Challenging the meaning of gender
Sangoma’s sex-change almost done
TEBOGO Nkoana is a 22-yearold sangoma who works at Gender DynamiX as an outreach officer. He lives with his girlfriend of six years in Montana after recently moving to Cape Town from Pretoria, where he grew up.
Nkoana is one of 20 people featured in a book called Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa, which was launched in Cape Town yesterday. It’s the first book of its kind in South Africa.
He knows that there could be a backlash, especially from the black community, who feel being gay or transgendered is not African, but says he is willing to take his chances.
“I’m an African. I was born here and I’m a sangoma. I wanted to pass on the message that being transgendered has nothing to do with where you come from.”
He said 75 percent of sangomas he knew were homosexual men.
“There’s also quite a few lesbians practicing as sangomas.”
Nkoana knew as early as four that there was something different about him.
“My body told me I was a girl and my parents dressed me as a girl. But I felt I was a boy and didn’t try to fight it.”
At nine, he started dressing as a boy.
“I did attempt to have lesbian friends, who played soccer and did boys things but the problem came when we had conversations. I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship with a girl as a girl. I wanted to be a boy.”
When Nkoana was 12 he got a calling to become a sangoma. He started training at 15 at a traditional healing school. His calling helped his family understand his gender because they thought that he had inherited his masculine ways from his ancestors.
Nkoana said he had never heard of changing gender until he watched an epiosode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where a man told his story of being born female and then having a sex change to become male.
“It was like he was talking to me and I immediately identi- fied with him,” Nkoana said.
Soon afterwards he went to a gay and lesbian organisation for more information. He has since had a mastectomy and a hysterectomy. In June he will have a penis reconstruction from skin on his forearm.
Nkoana said transgender issues were still taboo but change was starting to happen.
“I want to be active in challenging the stereotypes around transition and religion.”
The book was published by Fanele (part of Jacana Media), Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala) and Gender DynamiX, and funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. It was edited by Ruth Morgan, Charl Marais and Joy Rosemary Well-beloved.
READY: Tebogo Nkoana is set to have a penis reconstruction. He’s already had a mastectomy and a hysterectomy.