I am a 27-year-old ‘butch’ lesbian living on the East-Rand, in Katlehong. I live with my four siblings and I am the first born at home. I lost my mother in 2007 and my stepfather in 2009. My biological father is still alive but I don’t exist in his world. He abandoned my mother and me in 1988 when he found out that I was born as an intersex.

Featuring in Faces and Phases series, Nosipho 'Brown' Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007.

Featuring in Faces and Phases series, Nosipo ‘Brown’ Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007.


My mother struggled a lot with raising me all alone. It wasn’t easy for her, people laughed at her because she had an intersex child. I was called all sorts of names ‘isitabane (dyke), isichitho (curse)’. It really wasn’t easy for her because she was still young and confused. I was definitely blessed to have her as my mother because she could have just left or abandoned me at the hospital or somewhere dodgy, maybe even throw me inside sewage but she was strong enough to raise me.

She named me Nosipo because she believed I was her Gift. She told me that I was the second known child in South Africa who was born in that situation, went for an operation and survived. It was by grace, the operation was performed at Baragwanath Hospital. Doctors and nurses were celebrating at their success because the other operations were unsuccessful. I am truly grateful for the life she gave me.

Nosipo Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007. Photos by Zanele Muholi.

Nosipo Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007. Photos by Zanele Muholi.


How the funds were raised for me to be operated?
That’s were she met my stepfather in 1990. Because of the situation she was in my stepfather offered to help, thank God he was the answer to my mother’s prayer and I am honestly thankful to him.

Days, months and years passed by, life became extremely difficult for my mother. Things got bitter with her and my stepfather. She was beaten, yelled, abused both physically and emotionally each day of her life. I’d also get a kick and be thrown out of the house with my mother, until my mom’s friend asked to take me with her to the Eastern Cape in uMthatha.

You might wonder why my mother didn’t take me to her home? Things were tense back home and she lost her parents. Her brothers didn’t want anything to do with her because she had me, so they said ‘uzele isichitho’ (you gave birth to a curse). I stayed in uMthatha for about 3 to 4 years it was very difficult. I was abused and had to participate in both male and female chores. I was 9 years old when I had to walk a long distance to fetch water, carry a 20l bucket, then fetch livestock, then come back to prepare a meal. My mother would send me money and clothes but I wouldn’t wear any of them. I will never forget those years of hardship. I had to walk to school bare-footed in winter, in fact the whole seasons.

I came to visit my mother when I was about 11 years old, I remember the tears falling off my eyes telling her the situation I was living in and that I wanted to stay with her, because I was really suffering and abused. I felt as if my mother had sold me to slavery honestly I was angry with her. So I came back to live with her in Johannesburg. She never lived a happy life, the abuse and insults by my stepfather got really bad this time around, they had kids and I was always pushed aside.

Why didn’t she leave him? Apparently he was all she had. At the age of 17 I started taking drugs, not staying at home, and always crashing at friend’s houses. I never had a good relationship with my mother, we always fought and she would chase me out of house. I disclosed my sexuality to her and she got really angry and said to me “I didn’t conceive a lesbian mina” she chased me out of the house.

I met with Zanele Muholi at the age of 18, that’s were I started taking pictures with her and she encouraged me to finish my secondary level. She ask me what do I want to do when I finish school, I said, “I don’t know” because I was confused and had lost hope. I gave up my life and took drugs like nobody’s business, hanging out with bad guys, mugging people’s belongings, touched guns it was really a dangerous life that I had chosen. I survived all that thanks to the Lord.

I almost got arrested and my stepfather caught me right handed using drugs and promised to get me arrested if I didn’t quit. That’s were I got a wake-up call to clean up my act because I couldn’t bare the thought of being in jail.

Now all I want is to achieve my goals and dreams. I want to be a successful businesswoman who owns a pub. The first step to get there I need to find is’pani (job) then work on the budget. I believe in myself I am very enthusiastic in my abilities. All I need is a good start and I think I’ll need a mentor as well. I do have business skills. I am willing to move forward because I believe the hard-life I’ve been through gave me strength and positivity.

I am hoping that Inkanyiso can help me find myself and discover the true meaning of myself.


Related link


2015 May 14:  “I’m happy living my life the way I am




2015 April 16:  My story as a Zimbabwean Transvestite




2015 Jan.3: I dropped out of the closet many times




2013 Oct. 2: ‘I am a normal transgender woman’





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13 Responses to 2015 May 5: My journey so far in life

  1. Ronie says:

    This is a story that I can relate to. Intersexuality is a subject that is not discussed too often in most platforms.
    It would be nice to get a platform where we can all meet and tell our stories and offer each other support.
    Thank you Nosipo for sharing your life story. You could get in touch with us as we have a support group for intersex people here in Johannesburg.

  2. hlengiwe says:

    Positive attitude leads to positive thinking,everything that you wish and pray for will be archived,never stop believing

  3. Portia kacha says:

    Eish things we go through as intersex but be strong buddy and have faith…and please help us as intersex many of us realy have big problems

  4. Ronie says:

    We do not have offices yet but we have a support group where we meet and share about our life and challenges. We also have safe spaces where we can meet and share and find ways of helping each other.
    Those who are interested in becoming part of our group, you can email me on rzuze@yahoo.com and i will introduce you to the other members. 😉
    @Potia, I know it is not easy out there but trust me, if we stay united we shall overcome our challenges.
    @Nosipo, It is very courageous of you to come out like what you did. You are a comrade…. paving a way for most of us who are living in the closet for the fear of rejection even in our own society.

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