Chal­leng­ing the mean­ing of gen­der

San­goma’s sex-change al­most done

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HE­LEN BAM­FORD

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.

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