He be­comes she

Wandile has reached the point of no re­turn, faces his demons and con­fesses who he re­ally thinks he is.

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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 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!


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’.”

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