He becomes she
Wandile has reached the point of no return, faces his demons and confesses who he really thinks he is.
Chi the woman. Weekdays SABC1 (*191) 20:00
Wandile’s (Chi Mhende) friend Elam (Kagiso Rathebe) has been on hand since the DIY surgery and on Thursday 27 October, Elam tells Wandi to stop living a lie. But it’s only during his therapy session with Dr Watson (Michele Levin) on Monday 31 October that Wandile makes a breakthrough. “Elam is his friend who has always been there for him and helps him process, but Dr Watson is the first person Wandile is able to admit to who and what and where he is in terms of his sexuality,” says Chi. “He sits in her office and is able to say at one stage, about two weeks into the therapy, that he knows and believes that he is trans.”
THE REAL DEAL
The last conversation that Wandile had with his late dad Zola (Mutodi Neshehe) was an argument in March over the revelation that Wandile preferred to wear women’s clothing over the baggy shirts and pants Zola was used to seeing his son in. Wandile was cut off from the family fortune and seven months later he was destitute, living in his car and cheated on his now-exgirlfriend Getty (Andisiwe Dweba) in Chi did a lot of research to play Wandile the man. early October. Self-loathing then led Wandi to go to extreme lengths on Wednesday 12 October and he cut off his manhood so that he could live his life the way he wanted: as a woman!
SHOCK & HORROR
With Wandile comfortable with who he is, psychologist Dr Watson prepares him for the next step: telling his loved ones. On Thursday 3 November, Wandi reveals his transsexual identity to the Diales, the family who basically adopted took him in when he was down and out, but “they don’t understand what’s going on,” explains Chi. “Mom Lucy’s (Manaka Ranaka) reaction after youngest daughter Lesedi (Luyanda Mzazi) asks ‘what does trans mean?’ is ‘it means that Wandile is gay’, which has been interesting for me to have to explain to people the difference between gay and trans. I think we’ve arrived at a stage in South Africa where we can discuss sexuality beyond just the black and white that is heterosexuality and homosexuality.”
Wandile tries to explain as best he can that he isn’t actually gay, confusing Lucy further, says Chi. “He tells them he was born in the wrong body and still they don’t understand. I suppose they are representing a lot of minds in South Africa.” Originally from Zimbabwe, Chi attended an all- girls Catholic school and says that she started playing with male mannerisms at age 14 because the girls were required to play all the roles in drama club and for school plays. “So something like this wasn’t too foreign, but obviously, unlike school where everyone knows that is a woman on stage, my job was to convince the nation that I was in fact a man,” she explains.
“I found out I was getting the role in July 2015 and began preparing for it a month before, working with two very open-minded friends and artists who had helped me get into the mindset of being this male character Wandile. We had a photoshoot to help transform me physically into a male, but also to understand my own femininity in these clothes as I carry this man. My friends, a photographer and a stylist, helped take me into… something that is the opposite of hetero-normativity.”
There was lots of research into getting being a man just right, adds Chi. “I had to understand what it meant to feel trapped in the body. I watched a lot of trans documentaries and interviewed and got to meet a lot of trans women specifically, because that’s the journey of the character.”
While Chi and her character school SA on the trans journey, international celebs like Caitlyn Jenner have made the topic a little less taboo. “I feel like with Caitlyn, she had the opportunity to use her platform in a deeper way but she hid some of her process, which makes it difficult for me to note if that is just about publicity or her true story,” says Chi of the Olympian formerly known as Bruce Jenner. “But what I’m proud of is that this athlete [Bruce] took a stand for the trans community and said ‘This is who I am; as a man and as a father of this family, I actually need to wear my dress now’.”