Transgender woman’s brave journey
Ryanne used to be Ryan and she’s decided to speak out about her transition and love story in the hope of inspiring others
FOR as long as she can remember, she knew the way she looked on the outside didn’t match how she felt inside. Even as a two-year-old boy, she’d don her mom’s high heels and totter around the house, feeling happier than she ever did in shorts and T-shirts.
Back then she was known as Ryan, and for 22 years she lived trapped in a body she felt didn’t belong to her.
But now, sitting on the balcony of her home in Boksburg, Gauteng, Ryanne Bold (25) is finally content and completely herself: a beautiful woman, radiant and elegant in a striped jumpsuit and black high heels.
Beside her is her husband, Jonathan (27). Ryanne clutches his hand as she speaks to YOU about her journey from man to woman, which has cost her more than R300 000 of her own money.
It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride. Her childhood was a living nightmare of bullying and discrimination, her husband’s friends tried to turn him against her when they found out about her past, and her medical aid wouldn’t cover her genderreassignment journey as she had only nominal cover.
Yet there’s also been wonderful acceptance and heart-warming support as she transitioned into the person she’d always wanted to be.
And today she’s telling her story in the hope of inspiring and encouraging others who find themselves in a similar situation. “I’ve taken a lot of crap in my life,” she says. “It’s unfair for people to judge you on face value. I never did anything to harm anyone else. It simply made no sense.”
RYANNE’S schooldays were nothing short of hellish. She didn’t play sport and because there was something “different” about her she was teased mercilessly. “I saw school counsellors because I was bullied so horribly,” she recalls. “They made the diagnosis that I was gay.”
Kids would shout “gay boy” at her and she’d suffer abuse every day. When she was in Grade 5 a boy in Grade 7 bashed her head against the wall.
“My life was complete hell,” she says. “I did one year of high school and near the end of it my mom got a call from another mother saying, ‘You need to take your child out of school’.”
Her mom, Annerie (51), and stepdad, Colin (62), decided to home-school her after that and Ryanne would spend hours cooped up in her room, reading everything online she could about being transgender.
Then, when she was 22, she sat her mom down and told her of her plans to transition. Annerie wasn’t surprised. “She’d been expecting it,” Ryanne says.
She then told her bosses at the logis-
t i c s company where she worked at the time about her plans to undergo surgery. They were nothing but supportive, granting her permission to be on leave for extended periods and arranging for her to be reintroduced to clients.
“I reintroduced myself overnight. One day I went to work as a man and the next day I was a woman,” she says.
Her colleagues were so on board they even threw Ryan a farewell party.
Before the surgery Ryanne started having laser treatment, had hair extensions put in and took hormones to develop her breasts. Slowly her facial features, skin texture and even the smell of her urine became feminised.
In February 2015 in Johannesburg she underwent a two-hour bilateral orchiectomy – the removal of both testicles. In September she flew to Cape Town to consult with plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Kevin Adams, and in December she had the gender-reassignment surgery.
She spent five days in hospital on a catheter, with a “sock” of gauze inserted in her newly formed vaginal canal to prevent the walls from growing back together. Then complications set in and she was unable to pass urine, so she needed emergency surgery to have a catheter reinserted. She was discharged two days before Christmas and flew back to Johannesburg.
On Boxing Day 2015 came another crisis: she woke up lying in a pool of blood and was rushed to hospital.
“My urethra had torn away from the skin. My blood pressure had dropped to something ridiculous like 35 over 40 and I heard the paramedic say, ‘She’s on her way out’,” a tearful Ryanne recalls.
She was rushed into theatre and kept for four days in high care, where she needed four blood transfusions.
“Ten days after that I had the catheter removed and that was the end of any physical issues.”
WITH each passing day Ryanne began to feel confident in her new body. Then in April 2016, she and Jonathan met at a party. “I just saw this beautiful girl drive in behind me. My breath was taken away,” says Jonathan, who works in security.
That night they shared their first kiss and Jonathan asked her to be his girlfriend. Two weeks into their relationship he found out about her past in an unfortunate way.
They’d been spending the weekend in Brits, North West, with Jonathan’s cousin. The guys were playing club cricket and while Jonathan was on the pitch, Ryanne was in the stands when someone spiked her drink and she became ill.
“I took her to the closest hospital and I needed to give her medical aid card and ID,” Jonathan recalls. “That’s when they told me the person on her ID wasn’t the same person. They said her ID was for a mister.”
Ryanne immediately wanted to call their relationship off. She thought Jonathan wouldn’t want anything more to do with her, but nothing could’ve been further from the truth.
“I said, ‘ You’re not going anywhere’,” Jonathan recalls. “I told her, ‘I love you for who you are. Whatever happens, we can work it out’.”
A week later they moved into an apartment in Centurion, near Pretoria.
But Jonathan’s friends weren’t as accepting. His phone was flooded with messages from people urging him to ditch Ryanne because she’s not “a real woman”.
When they were unable to persuade him, they got hold of Jonathan’s father.
“He freaked out but never confronted me about it,” Jonathan says. “My mom was also upset and felt we should’ve told her but we’d wanted to keep it quiet.”
“It wasn’t about keeping it a secret,” Ryanne insists. “Because if you got to know me for who I really am, why would you need to know about my past?”
Three months into their relationship, Jonathan received Ryanne’s mom’s blessing to propose to her and in November 2016 the couple were married in a small ceremony in Muldersdrift, west of Johannesburg.
They’re now planning to adopt a baby. “We have about six hours left of counselling,” Ryanne says excitedly. “Once that’s done and we’ve been approved as prospective parents, we’ll wait anything from one day to four years for a baby.”
Ryanne, who now works in imports and exports for a logistics company, is optimistic that after speaking out, people will become more accepting of her, and that others going through what she experienced will feel comfortable in their skin and free to be who they truly are.
“When I was 18 I wanted to commit suicide, so it was either this or that,” she says. “You have to do what you need to do to find your happiness.”
LEFT: Jonathan and Ryanne Bold with their pet, Annekat. Ryanne underwent gender-reassignment surgery three years ago, after 22 years of feeling she was living in the wrong body. ABOVE: Ryanne as a boy.
ABOVE LEFT: Soon after her surgery Ryanne met Jonathan. ABOVE RIGHT: They were married after a whirlwind romance of mere months – despite the backlash from many of Jonathan’s friends because of Ryanne’s past. SUPPLIED
For now the couple have their fourlegged baby – a sausage dog named Annekat – but they have plans under way to adopt a baby.